Student Spotlight: Brooke Pigneri

Meet fourth-year PharmD student Brooke Pigneri, who recently received the 2021 Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Award from the U.S. Public Health Service in recognition of her role in developing naloxoneSC, a program that provides naloxone – a lifesaving medication for someone experiencing an opioid overdose—to anyone in need at USC. Pigneri shares how she is working to decrease stigma around opioid misuse and improve access to naloxone to positively impact health on campus and in the community.

Why did you develop naloxoneSC?
College campuses across the country have seen rising levels of opioid overdoses. In 2016, 3.8% of college students reported misusing an opioid other than heroin within the past year. USC has taken steps to improve access to counselors and other resources for students in response to these overdoses. Some students who may be at risk of opioid overdose don’t utilize these resources due to stigma, cost or lack of knowledge about harm reduction, including naloxone use. Therefore, CPNP-USC created this program to address this need in our community. NaloxoneSC focuses on providing education on opioids, decreasing stigma on opioid misuse, and distributing fentanyl test strips and naloxone.

Tell us about your growing awareness of opioid misuse.
Naloxone distribution was something I was exposed to from day one of pharmacy school. It was the first medication I counseled on as a pharmacy student. Throughout my CPNP-USC membership, I learned more about the opioid epidemic in the United States and the thousands of lives lost to overdoses.

What steps did you take to make a difference?
As soon as I obtained a leadership role in CPNP-USC, as a first-year pharmacy student, I became involved in the naloxone distribution program. CPNP-USC has distributed naloxone to people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles for about three years, and works closely with Homeless Healthcare of Los Angeles to obtain and distribute naloxone kits. During my second year of pharmacy school, I spearheaded this distribution to the homeless population with hopes of expanding it further. During my third year, I served as CPNP-USC president and pivoted the program to address the needs in the USC community by creating naloxoneSC.