WASHINGTON — When Army pharmacist Maj. Jeffrey Neigh joined the military, it was initially as a way to pay off his school debts.
“I went to Duquesne [University] … in Pittsburgh. I would not have been able to afford to go there without the military. My full intent was to come in and do my four years and get out,” he said. “It is 11 years later, and that did not happen.”
Maj. Jeffery Neigh
In fact, Neigh not only chose to stay in the military as a pharmacist, but he was recently named the 2011 Next-Generation Pharmacist, an award presented by Parata Systems and Pharmacy Times. The award “recognizes a pharmacist who demonstrates an uncompromising focus on advancing patient care, dedication to the pharmacy in which he or she works and the strongest commitment to advancing the pharmacy industry overall,” according to the award program. The nationwide program recognizes top pharmacists from around the country in different categories. Neigh also won the “military pharmacist of the year” category, which included 35 nominees from all three military services.
“I think it is great for the military for someone to be selected for this honor simply because it gets us out on the forefront and shows people that pharmacists in the military are at the forefront of what is going on in the profession,” he said. “It is fun to show them that, though we wear camouflage to work, we are still as clinical as any other pharmacist out there.”
Neigh said that, while he had participated in ROTC in college, he still did not really know what pharmacists did in the military. Later, he found out how much more he could do as a pharmacist in the military than elsewhere.
“A lot of my friends went into retail pharmacy and after a year they were burnt out,” he said. “Whereas, some days I was doing inpatient pharmacy, some days outpatient pharmacy. I was also doing some clinical work and doing some administration.”
The variety of opportunities is what he has thrived on, he said. Most recently, he served as the deputy chief of pharmacy at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, GA. While there, he helped implement the Army-wide Warrior Transition Pharmacy Oversight Program, which involves safety reviews of more than 400 patient profiles weekly. At the time, there was not much guidance on how to do this, he explained.
“It has really worked well to provide oversight on the medications these soldiers are on. The program has since morphed and changed and really gotten much broader from where we have started it,” he said.
Now, he said, each warrior-transition program site has a dedicated pharmacist to run it and pharmacists are able to help prevent overdoses, ensure that troops are not taking an unsafe medication regimen and, working with physicians, develop good pain-management protocols for the patients. They work closely with military leadership on the cases.
“They provide good oversight and a lot of education to the soldiers who are in charge of these warriors in transition, because most of these folks who are their squad leaders and company commanders have no medical background,” he said.
Neigh began his career at Fort Hood, TX, where he was chief of the inpatient and outpatient facilities serving 35,000 active-duty soldiers. While there, he deployed to Kuwait, serving as chief of pharmacy with the 21st Combat Support Hospital. He went on to do a residency at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, TX, and Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland Air Force Base, TX, and became the chief of clinical pharmacy. Neigh was awarded the Albert B. Prescott Leadership Award in 2010.
One of the biggest challenges, he said, is making sure that military pharmacy is adequately staffed.
“We have such high turnover because our staff is moving every three years. You are always having to restart, and sometimes you cannot always carry everything through, just because you run out of time, but I think that is true of any profession in the military,” he said.
While he is still currently on active duty, he is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration and healthcare administration in full-time study.
“I talk to a lot of pharmacists getting ready to graduate that do not know what military pharmacy offers,” he said. “I tell them that I love that you can do what you want to do. If you want to learn a specific skill in pharmacy, you typically have that opportunity. Even if you come in and do your four years and get out, you are going to be so well-rounded.”