Small-town pharmacist is throwback in time

Oak Creek druggist offers natural remedies, unique remedies to customers nationwide

OAK CREEK, Colo. (AP) Something unusual is happening in the small town of Oak Creek, population around 650. Local pharmacist David Bonfiglio is conferring with clients who live in places like New York, Florida, California and Arizona.

One might wonder why patients in modern areas such as Orlando and Long Island are seeking health-care advice from a pharmacist in a little one-horse town.

''He's a marvelous man,'' said April Larson, who calls Bonfiglio from her Arizona home when she wants natural supplements or advice.

''He's just a combination of old-fashioned values and modern knowledge you can't find anywhere.''

Bonfiglio, with his long dark hair and soothing nature, has slowly developed a following for his work with natural remedies.

''I think the big draw is I am classically trained in pharmacy and drug therapy so I have that understanding of drugs, but I round that out with the natural, more preventative side,'' Bonfiglio said.

Bonfiglio's drug store is found in an old auto dealership building on Main Street in Oak Creek. Since buying it in 1995, he's turned it into an almost magical place with odds and ends from mystical healing bath kits, to greeting cards, to wooden toys.

People can step up to an old-fashioned soda fountain while they wait for a prescription or meander along the wood-planked floors and buy Christmas decorations or check out the liquor supply.

But it is Bonfiglio himself that is the biggest draw, say patients such as Jeanette Gardenhire, who lives in Orlando, Fla.

Gardenhire was first referred to Bonfiglio by a medical doctor when she developed lyme disease while living in Steamboat Springs.

''He got me on a nutritional program for the disease,'' Gardenhire said.

''He's the best of both worlds. He knows medicines, their interactions and side effects, and he's a nutritional person.''

When they moved, Gardenhire and Larson, who also lived in Routt County, could not find anyone to replace Bonfiglio's ability to listen and seek knowledge for his patients.

''He is such a natural holistic-type pharmacist,'' Larson said.

''He knows your whole person, your mental state, body. He's not just interested in filling a prescription and sending you out the door.''

Bonfiglio's passion for natural and herbal remedies can be seen on his shelves at the back of the store. Boxes and bottles of strange-sounding herbs and mixtures take up an entire wall.

The blue jean-clad pharmacist said his first foray into natural remedies came about three to four years out of college when some patients from Peru couldn't find natural remedies that were common in their country. The research and seminars soon followed.

''The more I practiced it and got good results with little or no side effects, the more sold on it I became,'' Bonfiglio said.

''But the driving force was the patient, because people have become disenchanted with traditional medicine due to costs and lack of cure and side effects.''

Don't let Bonfiglio's enthusiasm for natural remedies fool you; he is a believer in modern medicine and has built a relationship with local doctors.

''When I first came here, a lot of the doctors thought I was out in left field,'' Bonfiglio laughed.

''Through successful feedback from their patients and interacting with me personally, we've built a mutual respect. I've become a tool in their team approach.''

An example is 54-year-old Yampa resident Jeanie Peterson, a breast cancer patient, who went to Bonfiglio before chemotherapy treatment.

''I told him I wanted to prepare my body for a giant slam of chemicals,'' Peterson said.

''He had the best idea of what would help my blood and immune system get ready for that.''

Peterson said Bonfiglio never goes against doctor's orders but made sure they were always working together. In fact, Peterson's doctors regularly checked on Bonfiglio's natural remedies.

''Every one of my doctors shook their heads and said, 'Yes, that will work,' especially my oncologist,'' said Peterson, who came out of chemotherapy much healthier than many patients. Bonfiglio said his goal is simply to strengthen the body through natural means and decrease the need for drug therapy.

Naturopathic physician Kevin Gibson said Bonfiglio is a throwback to the way pharmacists use to be.

''Historically, pharmacists had a much more active role in patient care,'' Gibson said.

''That's when there was more of a joint effort between doctors, pharmacists and patients. That's been somewhat lost in modern medicine.''

Not all is lost, at least in the old mining town of Oak Creek.

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