It only seemed like yesterday that I was a 4th year Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) and MBA student at University of Maryland. Like most students I was weighing my career options after graduation. The most popular and obvious option was retail pharmacy (e.g., Walgreens) to work as a retail pharmacist. The perks were the lure of good money right away and the joy of not bringing back any work home at the end of the day. Other popular options were working as a clinical pharmacist in a hospital, Veterans Affairs hospital or a managed care setting. I remember thinking to myself this cannot be all my options.
I had attended a career fair session at school and discovered the world of Pharmaceutical Companies (also known as Pharma), and learned that there was a growing need for doctors (MDs, PhDs, PharmDs etc) to work and contribute to this multifaceted industry. Most Pharmaceutical companies are consists of various departments such as Marketing, Sales, Medical Affairs, Legal, Regulatory, and Clinical Research and Development. As a PharmD/MBA holder I could use my clinical and business training to contribute to health science. I was immediately captivated by this career option. The question now became how do I get in?
The answer to that question is there are many ways to get into Pharma. However, the option that made the most sense for me was a post-doctorate fellowship, which could be the gateway for a seamless entry into Pharma. A fellowship provides hands on training which translates to 2-3 years of working experience. After some research and came across the Rutger's Institute for Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship. It was exactly what I was looking for because it is a well respected program due to its proven track record of training fellows. Many graduates of the Rutger Fellowship program have influential positions in industry throughout the US and abroad. I applied to the program and was accepted to a 1 year post-doctoral fellowship in conjunction with one of its partnering companies (Bristol Myers Squib).
This fellowship experience proved to be beneficial because not only was I able to hone my scientific skills, I also learned a lot about corporate America and how to succeed within its complex structure. I came out of the fellowship on equal playing field to those who already had a few years of working experience in Pharma. I confidently applied to Pharma jobs and was successful in securing my ideal first job as a PharmD, which was becoming a medical science liaison (MSL). In a span of 3 years, I am now a director at my current company.
I am a big proponent of hiring candidates who have fellowships and residencies as it is truly a worthwhile specialized training that translates into success in the work force.