Oonagh O'Hagan, Owner and Managing Director of Meaghers Pharmacy Group
Class of 1995
Alumna Oonagh O’Hagan is the owner and managing director of Meaghers Pharmacy Group. I spoke with Oonagh over Zoom in April about her time in Trinity and the impact the pandemic has had on community pharmacy.
Our conversation started with COVID-19 where Oonagh was keen to stress the importance of community pharmacy and how pharmacists are the gatekeepers in the healthcare system here in Ireland. Her commitment to community health and the role community pharmacists can play in providing advice, reassurance and care was echoed again and again in our chat.
It was interesting to learn that pharmacy was not Oonagh’s first choice, having decided to study medicine initially. But a fateful phone call from the Admissions office changed all that and Oonagh swapped at the last minute from medicine. She registered for Pharmacy instead and graduated in 1995. Throughout our conversation, it was clear Oonagh has a deeply held affection for Trinity, something she noted had started early on when she used to visit family in Dublin as a teenager and would visit the campus promising to study in Ireland’s oldest university.
Originally from Tyrone, Oonagh was the only person from her school year to come to Trinity in 1991, and acknowledged how starting out in a new city and in a new university can be quite daunting. However, on her first day, she joined her classmates in the queue for registration and made friends for life. She still keeps in touch with 8 very close friends from her class. She even met her husband Ronan whilst at Trinity.
I asked who had made an impression on Oonagh during her time in the university and without hesitation she listed Anne-Marie Healy, Martin Henman and John Quigley as role models, instilling in students a quest for knowledge and understanding and an impetus to question the status quo. When asked what role Trinity played in getting her to where she is today, Oonagh stated her Trinity education gave her an incessant curiosity and opened her mind to endless possibilities through research and development in the world of healthcare. These traits she said are nurtured within the walls of Trinity. The holistic approach to healthcare which she drives in Meaghers and which she believes is vital to community pharmacy and healthcare emerged from her Trinity education.
Oonagh graduated in 1995 and did her one-year internship at Pierce Meagher’s pharmacy on Baggot Street. She loved it, and after roles in the HCR and at Boots, bought the Baggot Street pharmacy in 2001. The Meagher’s Pharmacy Group is now made up of 9 pharmacies, with an online business (launched in 2014) which now delivers to 58 countries around the globe. Meagher’s were the first to launch a digital pharmacist service in Ireland with a booking service through their online platform. Throughout the interview, Oonagh reiterates how important it is to keep the customer at the core of their business. Going forward, she would like to see pharmacists play a more significant role in healthcare. As we have seen during the pandemic, with GPs and hospitals under a lot of pressure, the pharmacy profession stepped up and ensured patients were looked after for all of their healthcare needs.
Pharmacists are accessible and provide trusted essential care to every local community across the island of Ireland . This, she notes, is reflected in the recent Ipsos MRBI Veracity Index which found local pharmacists to be regarded as the most trustworthy professional in Ireland.
With a return to normal life somewhere on the horizon, I asked Oonagh what developments she would like to see in community pharmacy. She pointed to Canada as an example of best practice, where community pharmacy is service-led and have a different approach which is evidenced in working exceptionally well for the patient. She would like to see a more proactive and preventative approach to healthcare delivered in community pharmacy, serving the public in a different way. The pandemic has shown we are underinvested in healthcare in this country and emphasised the need for a strategic long term approach. An approach that will make long term sustainable differences to the health and wellbeing of our customers and our communities. She also emphasised that pharmacists are a highly skilled untapped resource within the healthcare ecosystem and if freed up from administrative demands are more than willing and exceptionally capable to lead those changes. The flu vaccine rollout is a great example of how putting the service in the hands of community pharmacists, making it more accessible and convenient for the public, can positively affect uptake. She hopes pharmacists will be able to be involved in the COVID vaccination rollout just as successfully.
I finish our conversation by asking what advice Oonagh has for current Pharmacy students. She urges students to stop and take it all in the next time they walk through front square. Take a moment to recognise how fortunate they are to attend Trinity, just as she was and how their time there will give them the foundation to a career and life of continuous learning and self-development. There is a magic about Trinity, and Oonagh was consciously aware of the footsteps she was following in and the in the path she is paving for future students.
Interview by Elizabeth O'Shaughnessy
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