Phil Hagerman has been the CEO and Chairman of Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy in Flint since 1991, having transformed the once small, family business into a billion dollar corporation. He and his wife, Jocelyn, founded the Hagerman Foundation in 2014 with the mission “to brighten and improve the lives of future generations.” In support of that mission, the couple has donated generously to the University of Michigan’s entrepreneurship program, Ferris State University’s College of Pharmacy, and most recently, a $4 million gift for the restoration of Flint’s historic Capitol Theatre.
Q: What part of the Greater Flint area are you from originally?
A: I grew up in Fenton and have lived in that area most of my life. As a child, I lived for a few years in Davison, but most of my memories and recollections are from the Fenton area.
Q: Where did you go to college?
A: I went to Ferris, which at that time was Ferris State College. It’s now Ferris State University and where I received my Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy.
Q: What aspects of your career are the most exciting?
A: As a young pharmacist, I was excited about two aspects of the business; first, taking care of patients. Even the simple task of helping a mother find the right cough syrup for her child was exciting to me, because I knew that my experience as a pharmacist was helping to support the management of the home, and her comfort level being a parent and caregiver to her child. I also love the business aspect. I enjoyed the challenge of, “How can I take Diplomat to a different level and how can I service the doctors in the community? How could I find a way to differentiate Diplomat by offering capabilities and services that the other pharmacies around us did not offer?” Even from the earliest days, Diplomat worked hard to be an innovative pharmacy, and to me, the most exciting part is doing something that others don’t do.
Q: Of what career achievement are you most proud?
A: What I am most proud of as far as my career achievements in pharmacy is my focus on creating a long-term, sustainable company at Diplomat. While I am proud and excited about the IPO, we really haven’t changed in our company or culture. For me, it’s really about creating a lifetime of work as opposed to an individual moment or event. I love the fact that we have been able to do something at Diplomat that has never been done in our industry before: to create the nation’s largest independent specialty pharmacy.
Q: What career goal are you most focused on right now?
A: I’m currently focused on creating sustainability. We want to create a sustainable model that will continue to grow and we want to protect the jobs in Flint and Genesee County. We want to make sure that, regardless of the activities we develop and create under Diplomat’s name, that they have a long-term runway and the ability to prosper.
Q: How did growing up in the Flint area shape the person you are today?
A: When I think about this area, I think of not just Michigan, but the Midwest, in general. I love the Midwest, and I use the terms “Midwestern Values” and “Midwestern Culture,” because I think there’s warmth and comfort in the Midwest that’s a little different than both coasts in terms of our local community. I love the weather, I love the lakes, I love the area around Michigan, and I think it’s a much greater place to grow up than most people realize.
Q: Are there any special people who influenced you?
A: The main influences in my life have always been my parents. My father had tremendous charisma and a positive outlook on everything. He always believed that hard work was the answer to getting things done. He not only worked hard, but was also good to people and believed in the big picture, and I think I learned a lot from that. From my mother, I learned about consistency and a never-ending confidence – the love of family and the confidence that family is always there for you. I think that also relates to other people in your life; even employees in a business. You know you need to be there for people. It gives people who work with you, for you, and partner with you that same confidence, and I learned that from my mother and father.
Q: What do you hope for the future of your professional field?
A: Pharmacy is a profession that needs to continue to grow. Primarily, it needs to look for new and creative ways to give patients the highest level of care while maintaining cost in health care and in pharmacy. At Diplomat, we use technology to offer better services, control costs, collect data and adherence information that will ultimately drive decisions in healthcare.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of Flint?
A: I hope that Flint will continue to build a revitalization momentum and continue to become the viable choice for people in this community. I do believe Flint is on its way back, and there are a number of tipping-point projects like the restoration of the Flint River, the Farmers’ Market, the Capitol Theater and our new business incubator in the Ferris building that I believe are critical to this process. Flint is on its way back right now. Viability is coming, and we already have a waiting list for people who would like to live Downtown. But we have to round out the services and capabilities we need to create a vibrant night life and restaurant scene. The Capitol Theater can help to deliver that. We need more retail Downtown; but that won’t happen until we get more visitors coming from the suburbs, once the Capitol Theater is complete. The Farmers’ Market, the River Restoration and other tipping-point projects are the answer to that. I believe in all those projects, and believe they are coming.
Q: How do you like to spend your spare time?
A: I’ve been skiing my entire life and all my children and siblings ski. We love to take family trips together – I love to travel, in general, with my family. I enjoy almost any outdoor recreation, being on the lake, fishing. If I’m with family and friends and an outdoor activity, I’m having a great time.
Photography by Eric Dutro