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University News

Pharmacy professor honored
Dr. Nick Hagemeier

JOHNSON CITY (Aug. 18, 2016) – Dr. Nick Hagemeier was working as a pharmacist at an independent community pharmacy in Lebanon, Indiana, in 2007 when he spotted a masked man coming through the door one morning.

“He walked up and said, ‘I want all of your OxyContin,’” recalls Hagemeier, now an assistant professor at East Tennessee State University’s Gatton College of Pharmacy. “He wasn’t joking around. He had a gun and he gave us 20 seconds to get him the drugs.”

As the robber counted down from 20, Hagemeier and a pharmacy technician quickly grabbed a few bottles of OxyContin off a shelf, shoved them into a bag and handed over the package before their time was up. The robber fled but was caught by police less than a mile from the pharmacy.

In all, the robbery took less than a minute, but it forever changed the pharmacist on the other side of the counter that day. “You never look at patients the same. It’s just different after that,” Hagemeier says. “Just talking about it makes my heart rate go up.”

The most concerning part about the whole incident, Hagemeier says, is that the robber “just didn’t care about consequences of his actions.”

“I don’t want to know what would have happened if we ran out of our 20 seconds,” he says. “Many people don’t think rationally when they have an addiction.”

Hagemeier later received a letter from the man who robbed him.

“He told me that at the time he did it, he was hurting and needing help,” Hagemeier says.

The whole experience helped lead Hagemeier to focus much of his career on prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment. He serves as the research director for ETSU’s newly established Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment and has conducted research on a variety of related topics, including neonatal abstinence syndrome as well as the development of interventions that facilitate prescription drug abuse prevention.

Hagemeier is the co-investigator of a $2.2 million National Institutes of Health grant that funds ETSU’s Diversity-promoting Institutions Drug Abuse Research Program and is principal investigator on one of the core projects focused on prescription drug abuse interprofessional communication.

Hagemeier also serves as director of the College of Pharmacy’s Community Pharmacy Practice Research Fellowship.

“Equipping community pharmacists to help patients with abuse and addiction is a passion of mine,” he says. “I’m convinced that pharmacists can champion prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment.”

Last month, Hagemeier was recognized for his efforts to raise awareness of prescription drug abuse.

During the Tennessee Pharmacists Association’s annual summer meeting, Hagemeier received the 2016 Cardinal Health Generation Rx Champions Award, which recognizes a pharmacist in the state who demonstrates excellence in community-based prescription drug abuse prevention.

“This award validates what I am doing, but it’s not an individual award. It is a team award,” he says. “I work with a great group of pharmacists, physicians and public health folks who keep the flywheel turning here. We’re doing good stuff here at ETSU and in this community. It is hard stuff, but it’s worth it.”

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