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Research Stories: Christopher J. Jadoch, RPh, JD

Research Stories: Christopher J. Jadoch, RPh, JD

Jadoch, assistant professor of pharmacy, enlists the help of DYC students for community outreach programs like Drug Take Back drives.

Buffalo, New York – February 18, 2015 – Pharmaceuticals are so convenient to buy and so easy to use that their power can be taken for granted and their dangers overlooked. Christopher J. Jadoch, understands that well. Increasing the public’s awareness about what is in their medicine cabinets has become a cause for him.

The most visible examples of his outreach are the Drug Take Back drives he started in Erie and Niagara counties. The collections, going on for more than seven years, bring in thousands of pounds of pills, capsules and tablets that otherwise might wind up in landfills, waterways or most worrisome of all, the wrong hands. The program has brought Dr. Jadoch the community service award from the Pharmacists Association of Western New York and the J. Warren Perry Health and Human Services Faculty leadership Award from D’Youville College, along with recognition from local and national law enforcement organizations.

Two things inspired Dr. Jadoch to set up the drug take-backs. He explains: “Articles in professional journals were coming out that showed they were finding pharmaceuticals in ground water,” he said, “and that some waterways had no male fish because of the amount of estrogen in the water.”

And then he saw a program produced by Kids Escaping Drugs highlighting the near-epidemic of painkiller abuse among teens. “I found it very troubling that children were abusing legitimate medications,” he said. Seeing the harm caused by medications intended to be healing, helping or life-saving was particularly disturbing for this pharmacist because he is also a lawyer who specializes in cases of medical malpractice and litigation to protect the public.

That expertise came in handy when, upon seeing the success of the early Drug Take Back events, the federal DEA became involved. The agency helped cut the red tape over who could accept surrendered controlled substances—it had been only police and sheriff’s offices previously—and as of September, consumers now can return unused drugs to a registered pharmacy. Dr. Jadoch is proud of this successful effort while also shaking his head in amazement at what people are bringing in.

That is when the program becomes a classroom in itself. Dr. Jadoch enlists pharmacy students at all levels to help in the collection events—the public’s privacy is protected by HIPPA—and the students get a chance to see medications they would never be exposed to in class. Dr. Jadoch said some students had never seen a brand-name Valium before, for instance, and they learn what kinds of medicines were used 10, 20 or 30 years ago for various illnesses and conditions.

“They can see these drugs and how they are administered,” Dr. Jadoch said, and he added, “it creates good relationships with law enforcement. That is an important connection because with all the drugs behind the counter, pharmacy also can be dangerous.

Mostly what Dr. Jadoch instills in his students is that the profession they have chosen has seen incredible changes in recent years. Unlike when Dr. Jadoch first graduated from the University at Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, the job requires a doctorate now.

There is a reason for the higher degree. When he started, Dr. Jadoch said, “It was more dispensing then, not as clinical. Now I tell my students ‘You are a medication expert, but you are also a health care professional.’ ” Or, as he also likes to say, “We’re not flipping burgers here!”

Pharmacy students responded, choosing him in March 2014 as their Professor of the Month. Before students go on their first-year rotation in a pharmacy, he gives them a background in the laws that apply to them.

“This isn’t a dry review. They get real-life examples of situations that may arise. We are a VERY regulated profession,” he said. As part of that, he takes a busload of students to Albany to meet with state representatives about legislation that will affect how they do business. This is not, he emphasizes, something they do for their own benefit.

“It’s always for the patient,” he said. For instance, allowing pharmacists to administer flu shots has greatly increased the number of people who are immunized every year.

As a member of the American Society of Pharmacy Law—a niche organization, he admitted—he is involved in discussions that could have national impact. “We’re talking about the right-to-die issues, and on the flip side, the right NOT to die,” he said, citing the poor regulation of some drug manufacturers that has led to fatal contamination of their products.

All his work in Albany, business and the classroom has not overshadowed Dr. Jadoch’s creative side. Out of his personal interest, a garden has grown—a Medical Garden at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, celebrating the healing power of plants and nature.

He had thought about it for a long time, starting before he earned his bachelor’s at UB in 1987 and then his law degree from the UB Law School four years later. He worked as a hospital pharmacist, as legal counsel for a health insurer and in other positions where he could put all aspects of his education to use before coming to D’Youville.

“I got this idea before I was in academia, but I didn’t have an outlet for it,” he said. “I was fascinated by stories in Native American culture about chewing willow bark for pain (that’s aspirin) and other herbal remedies. Now, after you’ve been to the Medical Garden, when you see the periwinkle (studied for cancer treatment) in your own garden, you’ll see it differently.”

He maintains that sense of wonder, whether it is from a blossom, a tea or a carefully measured medicine in a safety-capped bottle. It is why he finds the profession so rewarding and so worth sharing. “After all this time,” Dr. Jadoch said, “I am still amazed at how these little tablets are changing lives.”

The prestigious award is named for the late Dr. Perry who was the first dean of the School of Health Related Professions at the University at Buffalo. He was instrumental in the organization and promotion of the allied health professions nationally. Both Dr. Perry and his late brother, Dr. Charles Donald Perry, established the award.

Story by Melinda Miller

Photo by Bob Kirkham