Paths to Industry
Welcome to Paths to Industry
This column highlights the many different paths that exist for pharmacists to enter industry.
There is a misconception, especially among students, that industry fellowships are the only way to get a job in industry. Although fellowships are an ideal way to break through, in actuality, the vast majority of pharmacists (about 80%) in industry never completed a fellowship.
Please read the articles below designated as "Paths to Industry" and be sure to "join the conversation" by commenting and engaging in the dialogue that follows each article.
To share your path, please contact us here:
Jerry E. Silverman, RPh, CCP
IPhO VP, Professional Development and Coaching
Chirag Shah, PharmD, RPh
Company and Department: Arena Pharmaceuticals, Program Management
Current Role: AD, Global Program Management (R&D)
Alma Mater: Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Class of 2014
My career path has been filled with curiosity and opportunity. But before I dive into the details, I think it’s important to appreciate the tremendous amount of opportunities available for pharmacists—in hospital, retail, managed care, or the pharmaceutical industry. No matter what role you pursue, at the end of the day, your doctorate in pharmacy will serve you well and provide you with a strong scientific acumen. The beauty of the pharmaceutical industry is that there are countless opportunities that require you to apply your scientific knowledge and ultimately learn to develop a solid understanding of the business.
Sarica Vieda Klein, PharmD
Company and Department: Sanofi Genzyme, Medical Affairs
Current Role: Medical Science Liaison
Alma Mater: University of Southern California, Class of 2006
After earning an undergraduate degree in biology, I started working at Amgen in the preclinical research department. It was there that I discovered my love for working in the pharmaceutical industry. More than anything, I enjoyed being surrounded by innovation and cutting-edge science, where the ultimate goal was simple: to help patients. I was encouraged by a PhD coworker to continue my education and I decided to pursue a doctorate of pharmacy. I was admitted to USC pharmacy school, where I spent every day gaining knowledge and growing more appreciative of my education. With the help of two other classmates, I started the Student Industry Association where pharmacy students could learn about careers in industry.
Niren Shah, PharmD, MBA
Company and Department: PTC Therapeutics, Business Operations
Current Role: Senior Director, Business Development and Strategic Partnerships
Alma Mater: University of Florida, Class of 2010
During my first rotation, I came up with what I thought was a great idea for an article. I spent a number of hours researching the topic and finally mustered up the courage to share the idea with one of my professors, Dr. Epstein. While he appreciated the enthusiasm, he gave me a particularly skeptical look when I told him I would like to publish the paper in The New England Journal of Medicine. We ultimately collaborated on a different project, which became the start of a great relationship that would end in a journey to industry and beyond.
I then decided to pursue a fellowship at the East Coast Institute for Research (ECIR) with Drs. Epstein and Choksi. My two years would be spent teaching, researching (phase 2-4), and publishing manuscripts. ECIR also had a separate arm that consulted for a wide range of pharmaceutical companies like AZ and Novartis. This was where I got my first exposure to industry and I absolutely fell in love.
Mudit Verma, PharmD
Company and Department: Accelovance, Inc., Medical Writing
Current Role: Medical Writer
Alma Mater: University of Maryland, Class of 2018
Throughout pharmacy school, I sought a non-traditional career path and perceived the pharmaceutical industry to be a world of endless excitement and innovation. The core of my pharmacy training was clinically-focused, so I gained skills that would help me prosper in industry.
I spent most of my extracurricular time engaging in international pharmacy enterprises by traveling to six different countries throughout pharmacy school: Honduras, Argentina, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Singapore, and Australia. My key strategy for retaining the clinical skills I acquired in each location was to thoroughly document my experiences and reflections and share them with my professional network. I sought out opportunities to publish my reflections via a variety of pharmacy platforms and learned very quickly that I enjoyed writing – so much so that I would then pivot into industry by showcasing my communication and articulation skills.
Heidi McClelland, PharmD, BCACP
Company and Department: Pfizer, Medical Affairs
Current Role: Medical Outcomes Specialist
Alma Mater: University of Wisconsin–Madison, Class of 2004
When I entered pharmacy school in 2000, an industry career was not on my radar. I was working as a pharmacy technician at a large retail chain and planned to continue my career there as a pharmacist. During my fourth year of pharmacy school, I was in a 6-week rotation with a pharmacist working in Medical Affairs at Pfizer. This was when I first became fascinated by the idea of an industry career path.
