Domenica and Jeff have the formula for a pharmacy romance

88 years contributing to hospital pharmacy, 43 years working together, 34 years married with two beautiful children – Monash Health senior pharmacists, Domenica and Jeff Davies, may just have found the perfect formula for successfully combining marriage and work.

This year, Domenica was among a handful of Monash Health employees who reached the 45 years of service milestone celebrated last week, meanwhile husband Jeff, is just two years behind her on 43 years.

Domenica is a senior pharmacist and lead pharmacist in non-sterile specialised compounding across all Monash Health hospital sites and says after 45 years she still hasn’t lost the excitement for hospital pharmacy.

But it wasn’t always this way. She came to start her career at the Queen Victoria Hospital in the city as something of an accident, after an internship in retail pharmacy fell through. A last-minute change of heart and circumstances led her on a journey, which has impacted her personal and professional life ever since.

Pictured: Domenica Davies, Senior Pharmacist. Recognised for 45 years of service at the 2020 Length of Service Awards.

After finishing her own internship, Domenica took on the role of mentoring others and one of her first interns was one Jeffrey Davies.

But it was not love at first site; in fact, it took Jeff nine years to ask her out. It was only after a bit of very direct matchmaking from a colleague, Jeff took Domenica to the Pharmacy Christmas dinner in Brunswick in December 1985. Six months later they were engaged and 14 months later they were married.

Things happened quickly from there. Not only were they married in 1987 but in the same year they were involved in one of the largest hospital relocations in Australia, as the pharmacy – along with many other services – moved from Queen Vic to the new hospital, Monash Medical Centre in Clayton.

Two years later, a daughter, Grace – now training as a paediatrician at Monash Children’s Hospital – came along, followed by son Jeffrey, who currently lives in the UK.

In her time at Monash, Domenica’s seen such enormous change and remembers the first day a computer was introduced to the pharmacy – it only took her a few minutes to be a convert as the computer had produced (and saved) 13 medication labels in the time she could do one on the trusty old typewriter.

She is proud of the changes and improvements she’s seen over the decades, particularly the opportunity to be involved in a progressive approach to hospital pharmacy.

In the clinical sense, it was a revolutionary time, as the pharmacists came out of the pharmacy and started joining ward rounds, to be there with the consultants to see how medications were being used and the impacts of them on the patients, leading to greater involvement in patient care.

Domenica was our first pharmacist invited to a grand round – the only woman in the room – and the first pharmacist to do paediatric ward rounds.

“So I went on my first ward round to the children’s wards with Professor Arthur Clarke and Professor Robert MacMahon, and his large group of young doctors, interns, registrars, residents and nursing staff, to hear the history of each child, the complications, and reason for the medications, and intravenous nutrition and other items prepared by the pharmacy – this opened a whole world of interest, and excitement for the growing role of pharmacy.

“It was an intimidating, yet awesome, experience,” Domenica said.

Throughout her career, Domenica has taken a problem-solving approach which has resulted in so many improvements and advances.

“Problem solving is a huge aspect of my work. I receive questions and situations from employees across many departments, which require significant problem solving, information gathering, lateral thinking, and often creativity in finding a solution.

“One example is the successful development of a protocol to de-sensitise a child to a medication, for which no protocol existed, based on adult literature and liaising with the immunology and thalassaemia teams. The protocol was published and presented at multiple conferences.

“I designed a computer program called AlaMim, together with my pharmacy technicians Dat Bao and Stephen Chan. This program stores formulations and produces worksheets, factoring in calculations, safety precautions and other relevant information.

“I have also been the OHS rep for Monash Pharmacy, chairing the cross-campus OHS meetings and developing strategies, initiatives, and communication tools,” Domenica said.

Domenica remembers keenly the early days of grand rounds not being able to remember the formula of a particular compound when put on the spot by a professor. She may not have been able to recall the exact formula in that moment, but she knows a fair bit about formulas for success in and out of the workplace.

Pictured: Domenica Davies, Senior Pharmacist. Recognised for 45 years of service at the 2020 Length of Service Awards, with husband, Jeffrey Davies, Senior Pharmacist.

“The secret, in a nutshell, is whilst we work together, we actually aren’t working side by side. Jeffrey is in charge of one department, I’m in charge of another. We don’t work in the same work. Our physical space is different, and our teams are different.

“Whist we are very different in some ways, we are very alike in our philosophies and ethics. Even thought we don’t always agree, we respect each other’s opinions. We probably are each other’s best buddies,” Domenica says.

Asked to identify each other’s strongest quality, Jeff says it would have to be compassion “I don’t think I’ve ever met a person more compassionate than Domenica.”

In return Domenica says: “Jeffrey’s best quality… well I think it’s his nature. He has this calming, level nature. It comes out in his voice. In this unique laughter… even before I noticed him for those nine years, you could hear it bellowing all the way up the staircase from the ‘dungeon’ to Level 1. He has a calming effect – I see it with me, I see it with my children, I see it with his interns who might call him in the middle of the night if they have an issue. I think that would be the most endearing thing about him.”

Late in her career, to mark the milestone of her 45 years of service, Domenica’s team wanted us to know she is so much more than a pharmacist and a leader – she’s a mentor, mother figure and lights up their days. What a legacy! Congratulations and thank you for your incredible service, Domenica.

We will celebrate all over again with Jeffrey in two years’ time.

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