This feature was originally published in PittPharmacy.
Chris Antypas always knew he wanted to be a pharmacist. He said as much in the third grade, writing in a letter that he would become a pharmacist and live with his brother behind his parents’ house in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.
Outgoing and gregarious, he was a born procrastinator blessed with a photographic memory. The only college to which he applied was the University of Pittsburgh—which, he admits in hindsight, was a risky move. But he got in; things had a way of working out for Chris—except for his plan to ask a classmate, Shannon McLaughlin, to attend their highschool prom. Someone else beat him to it.
“He just has this larger than life personality. He was really active in the school, and I was the opposite—a bookworm,” laughs Shannon, who had thought of majoring in chemistry or chemical engineering in college, but for reasons she still can’t explain, decided to put “pharmacy” among her interests in a pre-application to Pitt.
The two reconnected at Pitt, where it was nice to have a familiar face in such a large university. They shared some classes and studied together.
“Before you knew it, we started spending time with each other not studying—going out, dinner and whatnot,” said Chris. About a year into college, the semester before pharmacy school started, they began dating. Right after they graduated in 2009, Chris proposed; they were married a year later, in September 2010.
A professional advantage?
According to the blog Priceonomics, U.S. Census data shows that people who major in pharmacy are more likely than most to marry someone within their own profession. An analysis of 50 majors showed that pharmacy ranks third in the propensity to wed, trailing only theology and general science.
In the case of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Pharmacy, alumni couples credit the small class sizes and supportive atmosphere with fostering their relationships.
“When there are 108 people in class together for eight hours, you know everyone,” says Kyle McGrath, PharmD (’15), a New Jersey native who met his future wife, Reina Fink, at Pitt when the cohort broke into smaller groups. “Pitt has a great way of connecting us, even in a small environment. Those small groups of six were instrumental in us being able to talk to each other.”
In 2014, their second year of pharmacy school, Reina needed a date for a mutual friend’s wedding, so she asked Kyle.
“I wasn’t really interested in him as anything more than a friend at the time, but I needed a date. I made it very clear that I wanted to go just as friends. I think I offended him a little bit,” she laughs.
“We had been talking, and I kind of liked her at the time. So when she said it, it was cute and a little bit awkward,” recalls Kyle. “I joke and say I was offended, but I guess it was just nerves.”
But before the wedding ever happened, they began dating, and the relationship grew stronger.
“Reina is a very studious person and pays attention 100 percent in class, whereas maybe I didn’t pay attention all the time. So I took advantage of her notes,” Kyle says.
Similarly, Chris Antypas says he was a last-minute crammer, while Shannon was more methodical in her study habits. Still, they managed to motivate each other.
Reina said she and Kyle were somewhat competitive with each other, although Kyle focused on community practice, and Reina was interested in the business administration side of the profession.
In their rotation year, they had to weigh their professional plans against the status of their romance.
“That really helped to develop the relationship, because we had to talk about where things were going over the next year,” Kyle recalls.
They completed one rotation—at a Walgreens in Chapel Hill, North Carolina—together, where they strove to keep their work relationship professional. During his rotations in Pittsburgh, Kyle lived with Reina’s family in the suburbs.
“My mom always jokes that I set the standard for my two younger siblings,” Reina says. After graduation, Reina took a job as a staff pharmacist at a CVS in Raleigh, while Kyle accepted a fellowship at the National Association of Chain Drugstores in northern Virginia. Before he left, he filled Reina’s apartment with sunflowers, and when she came home, he proposed through a song that he sang while accompanying himself on the guitar. The same song was Reina and Kyle McGrath’s first dance when they married in July 2016.
A month later, they relocated to Rhode Island, where Kyle is working at CVS’ corporate offices as part of the chain’s enterprise product innovation and development team, which creates new services and products to move the retail pharmacy forward. Reina works as a staff pharmacist in the community.
Early in his college career, Chris Antypas knew that he wanted to one day own an independent pharmacy. He credits Dean Patricia Kroboth and Senior Associate Dean Randy Smith with supporting his vision. Shortly after graduating in 2009, he proposed to Shannon, then moved to Florida to work for a small regional pharmacy there; they married in 2010, and Shannon joined him, working for the same employer.
But he had never quite given up on that dream of living near his family, and the time he spent in Florida was enough to convince him that it wasn’t what he wanted. They relocated back to Pittsburgh in January 2011, each taking jobs while he searched for the right independent pharmacy to buy.