Despite my fascination, I did continue to work as a retail pharmacist after graduation. I worked in various locations and positions, including a staff pharmacist and pharmacy manager. Although I enjoyed working closely and directly with patients, I realized after 7 years that I was ready to make a career change.
Diane Ammerman, PharmD
Company and Department: Genentech, Field Medical
Current Role: Senior Medical Science Liaison
Alma Mater: University of Pittsburgh, Class of 1998
I first learned about postions for pharmacists in industry while observing my faculty mentors move into Medical Science Liaison (MSL) roles. They were strong leaders and outstanding clinicians at the University of Pittsburgh, so their transition caught my attention. My residency was clinically-based in ambulatory care and managed care at the University of Maryland. I then moved into a clinical pharmacy position in managed care, where I had significant exposure to and involvement in new drug presentations from MSLs and Industry Account Managers, many of whom were recruiting me to work in the Pharmaceutical Industry. My clinical experience in managing psychiatric patients in insurance initiatives gave me insight that was helpful as I learned about open positions in industry. I decided to make the switch and interview for my first industry MSL position in neuroscience, and I was offered the job.
What's the bottom line?
Your clinical knowledge and experience gained during rotations and/or residency are valuable assets to industry employers. Utilize those skills as you network to help you break into industry in a nontraditional way.
Francesca Bastone, PharmD
Company and Department: Prometic, Field Medical
Current Role: Medical Science Liaison
Alma Mater: Fairleigh Dickinson University, Class of 2017
I have always wanted to impact patient lives and health care on a global scale, and I ultimately discovered that the best way for me to do that was through the pharmaceutical industry, although the road to getting there was not a straightforward one.
Jonathan Douek, PharmD
Company and Department: Amgen, Regulatory Promotion Compliance
Current Role: Senior Associate Reviewer
Alma Mater: Temple University, Class of 2017
I have heard countless times how important networking is, but I did not truly understand its value until it helped me land my first job in industry.
Like many student pharmacists, my interest in the pharmaceutical industry as an alternative to traditional pharmacist roles was strong, but my knowledge of what one can do in industry was lacking. Therefore, in my first year at Temple University School of Pharmacy, I co-founded our chapter of IPhO. This was in an effort to increase my classmates, and my own, understanding of the avenues that were available to us in industry upon graduation. We gained valuable insight from each speaker that came in, and we learned some of the nuances of each position, from regulatory to medical affairs, to marketing and much more.
Author: Hyun Ik Kim, PharmD
Company and Department: Taro Pharmaceuticals, Clinical Research
Current Role: Manager, Clinical Research
Alma Mater: Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers University 2013
If you are interested in entering the pharmaceutical industry, you may want to consider contract employment. I never imagined I would contract my way to a career in industry.
In the winter of 2012, during my last year of pharmacy school, I arrived at the Midyear meeting in Las Vegas, full of youthful optimism and hope for one goal: a fellowship. As an intern at an agency that provided medical writing services for pharmaceutical companies, I felt industry was the natural progression to pursue my interest in researching and applying scientific information to understand and develop drugs. However, despite great effort, my aspirations at the Midyear Clinical Meeting did not come to fruition.
Rajvir Amin, PharmD
Company and Department: Janssen, Medical Communications/Medical Affairs
Current Role: Medical Communication Specialist/Medical Writer: Hematology-Oncology
Alma Mater: Long Island University, Class of 2016
In recent times, career choices for pharmacists have evolved significantly. There are now many different areas in the healthcare system that pharmacists can work in. However, most students are not exposed to all the available opportunities during pharmacy school. After very detailed research on all types of different roles pharmacists can hold in the pharmaceutical industry, I knew that is where I wanted to pursue my career. To gain more exposure, I joined an organization related to pharmaceutical industry at my school. This organization helped me understand the roles and responsibilities of a pharmacist working in the industry. I later became a vice president of the organization, which allowed me to develop my leadership skills and use my knowledge to educate other students about industry career opportunities.