By Don Hall
In 2002, Nashville Primary School got two new students. The children of teachers who had moved back to Nashville to be near family, Tyler Tollett began kindergarten while big brother Aaron started 2nd grade. “Our parents were our motivating force,” according to Tyler. “They forced us to always do our best.” Aaron adds, “They told us from an early age that they were not going to put us through college; we had to earn our own way through scholarships and work.”
With the high expectations from home, both brothers excelled academically. Upon graduating years later from NHS, Aaron went to Arkansas State in Jonesboro. He had worked while in high school for Nashville Drug, and planned to be a pharmacist. Two years later, Tyler, who had replaced Aaron at Nashville Drug, followed him to Arkansas State, also wanting to be a pharmacist.
“I developed a love for the interaction with patients at Nashville Drug,” Tyler states, “And at Arkansas State I majored in pre-pharmacy.” After only 2 1/2 years at A-State, he was accepted into Pharmacy School at UAMS in Little Rock.
Over the next 4 years he would maintain a 4.0 grade point average. “I had decided to go into the hospital track, and to get into a really good residency program for hospitals, grades were important.” But it was in his last year of pharmacy school that Tyler realized that that was “not where God was calling me to be.” After doing a short rotation in a neighborhood pharmacy, he made the decision to go back to his retail roots, where he would have more contact with his patients.
Meanwhile, Aaron was having second thoughts about a pharmacy career. An aunt who was a missionary in Honduras invited him to travel there during his junior year to help with a medical mission team that would be working with poor people with vision problems.
“Just seeing the joy in peoples’ eyes when they could see for the first time was amazing.” Aaron was hooked. Accepted to Southern College of Optometry in Tennessee for a 4-year doctoral program, he went on to receive the National Student of the Year award during his final year.
With their academic achievements, both brothers could have moved to wherever they wanted. Both did. They moved back to Nashville.
“When I was trying to decide where to practice,” Aaron says, “Two things were important to me: family and access to quality care.” While most optometrists were choosing to practice in the larger cities in the central and northern parts of Arkansas, Aaron wanted to provide quality eye care to those in his hometown.
Tyler’s trek was similar. “When I left Nashville, my original plan had been to return and buy Nashville Drug.” By the time he finished pharmacy school, Nashville Drug was no longer available. Undeterred, Tyler made the pieces fit and opened his pharmacy earlier this year in a renovated building on Main Street.
When asked the role the Nashville school system played in their success, both were quick to answer.
Aaron: “Many of my former teachers are now my patients. They are the reason I’m where I am today. They cared about the students and what was going on in their lives. Every day, I had to make the choice to give it my all, but it would have been for nothing if they hadn’t given it their all, as well.”
Tyler: “A good example is a high school class I took where the teacher let us decide if we wanted to spend out time learning what we would need to know for the standardized test or if we wanted to learn what would help us the most in college.” The students opted for the latter, and that’s what they spent the remainder of the year studying.
When asked about the future, Aaron says, “I married an Arkadelphia girl, but she’s starting to bleed Scrapper orange. We want to raise our family here so they can attend Nashville schools. We want to continue to be active in our local church, and to build a successful practice here that serves the community.”
Tyler agrees, and adds, “I want to deliver top-tier, quality health care with fast service.” Both brothers are proof that an excellent education is available in Nashville, and that opportunity still waits for those willing to do the work and take the chance.