Auburn Pharmacist Spotlight: Harris Adler

Auburn Men's Basketball Assistant Coach Harris Adler Auburn men's basketball assistant coach Harris Adler directs the team from the sideline in the Tigers' game vs. Mississippi State on Jan. 21, 2015. (Photo credit: Anthony Hall)

Feb. 17, 2015

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Periodically, the Harrison School of Pharmacy will highlight one of its students, faculty members, staff members or alums. For February, we will get to know Harris Adler, an assistant coach with the Auburn men's basketball team.

After growing up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, when it came time to move on to college, Harris Adler decided that being a pharmacist was his future. He did not just go to pharmacy school, but selected the oldest pharmacy school in North America in the Philadelphia College of Science and Pharmacy to pursue his degree. Shortly after his arrival in Philadelphia, though, he was drawn back to one of his first loves in basketball. He started out at nearby Salem Community College before taking a graduate assistant position at Rowan University, where he earned a master’s degree in higher education administration. From there, he had stops at Centenary and Penn before landing at LaSalle. He spent 10 seasons at LaSalle, helping guide the team to the Sweet 16 in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. He was hired by head coach Bruce Pearl at Auburn on April 22, 2014. Coach Adler has maintained his pharmacy license and has been involved with Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy since his arrival. Recently, he was selected as the honorary chairman of the student-led Script Your Future medication adherence campaign. To learn more about the campaign and its impact on your health, go to http://www.scriptyourfuture.org/.

You went to college at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, earning a degree in pharmacy, yet you have spent most of your professional career as a basketball coach. What inspired you to make that move and how was the transition?
“Growing up, I had a passion for both sports and coaching, and I always held the ambition of teaching the game of basketball. When I was a third year pharmacy student, I volunteered at Salem Community College in New Jersey as an assistant basketball coach. Although we experienced many losses on the court, the many ways I was able to impact the lives of student athletes off the court compelled me to follow my passion for coaching. Over the past 18 seasons, I have worked my way up the college ranks as an assistant coach at every possible level of college basketball, and in each of my stops I have had success. The transition wasn’t easy as I took a major pay cut from being a pharmacist, but in the end it was well worth the time and energy it took to get to this point in my career.”

Reaching back to your pharmacy roots, you have been selected as the honorary chairman for the Harrison School of Pharmacy’s Script Your Future Campaign. Can you tell us what the campaign is about?
“First off, I am very honored to be asked to be the honorary Auburn University chairman for ‘The Script Your Future Campaign.’ The campaign is an annual nationwide campaign that seeks to educate people about adherence with prescribed medications. Doctors typically don’t talk to patients about this and pharmacists are often too busy or assume that if patients don’t ask, then they already know. Adherence is a huge problem because up to half of adults in the United States with chronic conditions that require ongoing prescription medications won’t remain completely adherent by 6-12 months after they begin them. Non-adherence can result in detrimental outcomes for a disease, and can even worsen the current condition. For example, if a patient only takes their blood pressure medication sporadically, he or she can experience rebound high blood pressure with levels actually higher than previously recorded; consequently, a doctor may not realize sporadic adherence is the cause of the increase and will often prescribe more medications. So, it is very important to educate people on medication adherence and the negative effects they can experience by not taking their medications correctly.”

Why is this important to Auburn University?
“Throughout January and February, the students at Harrison School of Pharmacy are taking part in a national initiative to get the word out to patients about taking their medications as instructed. The Script Your Future Team Challenge was created to foster competition between pharmacy schools across the nation as a means of maximum outreach and involvement among our communities. Their efforts involve outreach to local health professionals and individuals in the community. As future pharmacists, it’s their job to make a positive impact on patient health and the best way to do so is to start where it all begins - the medications given to treat, maintain, or prevent further illnesses. Similar to our basketball teams theme of “TOGETHER” they believe it’s important to be “ALL IN” the community helping us all live long, healthy lives.”

What is the game plan for educating those in the Auburn University community?
“Nearly 45% of the American population has one or more chronic conditions that require medications. It’s also very important to note that more than a third of hospital admissions are linked to poor medication adherence. Not only does medication adherence affect health outcomes, but it also costs patients and the health care system an average of $290 billion per year. We impact this and protect our own health by pledging a very simple oath, “I will take my meds.” More information is available online at scriptyourfuture.org and Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy students are always available for your help. They currently are holding health fairs and other events throughout the community and region, and are visiting physician offices to provide supplies of medication record cards that are the size of a credit card. This allows patients to document a list of their medications, store it in a wallet or purse, and have it available to present to new doctors, pharmacists, or emergency departments where this would be important for a health assessment and medication considerations.”

We are getting in the last month of the regular season. What has been your impression of the team so far in your first year at Auburn and what has the atmosphere been like at Auburn Arena?
“This has been a truly exciting season for our staff and our players. Our team practices and competes hard on a daily basis, and continues to improve. We have experienced some real highs this year, including a seven-game home winning streak, which was greatly aided from our awesome fan support. From the outset, our fans have been incredible, especially in Auburn Arena. They believe in Auburn basketball and support us at every turn. The enthusiasm and crowd support during our home games has made Auburn Arena a great home court advantage and I look forward to it getting bigger and stronger as the years go on. Although we have struggled of late, the team keeps fighting, knowing that our fans are right there with us through our successes and our growing pains.”

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About the Harrison School of Pharmacy
Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. In 2014, the school adopted the slogan, “Making Medications Work Through Innovative Research, Education and Patient Care.” For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

Last Updated: March 27, 2017