Auburn Pharmacist Spotlight: Dr. Martin Jernigan

Dr. Martin Jernigan head shot graphic

May 22, 2019

AUBURN, AlabamaPeriodically, the Harrison School of Pharmacy will highlight one of its students, faculty members, staff members or alums. This month, we will feature Class of 1988 member Dr. Martin Jernigan.

J. Martin Jernigan, RPh, Ph.D., a native of Montgomery, Alabama, was recently hired as the president and chief operating officer of RG+A, a consulting and marketing research firm based in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

After earning his Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from Auburn in 1988, Jernigan went on to the University of Mississippi where he earned a Ph.D. in healthcare business administration in 1991. Since then, he has built a distinguished career in the pharmaceutical industry with companies such as Sanofi Aventis, Johnson & Johnson, Novo Nordisk and now RG+A. When looking back at his time on The Plains, Jernigan said, “I owe a lot to Auburn and the pharmacy school for a foundation in life and work.”


What is RG+A and what will you be doing in your new position?

“RG+A is a consulting and marketing research firm based in New Hope, Pennsylvania. RG+A provides robust insights and guidance that define market opportunities to help more patients.  Over the years RG+A has earned a reputation as an innovator in primary research and consulting for the healthcare industry, advising pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies on commercial evaluations, business development, pre-launch planning, forecasting, pricing, market valuations, and strategy development.

“My move to RG+A is anchored in what I love to do, working at the intersection of business and science. I’ve been on my mission within large pharmaceutical companies and I’ve learned and contributed to help patients. By making this move, I get to work with many companies of all sizes. I particularly want to leverage my experience for the smaller companies that cannot staff the commercial team given their capital positions. The team at RG+A are a solid, experienced team.  With them, I see an opportunity to help companies be successful in helping patients achieve healthier lives. This is what motivated me to get into pharmacy.”


What initially drew you to this side of the pharmaceutical business?

“It started when I was working at my best friend’s father’s independent drug store (Joe (Mark) Street ’89 and Joe Street ’58). I enjoyed engaging with the customers and patients and I enjoyed the ‘business’ aspects. While in pharmacy school, I started working with the Pharmacy Administration faculty (Drs. Barker, Berger, etc.), wrote an essay about why pharmacy schools should offer MBA options (that won a McNeil award), took marketing as an elective and it led me to a Ph.D. in healthcare administration with a specialty in pharmaceutical marketing. This journey launched me into the industry.

“I believe marketing is really about education, diffusing information, and bringing products to consumers that they need or want.  In reality, no product sells itself. My dissertation was on innovation diffusion to understand why physicians adopt new products. I have been doing this work for my entire career by finding the beliefs and motivators to connecting products with patients across therapy areas and various healthcare channels.”

When you look at your career, what have you enjoyed most about your work?

“Helping people…through leading, coaching and supporting colleagues so they can help patients get the products they need. Launching a product like Victoza® was one of the best experiences I have had in my career.  We were able to educate healthcare professional regarding the benefits/risks in using this class of products. Yet, even with stronger evidence and changes to guidelines, there are still many healthcare providers unaware or not using these innovative products. There remains more work to do!”


Since you started, how has the industry changed?

“I teach a class at the Rutgers Business School on pharmaceutical marketing and we review the evolution and current healthcare marketplace. The understatement is that ‘the change has been dramatic.’ This will date myself, yet when I was graduating, DRGs were just taking hold, hospital pharmacy until then was a ‘profit’ center, wholesalers were not as concentrated as they are now, etc.  One summer job I had was installing computers into pharmacies… think about that… there were stores with no computers. Adjudication was not electronic as it is today. I could go on… but let’s jump to today.

“I see pharmacy and pharmaceuticals as a critical part of the solution. I see health systems that will care for patients throughout their lives. Our greatest problem is that the payers don’t ‘own’ the longer-term savings benefits from preventive therapies when patients can change medical and pharmacy benefit plans each year. Technology in terms of new therapies need to bring even more value than before. Technology that supports population health and outcomes will be critically important.”


What was it that drew you to Auburn and what stands out about your experience here?

“I was accepted to Samford Pharmacy school (my dad and sister went to Samford). I liked Samford and have a lot of friends and fraternity brothers from there. Yet, I kept having a ‘pull’ towards transferring to Auburn.  My experience at Auburn was like most others, its family, surrounded by great people, and a great culture overall. I was there when Bo Jackson was there so football was fun and I will always love Auburn and Auburn football. The pharmacy school was also a great learning experience and working with the pharmacy administration professors on projects while an undergrad was awesome. It really pointed me in the direction of graduate school.”


When did you know this was the career path you wanted to pursue?

“It started when I was 14 years old working in the pharmacy in Montgomery mentioned earlier. I knew I wanted to help people (my dad was a minister, sister a minister, mother a teacher, wife a teacher… and I sell drugs).  But seriously, I’ve always felt my path started from working in pharmacy from 14 years old through pharmacy school and really loving the business and marketing work, so I’ve been focused on my path since.

“Faculty influencers were Drs. Gibson, Berger, Barker from Auburn. Dr. Barker was a visionary about healthcare delivery.  I can see in my mind’s eye the physical model he built that showed a community-based healthcare delivery, it is called ‘health systems’ today! Dr. Berger focused on compliance and business while Dr. Gibson focused on technology which included working on bar codes at the time (we take for granted today).  I knew from working with these pharmacy administration faculty that I wanted to work in the business of pharmacy, and I wanted to go for an MBA or Ph.D. I chose Ph.D. because I like solving problems, research, and it was a joint degree in business and pharmacy schools.”


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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. The School’s commitment to world-class scholarship and interdisciplinary research speaks to Auburn’s overarching Carnegie R1 designation that places Auburn among the top 100 doctoral research universities in the nation. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

Making Medications Work Through Innovative Research, Education and Patient Care

Last Updated: May 24, 2019