Fellowships 101: Q&A with Founder of the Industry Pharmacists Organization

Pharmacy Careers, Pharmacy Careers August 2015, 0

James Alexander, executive director and founder of the Industry Pharmacists Organization, shares details about FellowMatch.

We continue our series on fellowships with a look at a newer service provided by the Industry Pharmacists Organization (IPhO), which is an organization “exclusively dedicated to advancing the careers of industry pharmacists,” according to its mission statement. Previously in this series, we reviewed different types of fellowships. In this installment, we discuss FellowMatch, a new fellowship match program that focuses on industry-based fellowships for recent pharmacy graduates. James Alexander, executive director and founder of IPhO, shares details about FellowMatch.

Q: Tell us about IPhO and how students can get involved in this organization.

A: IPhO now has 12 (and growing) approved student chapters, and it is connected to a network of more than 1000 student pharmacists around the country who have expressed an interest in industry.

Q: Tell us how FellowMatch got started with IPhO.

A: In response to requests from student members and fellowship sponsors, IPhO introduced FellowMatch to enhance current fellowship recruiting practices. FellowMatch was launched in November 2014 to address a number of unmet needs. On the candidate side, it has become very challenging for students/fellowship candidates to keep up with the number and types of industry fellowships offered each year. Furthermore, it is an advantage for students who make their fellowship candidacies known before the [American Society of Health-System Pharmacists] Midyear Meeting, which many attend to go through the residency and partial fellowship match process.

FellowMatch now offers students the opportunity to view fellowships available from fellowship sponsors, and students may also submit their candidate materials as early as October through this portal for review. Because competition for fellowships has never been steeper, this allows students to get a jump on the fellowship application process by gaining exposure in advance. Depending on what the fellowship sponsors’ recruiting objectives are, they may want to contact student candidates to learn more about their candidacy and possibly even ask them to submit all materials that would be necessary for them to make a selection decision. There are currently 262 industry fellows in the United States and more than 150 open positions this year at the time of this interview. We have already placed some through our match program.

Fellowship sponsors participating in FellowMatch have the flexibility to decide whether to use any or all of the following candidate engagement strategies:

• Request that candidates supply curriculum vitae and/or letter of intent only

• Request that candidates submit a more robust set of materials

• Identify and prioritize candidates of interest for further recruiting actions

• Contact and engage candidates who have expressed interest

• Schedule online (Skype/FaceTime) or in-person interviews

• Request that certain candidates submit letters of interest or other materials directly to the sponsor

• Contact candidates to organize interviews at Midyear

• Fully utilize the FellowMatch system as their new applicant portal

• Select and make offers to candidates prior to Midyear.

Q: Fellowships are typically focused on research or industry. Are the majority of your fellowships in the matching program focused on research, industry, or something else?

A: Of the 262 industry fellows in the United States, the fellowship areas of focus range from clinical pharmacology to marketing and everything in between. Industry-wide, about 8000 industry pharmacists are employed in the functional areas where fellowships are offered. As an added service, many program/company fellowship brochures are visible on the member side of the IPhO website.

Q: What general advice do you have for students who might be interested in pursuing an industry fellowship?

A: Join IPhO as a national member. Join your local IPhO chapter. Become a leader of any student organization. Take a class about industry. Talk to current fellows. Complete an industry rotation and/or industry internship (more on this in a moment). Visit the IPhO resources website. View our webinar series. Engage with a mentor who is an industry pharmacist. There are many ways to learn more about industry fellowships.

Q: What general advice do you have for students trying to compare this fellowship opportunity to a residency?

A: There are so many ways in which pharmacists can apply their PharmD skills. We encourage students to explore all of the areas that are available to them. Clinically focused residencies are an excellent avenue for PharmDs to leverage their clinical and patient care skills. Some of the things that attract pharmacists to industry include (1) upward and lateral career mobility, and (2) the preference to impact patient care on a broad, even global scale rather than 1:1 patient interaction.

In addition, we are beginning a new service for students on our website called InternMatch. This will give pharmacy students an early opportunity to explore industry as a career option.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say about FellowMatch?

A: FellowMatch is off to a terrific start. Feedback has been very positive, and several placements have already been made with the assistance of this new service. IPhO is looking forward to further enhancing the FellowMatch service for 2015 and 2016 based on input from our members and our partners.

Erin Albert, PharmD, JD, MBA, is an associate professor/director at Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, as well as a writer and entrepreneur. For more on her work, log on to erinalbert.com.