WSU Applebaum Physician Assistant student uses lifesaving skills on drive home

Alex Nahon
Alex Nahon, Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2024

Alex Nahon thought he was off the clock while driving home from a recent clinical rotation.

But when the Class of 2024 student in the WSU Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Physician Assistant Studies program noticed a driver in distress, he jumped into action.

After determining that the person had likely overdosed, Nahon used the skills he'd learned at Wayne State to administer the Narcan he'd gotten for free from the vending machine recently installed at the WSU Undergraduate Library.

Narcan is a brand of naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids - including heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid medications - when given in time. According to the CDC, naloxone is easy to use without medical training or authorization, and small enough to carry in a backpack or car glove compartment.

"The driver was slumped over into the passenger side and there were four or five other people around the car banging on his windows trying to wake him up," Nahon said. "I got one to help me break a window, and when I got into the car the driver had the classic triad of CNS [central nervous system] depression, pinpoint pupils and respiratory depression. My WSU training allowed me to provide resuscitation. I remember thinking ABC: Airway (chin thrust), Breathing (Narcan), Circulation (check pulses). I thought we were going to be doing CPR on the side of the road, and am still shocked that the patient stood up a few minutes later and took steps to get onto the gurney when EMS arrived."

Narcan is a brand of naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids when given in time. It is easy to use and small enough to keep on hand.

Nahon's instructors are proud of his beyond-the-classroom skills test. "Alex delivered the quick and effective care that we work to instill in our students," said Physician Assistant Studies Program Director Mary Jo Pilat. "I am grateful that he was in the right place at the right time to help."

Nahon said he hopes his story serves as a reminder to all: Get a free dose of Narcan, make sure you know how to use it and always keep it handy. "I would like to see more free Narcan vending machines at WSU in addition to the one on main campus," Nahon added. "Getting it into the hands of more people with the training to aid victims of overdose is crucial."

WSU Applebaum Clinical Professor of Pharmacy Practice Victoria Tutag Lehr, an expert on pain management and opioid misuse, agreed. "We need to get more naloxone into the hands of people who are likely to witness an opioid overdose situation in the community," she said, noting that naloxone training and overdose prevention have been part of the Doctor of Pharmacy program curriculum for over five years, with incoming students now required to have basic naloxone overdose training upon entry.

Narcan vending machine
Free doses of Narcan are available on the first floor of the WSU Undergraduate Library, to the left of the entry gate as you walk in.

A recent survey of pharmacy students revealed that approximately 10% of them had witnessed a suspected opioid overdose event in the community. "When pharmacy students are given naloxone kits to take with them after training, they are told not to leave them in a drawer at home," Tutag Lehr said. "We recommend that our students carry their naloxone with them in their backpacks at all times."

Tutag Lehr, who served as a media source when Narcan was approved for over-the-counter sales this spring, added that calling 911 is still key: "Best practice is to have the individual transported for medical care after naloxone reversal. A person may be agitated/combative or slip back into respiratory depression - naloxone is very short acting."

The WSU Undergraduate Library vending machine was placed in the as part of a program by the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice, a research center out of the School of Social Work. The CBHJ has placed 27 machines in jails and community locations across Michigan, with an additional eight machines being placed in the coming months and more available. Contact the CBHJ to learn more about the program.

In addition to WSU resources, free naloxone kits are available from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and community organizations can request naloxone at no charge for distribution from the MDHHS naloxone portal.

With reporting from Lauren Ulrich and headshot photography by Ali Darland Hanoosh, both Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2024.

About us

The Physician Assistant Studies master of science degree program at the Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is focused on the development of highly competent and passionate physician assistants who are deeply committed to practicing in urban and underserved health care settings. It is the highest ranking program in Michigan and among the top 50 programs in the nation, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report for 2023-24. The admission cycle runs from May 1-Sept. 1 for classes beginning the following May. Prospective students can get started by attending a WSU Applebaum information meeting at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.

The Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is built on more than 100 years of tradition and innovation in the heart of Detroit. We have grown deep roots in our city, harnessing its powerhouse hospital systems and community service organizations as vibrant, real-world training grounds for students, with an ongoing focus on social justice in health care. And our research at all levels - from undergraduates to veteran faculty members - translates into creative solutions for healthier communities.

The Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and Justice envisions communities in which research, data and best practices are used by multiple stakeholders to enhance the optimal well-being of individuals with mental illness and/or substance use disorders who come into contact with the criminal/legal system.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering approximately 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 24,000 students.

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