Alum Dispenses Hope for All of North Carolina
Andrea Rogers, BSPhar ’87, helps those in need get back on their feet
Story by Ryan McDaniel | Photo credit JJ Horton Photography | Published September 19, 2023
In 1984, Andrea Rogers, BSPhar ’87, was back home for a short break during her sophomore year at UNC. She and her brother were the only ones at home when her brother, then 16 and recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, became hypoglycemic. Already well into her prerequisites for pharmacy school, Andrea recognized the symptoms and diligently worked through what needed to be done to help him. She tried to get him to down some orange juice. She reached out to the neighbors for help. She tried to get ahold of their mom – which was a lot more difficult in a world before cell phones.
“It was very eye opening, because I’d never been around somebody who was diabetic,” she reflects. “And that changed our whole family; my mom had to make sure he took his insulin, we had more sugar free desserts, we always had to have something in the car in case of a hypoglycemic event.”
Now Andrea’s career involves helping other people manage diabetes and other chronic disease states. She is a pharmacist with NC MedAssist, North Carolina’s only statewide, nonprofit, free pharmacy. Headquartered in Charlotte, NC MedAssist helps patients in financial need get free access to the prescription and OTC medications and services they need.
“Our ultimate goal is to get people on their medications, to keep them healthy and productive, to get them through the day so then maybe they’re able to return to work,” Andrea says. “We want to keep them out of the hospital, keep them on their medications, get them to the point where they don’t need us anymore.”
Andrea’s path to this career started when she was in high school in Winston-Salem. She worked at a community pharmacy during summers and a couple days a week during the school year. They worked with a lot of the local physicians, filling prescriptions including in-house compounding. This work integrated well with her love of chemistry. “I would rather have done a chem lab any day of the week than write an English paper,” she chuckles.
In pharmacy school at UNC, Andrea also found a great fit. Not just with the career aspect – though she knew she was training for a growing field – but also with co-curricular activities. She attended as many football and basketball games as she could manage, joined Kappa Epsilon, eventually serving in a leadership role, and still looks back fondly at her class’s trip to Eli Lilly.
After graduating, Andrea relocated to Charlotte, first working for Kerr Drug, then Mercy Hospital (now Atrium Health), in several different departments, then for Pharmacare Specialty Pharmacy. When a position working with seniors at NC MedAssist opened up, Andrea was keen to apply her skills in a different way. “It was like seeing the other side of health care,” she recalls. “[At Pharmacare Specialty Pharmacy] I’d worked with patients who all have insurance and mostly understand their meds. At MedAssist it’s the absolute other side.”
Andrea beams when talking about her work with NC MedAssist. “Last year we disbursed $65 million in medication to people in need across North Carolina,” she cites. “That helped over 68,000 people. For every $200 we raise, that pays for one person’s prescriptions for a year.”
Andrea also helps NC MedAssist organize its annual fundraising event, the Dispensing Hope Golf Invitational. This year, the golf tournament will be hosted on October 30th at Palisades Country Club in Charlotte. “This will be our third year hosting the event and it’s always a lot of fun,” Andrea says. “We have all different kinds of competitions – trophies for lowest score, closest to the pin, raffles for donated items. Participants have fun, we have fun, and it all goes to helping patients get the medications they need.”
When not serving patients, Andrea loves to travel and experience the outdoors. She has been to 48 US states and loves to visit national parks and hike. She doesn’t shy away from exploring internationally, either. “When my daughter studied abroad in Denmark we flew over there, went to Iceland, Switzerland, Italy, Norway,” she shares. “And I love to go to the beach. I go each year with my girlfriends.”
Andrea still derives the most satisfaction from helping patients – bringing them from a place of need and even desperation to a place where they are more stable and empowered. “When people are like, ‘Thank you so much for everything. I have a job now and I don’t need your services anymore.’ That’s wonderful,” she says. “You’ve helped them to get where they can go back to work, to where they can take care of themselves. And that’s one wonderful thing.”
There are still spots open for the Dispensing Hope Golf Invitational on October 30th, as well as opportunities to sponsor holes and amenities. Click here for more information and to register.