Justin Booth, 28, of Stollings, had a dream of becoming a pharmacist, and he never let anything stand in the way of fulfilling that dream.
Booth was named the 2009 Ability Works winner for the DRS Huntington District, comprising Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Mingo, Logan, Wyoming and McDowell counties. The awards are presented each October during National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Booth is a retail pharmacist at the Kroger Pharmacy in Logan, an achievement he says may not have been possible without the resources he was provided at DRS. With assistance from a vocational rehabilitation counselor, he was able to transition easily from Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College to West Virginia University’s School of Pharmacy.\Southern is a fairly small community college, but still larger than the Christian high school from which Booth had graduated.
“I didn’t know how I was going to go to a new town and a big school, coming from a graduating class of 10,” Booth said. “My first chemistry class in Morgantown had about 250 people in it.”
Booth was born with Holt-Oram Syndrome, a limb abnormality that affects bones in the wrist. He has short arms and no thumbs as a result, as well as a heart problem commonly associated with the syndrome.
“My dexterity with my disability limits me a little bit,” Booth said, “What may take five minutes for somebody else that doesn’t have the disability to do may take me 15 minutes, but it comes out the same way and sometimes even better.”
He was receiving rehabilitation services in high school when Rehabilitation Counselor Debra Baisden-Fields took charge of his case. At the time, he had no classroom accommodations but was still maintaining between a 3.5 and 3.75 grade point average.
Booth came to DRS seeking resources. He wanted to be able to call DRS to ask for help or recommendations about how to achieve his ultimate vocational goal. DRS provided vocational counseling and guidance, and financial assistance for the college and university training required for Booth to be a licensed pharmacist. Baisden-Fields said she tried to get Booth to use assistive technology during his schooling, but he preferred to do it his way.
“He’s learned his own techniques and styles,” Baisden-Fields said. “I’ve never seen anything really that he cannot do as well as everybody else does.”
Booth is pleased with the help he received from DRS. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” he said.
His employer, Kroger Supervising Pharmacist Tucker Shelton, believes that Booth has no limit to his abilities. Shelton adds that he would love to hire more people like him.
“A lot of it is determination,” Shelton said. “Justin is very dependable and has great morals and ethics.”
Along with his impeccable work ethic, Shelton says, Booth is one of the hardest working employees he has ever had. “He just doesn’t stop,” Shelton said. “He’s like the Energizer rabbit.”
Booth loves his job and helping people. He considers pharmacists to be the most accessible medical professionals because on Saturdays and late nights, the pharmacist is about the only healthcare professional available.
“That’s a niche that I as a pharmacist can adapt to and feel good about,” Booth said. He enjoys communicating, and counseling patients about their medications.
Booth is working toward becoming a licensed pharmacist in several other states, too.
“In the future, I really see Justin going great places with his career and his life,” Baisden-Fields said. “I really see him moving up.”
Each year, DRS helps thousands of West Virginia residents with disabilities lead more productive, fulfilling lives. The agency provides work-related counseling, training, job placement and other vocational rehabilitation services through its 31 field offices across the state.