/publications/career/2007/Careers_2007-09/Careers_2007-09_5089

INDUSTRY INTERNSHIPS: A DIFFERENT WAY TO SPEND YOUR SUMMER VACATION

Author: Zachary Crouch

THE NEXT TIME YOU TAKE A break from the books to think about what you want to do during those few short months between spring finals and the start of the fall semester, consider an internship in the pharmaceutical industry. For me, this meant giving up the sun and sand for boardrooms and conference calls. I soon discovered a wealth of opportunities, however, for pharmacists in the industry today and how valuable it is to have this practical experience while still in school.

I was fortunate enough to be offered a position with GlaxoSmith-Kline for the summer at their US headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa. The department I worked in supported the company?s brand teams by finding innovative ways to market products to pharmacists and patients. With some prior experience working in the community setting, I was able to contribute as an intern, and the experience showed me how pharmacists are valued by patients and pharmaceutical companies as the most accessible health care professional.

One of the department?s main responsibilities included brainstorming ways to improve patient compliance, primarily through pharmacist and patient education focused on disease states. Ultimately, this creates a win-win situation for everyone involved?patients are healthier because they are taking their medication correctly, and the pharmacist is actively engaged in counseling patients, thus helping to drive growth for the pharmaceutical company?s brands.

What, then, is a normal day in the life of a pharmaceutical industry intern? I shared my cubicle with another pharmacy student and we were frequently part of the daily communications around ongoing projects and meetings.

Some days, I was invited to brand meetings to incorporate a pharmacy perspective into development of the brand strategy. Other days, I took part in conference calls, getting feedback from sales representatives in the field about which of our initiatives were working and which were not. In addition, frequent meetings with vendors were held to assess their pharmacy programs.

I had time between everyday activities to work on my final project, but it was common for new issues to come up and some reprioritizing to take place. Day in and day out, my job allowed me to engage in new challenges and learn a wealth of information along the way.

My internship did not limit me only to learning the functions of my department, and that was what made it a unique, all-encompassing professional experience. My supervisor made it clear from the first day that he wanted me to use this summer to develop a better understanding of how a pharmaceutical company works and all the different areas where students can use their pharmacy degrees.

I did this by proactively setting up meetings with people in diverse positions and found very quickly that people were eager to spend time with students and give them advice, of which all interns should take full advantage. From this networking, I learned that pharmacists were working in every corner of the company, holding diverse positions in education, marketing, medical information, labeling, clinical research, and out in the field as liaisons or sales representatives.

Perhaps even more valuable was the access to professional advice?like what rotations to take during school or recommendations on residencies and fellowships?from pharmacists who already had found success in their careers.

Using summers to explore the many job possibilities for pharmacists is a great way to gain early insight into the field and career direction. As a result of this internship, I will return to campus with new skill sets that I never could have learned in a classroom but are necessary to excel in school and beyond. Learning more at an early stage about the nontraditional roles of a pharmacist also helps to map out the steps that are necessary to become m