His accomplishments span myriad industries, from medicine and pharmacy to sports and dietary supplements. He’s a legacy pharmacist, innovator, entrepreneur, medical researcher, pharmaceutical manufacturer, software designer and owner of multiple successful businesses – with more ideas on tap. Indeed, proud Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy alumnus Robert P. Nickell ’81, BS Pharm is as compelling as the sum of his many divergent parts.

It all started in the humble aisles of what Nickell remembers as his father’s “original corner drug store,” complete with over-the-counter and prescription medications, sundry goods and a soda fountain. Located in Norwalk, the business involved the whole family. From the time he was in third grade, Nickell earned money sweeping floors and, later, typing medication labels. His father, J.B., was a University of New Mexico graduate who studied pharmacy on the G.I. Bill and founded B&B pharmacy in Southern California, his growing family in tow. It turned out that Nickell was a go-getter driven to take over his father’s business and create many others in related fields.

“My older brother wasn’t interested in the drug store, but it looked like a pretty good life to me,” recalled Nickell. “University of the Pacific had a program where you could get a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, and it fit – I always knew I wanted to be a pharmacist and a businessman.”

At 22 years old, he “hit the ground running,” ultimately taking over as manager of the pharmacy and ultimately owning his father’s store.

Today, Nickell, lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife, Kathleen “Katy” Gallion Nickell, PharmD. He has seven children from two marriages and one grandchild but is far from retired.

In fact, he’s reviving his SportPharm business – featuring new pharmaceuticals, including compound products designed specifically for athletes. It is the latest iteration of the highly successful company that he began as part of his involvement with professional sports. For more than a dozen years, he managed medications for professional baseball, football and hockey teams across the country, as well as athletes on U.S. Olympic teams in four Olympic Games from 2002 through 2008.

The sports part of his business empire began when a neighbor, who knew an employee of then-Raiders’ owner Al Davis, introduced Nickell to the team’s athletic trainer.

“I became the official pharmacist for the Raiders, the Dodgers, the Orioles and then, the entire National Hockey League.”

“This is my dream job,” the trainer told him, “but I’m so worried. I don’t want to be on the news for all the wrong reasons.”

When the trainer confided about the team’s reported mismanaged, mislabeled and mistaken medications with little to no quality control, Nickell had an idea to help the trainer keep his job and assist the athletes in getting the medications they needed.

“I ultimately wrote a software program that managed medications – including coding the drugs, containing them in blister packs and instituting inventory controls,” he said. “I became the official pharmacist for the Raiders, the Dodgers, the Orioles and then, the entire National Hockey League.”

With a software program that also tracked injuries and could run a report on a given athlete, Nickell found himself with almost more work than he could handle, flying cross country from game to game.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of several stories about alumnus Robert P. Nickell ’81, BS Pharm and his professional life as a corner store pharmacist and founder of PHARMCO, GameRX, Enovache, Nubratori RX, SportPharm and other businesses. Please check out next month’s Dean’s Letter to hear more of Nickel’s story and meet other Pacific alumni.

By Cathi Douglas
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