FBI honors UNM pharmacy students for tackling prescription drug abuse
The FBI has recognized a University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy program for its work combating prescription drug abuse in the state.
At a recent ceremony in Washington, D.C., FBI Director James Comey presented the Director’s Community Leadership Award to Generation Rx, educational outreach prevention program led by pharmacy students.
“It represents the incredible impact our students are making in the their communities,” said Nicole Perea, a third year pharmacy student and chair of Generation Rx.
Perea, who received the national award on behalf of UNM College of Pharmacy, was among 56 recipients from across the country.
“We want to thank them, because they’re doing the same things we’re doing, which is trying to make life better for the American people,” said FBI Director Comey, according to a story posted on the FBI's website.
The pharmacy students were also honored at a recent FBI ceremony in Albuquerque.
“I am really excited to see the hard work of our student pharmacists recognized in such a formal fashion,” said Perea. “Going out into the community is such a great way to make a difference as students, future health care professionals and leaders in our community.”
About 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers everyday, according to Derek Fuller, assistant special agent in charge of the Albuquerque FBI branch. “These numbers represent a lot of lost lives, broken dreams and ruined opportunities,” he said during a ceremony held at the UNM Health Sciences Center on Monday.
Despite the grim statistics, Fuller added that it’s important to highlight people in our community who “work hard to reverse the tide.”
“Today we recognize the special group of men and women, and their mentors who are attacking this problem head on and making a difference,” he said.
For nearly a decade, pharmacy students from Generation Rx have been using education and outreach to address prescription drug abuse and misuse in New Mexico.
The program has touched the lives of nearly 20,000 New Mexicans through various outreach efforts, including scenario-based presentations in high schools, billboards, social media campaigns and prescription drug “take-back” events.
“Generation Rx is a secret weapon,” said Paul Roth, MD, UNM chancellor for health sciences. “They are playing an important role in educating people about the dangers of drug abuse.”
U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez commended the students for taking the fight to the front lines of the drug abuse epidemic.
“You bring immediate credibility when you are talking to students and parents,” noted Martinez. “You are saving lives, you are saving families and you are saving our communities.”
Generation Rx is collaborating with community groups, schools, the Parent–Teacher Association of New Mexico and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to address prescription drug abuse and misuse.
“I tell everyone our students are about the community,” said Lynda Welage, PharmD, dean of the UNM College of Pharmacy. “They are our best ambassadors for improving health in our community.”
The local and national recognition brings more visibility and growing community partnerships within the state, according to Perea. “The more the people we can educate on this issue, the bigger the impact we’ll see from our initiative.”