The answer came through a woman who attended their church. She was a customer at Asti’s South Hills Pharmacy, and she heard that its owner was looking to sell. By leveraging the network he had built, Antypas and his father, Gabe, purchased a half-interest in Asti’s in January 2014.
Today, Asti’s is a true family enterprise, with Shannon working there part-time and Gabe taking a hands-on role as well. Shannon loves the flexibility of being able to also care for the couple’s three children.
“I love it. It’s like the best of both worlds. I get to be home with my kiddos and I still get to do what I love at work, which is work in this great environment with great people,” says Shannon.
Friends used to think they were crazy for working together, but by now, they’re used to it.
“Our experiences going through school together, and spending nearly the entire day with her prepared me for working next to her in the pharmacy,” says Chris. “We complement each other well. She’s a great pharmacist.”
“It is definitely a big part of our lives,” adds Shannon.
Jeannine McCune and Kurt Round have a relationship that has withstood the test of three decades, not to mention the challenges posed by their two very different careers in pharmacy. They were high school sweethearts in Plum Borough, a suburb of Pittsburgh, and stayed together while at Pitt, from which both graduated with pharmacy bachelor’s degrees in 1993.
“He is incredibly bright, where I am incredibly organized. We complemented each other in terms of our skill sets, so we helped each other out with studying,” says McCune.
“Dating Jeannine in school was a definite positive for me, because she’s a very intelligent person,” says Round. “She was there to help guide me and assist me if I ever had questions.”
As an undergraduate, McCune played a small role in a pharmacokinetic trial led by Dr. Kroboth. Inspired by that experience as well as Joe Knapp’s immunology class, McCune decided she wanted to build a career in clinical research.
Two weeks after graduation, they got married and moved to North Carolina, where McCune enrolled in a PharmD program.
“It’s fortunately becoming more usual now, but at the time, it was atypical to have the female’s career driving your geographical location,” said McCune. “Kurt has always been phenomenally supportive.”
While she was at school and completing her residency and a research fellowship, Round worked as a hospital pharmacist with the Veterans Administration system. He had started working for the VA in Pittsburgh while he was an undergraduate, because the hospital needed technicians due to the Gulf War. Those connections came in handy when he moved to North Carolina, degree in hand.
In 1998, the couple relocated to Seattle, where McCune was hired as a faculty member at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy. Round joined the staff of the Harborview Medical Center, a level one trauma center. Although Harborview typically looked for people with PharmDs or residency training, Round’s career has flourished—a testament, he says, to the quality of his education at Pitt.
Today, Round is a clinical pharmacist in the burn and pediatric intensive care units, and McCune is a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutics and the Department of Pharmacy. She is also director of the UW/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Pharmacokinetics Lab and a Full Member at the Fred Hutch.
Both have jobs related to the care of critically ill patients, and the fact that they are in the same profession—albeit on different career paths— helps when they have had particularly stressful days at work.
“He doesn’t have to explain to me the severity of it,” when a difficult case creeps into his personal life, says McCune, whose NIH-funded research focuses on making cancer drugs work better by identifying biomarkers associated with improved survival in cancer patients.
The couple have two children, the older of whom is 17 and starting to look at colleges. She is considering Pitt, though not pharmacy—“too much shop talk,” Jeannine says wryly.
In hindsight, Round believes the challenging Pitt curriculum not only prepared them professionally, but also helped them juggle their busy lives.
“It was a bit overwhelming, but at the same time, very rewarding,” he says. Out of necessity, they learned time management skills that served them well as they balanced two challenging careers with parenthood.
The same holds true for the Antypas family, whose youngest child was born in November. Chris works at the pharmacy seven days a week, and the days are long, with him typically being the last person out the door.
“We live together, we work together, but we don’t see each other,” he says. But Shannon’s earlier experience as a pharmacy manager helps her understand his situation at the pharmacy.
Christian Andreaggi and Amy Weaver Andreaggi (Class of 2020)
“On any given day, it could be a great day or a bad day, and it could be little, simple things that made it happen,” says Chris. “We share a mutual respect and that’s valuable.”
And sometimes, the old competition from their pharmacy school days will surface.
“You can’t help it,” he laughs, adding that the conversation could go this way: “You think your day was bad? I could solve those problems in the blink of an eye.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Shannon says. And her husband agrees: “That’s what we signed up for.”