Pharmacist to graduate from WMU-Cooley with perfect 4.0 GPA

by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Dr. I. Eric Nordan, PharmD, who had a long career as a pharmacist before studying for a law degree, received the Alumni Distinguished Student Award during the recent WMU-Cooley Law School Honors Convocation.

“A perfect 4.0 in law school, summa cum laude, at my age was a ridiculous expectation, but we—my family and I—did it,” says Nordan, adding that a Juris Doctor is an augmentation to his career. “Law school was a hard journey that would not have been possible without the love and support of my wife and three children. I’m not that smart but have relentless focus and a strong work ethic.

“The faculty and staff at Cooley are the other reason for my success. I’m merely a conduit for excellence, and everyone at Cooley has been excellent.”

Nordan, who has several family members in the medical field, earned his PharmD, from the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy. Although he originally planned to continue to law school with the intent of becoming a patent attorney, he entered the retail world at Farmer Jack Pharmacies, and later worked for CVS.

“Retail pharmacy was a wonderful career—I always picked the path where I could spend a lot of time with my patients,” he says

Through his pharmacy practice, however, Nordan started to see several issues with health care, including fraud and waste both from physicians and from patients with insurance; and doctors writing too many pain pill prescriptions.

Wanting to make a bigger difference in health care than one-on-one patient interactions, Nordan added a part-time job with National Audit (now Scio) as a pharmacy fraud investigator/compliance auditor.

He left CVS when Michigan Medicaid needed an in-state pharmacist to work with the Office of Healthcare Inspector General (OHSIG) as their contract auditor through a Xerox contract. Nordan’s Xerox team and the team at OHSIG created a robust auditing program that helped reduce pharmacy fraud in Michigan.

“I enjoyed seeing how government works regarding getting things done,” he says. “I liked developing policy, auditing and working with the pharmacy providers to resolve their audit result issues.”

Nordan also was responsible for representing Medicaid during the pharmacy appeals process.

“Usually, we had informal hearings in front of an appeals officer, but sometimes the pharmacy would escalate the appeal to the Administrative Hearing level where an ALJ heard the case,” he says. “Occasionally, when the pharmacy had legal representation, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office would represent Medicaid. I would work with the Assistant AG assigned to the case and develop the case for her. Often, I would argue on behalf of Medicaid with the Assistant AG there for support.”

Realizing that if he wanted to make changes in health care, it was time to earn a law degree, Nordan started as a night student at Cooley’s Auburn campus, adding weekend, afternoon and morning classes when he could, while continuing to work at Xerox.

After being downsized from Xerox in June 2016, he started as an unpaid intern with Vezina Law, a boutique firm in Birmingham specializing in qui tam litigation

“My externship was a great experience, and I look forward to continuing a professional relationship with Marc Vezina after passing the Bar,” Nordan says. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with new clients, draft disclosure statements, complaints, amended complaints, Civil Investigatory Demands, motions, orders, and memos.

“I’ve had the opportunity to do substantial research on matters relating to qui tam and healthcare fraud. We also do some healthcare law for existing clients meaning I’ve had the opportunity to work on lease agreements, employment agreements, contract review, and more.”

The firm’s primary focus is health care fraud; and IRS qui tam.

“Since my goal is to get healthcare dollars properly spent, there is a natural fit,” Nordan says. “My experience as a fraud investigator was helpful for some of the cases.”

Nordan has thoroughly enjoyed his seven terms of classes and one term of externship, leading to his upcoming graduation on January 21.

“The faculty are great, every professor I had was knowledgeable, competent as an instructor, motivating, entertaining, and had a genuine desire to see every student succeed,” he says.

The diverse student population was also a definite plus.

“It was interesting to see, hear, and learn from and be with younger students,” he says. “There are so many different ideas and perspectives that help put the study of law into context. I look forward to continuing the friendships I made in law school.

“Law Review was another great opportunity to meet and interact with very smart, motivated people,” he adds. “I enjoyed the team environment and making new friends and professional contacts.”

Nordan notes that law school subject matter may be easier for mature students, who probably have experience of working, paying taxes, owning a business, marriage and family, and buying and selling property.

“The older you are, the more you realize the need for attorneys. I liked the classes that didn’t remind me of mistakes I had made,” he says with a smile.

A Chicago native, Nordan moved several times in childhood, living in Florida, New York, and eventually West Bloomfield in Oakland County, where he graduated from West Bloomfield High School. He now makes his home in Farmington Hills, with his wife Stacy, the faculty librarian at Oakland Community College in Southfield, and their children, Nathalie, Joe, and Claire.

“They were, and continue to be, my inspiration,” he says.

While his free time has been very limited during law school, he used to enjoy working on the house, gardening, and cooking.

“I liked making pretty things, whether it be a beautiful garden, a delicious dinner, or fixing something broken in the house.”

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