Have You Heard About HEOR?: A Q&A with a Fellow at the Program

Dr. David Singer discusses why he pursued the fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University in the College of Population Health and Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC.

Dr. David Singer is a health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) fellow in a 2-year program with Thomas Jefferson University in the College of Population Health and Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC. In 2016, Dr. Singer received a PharmD degree from the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy, where he was involved in the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), the American Pharmacists Association - Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP), the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), and Phi Delta Chi. After his fellowship, he hopes to work in HEOR at a pharmaceutical company designing, conducting, and managing research, as well as potentially work in a field-based position as an outcomes liaison. Overall, Dr. Singer hopes to participate in population health research and explore how pharmaceutical companies can work with other health care stakeholders to improve outcomes.

Q: Why did you choose to pursue a fellowship and why a fellowship in HEOR?

A: Deciding what post-graduate training to pursue was a difficult decision, but ultimately, I concluded that an HEOR fellowship would be the best path for me. I considered managed-care residencies and discussed the idea of pursuing a PhD. After much thought and a very helpful conversation with our AMCP chapter’s faculty adviser, it became clear that an HEOR fellowship would provide the right balance of focused research training, exposure to different settings (academia and pharmaceutical industry), and potential for further didactic learning in the form of a master’s degree.

Q: What is the purpose or goal of HEOR in the pharmaceutical industry?

A: HEOR has a growing and ever-evolving role in the pharmaceutical industry as a function that demonstrates the value of products. Often, HEOR groups will develop evidence of the real-world effectiveness of products by conducting studies using claims data, electronic medical record data, and patient registries. Demonstrating the economic impact through modeling and retrospective analyses of claims is another important role that HEOR plays in the pharmaceutical industry. Additionally, HEOR groups may be involved in assessing how a product affects patient reported outcomes (PROs) and the development or validation of PRO instruments. Evidence generated by HEOR is often used by health care decision makers to inform policy.

Q: What is the structure of your fellowship program?

A: My fellowship program consists of 2 years spent conducting research and taking courses relevant to HEOR. During the first year, the fellow works at Thomas Jefferson University in the College of Population Health in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, participating on research studies with faculty and external partners. During the second year, the fellow is located at Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC, in Titusville, New Jersey, conducting and managing research as a member of the HEOR team

Day-to-day activities vary, depending on research partners as well as the individual fellow’s interests and learning objectives. Days throughout both years often include meetings to discuss research methodology, execution of studies, the most appropriate data sources to answer a research question, and the logistics of disseminating findings through publications. The types of research projects fellows participate in may vary by their interests and previous experience, so the day-to-day of conducting research often reflects the projects the fellow is working on.

Like most previous fellows in this program, I am pursuing a master’s degree in applied health economics and outcomes research at TJU. Over the two years of the fellowship program, fellows can complete all the required courses for a master’s degree and lay the groundwork for the final capstone or thesis project.

Q: What are the advantages of completing a HEOR fellowship, and what job opportunities are available for HEOR fellows after completing a fellowship?

A: A HEOR fellowship typically provides 2 years of focused research training with exposure to strategy and often the opportunity to work in multiple settings. In my program, I have had the opportunity to conduct research in academia and the pharmaceutical industry. HEOR fellowships often provide the opportunity to complete coursework as well. With focused research training and supplemental coursework, HEOR fellows, depending on their interests, can graduate a fellowship prepared for jobs in the pharmaceutical industry, medical device industry, consulting, managed care, and academia. Alumni of our fellowship program are currently working in all of these settings

Q: What are the top 3 skills that HEOR fellows must have in order to be successful in their field?

A: To be successful as a HEOR fellow, I think 3 of the most important skills are the ability to learn on your own, communicate effectively, and critically evaluate research.

Q: What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing a HEOR fellowship?

A: Students interested in a HEOR fellowship should start preparing early. Research experience is valuable as a candidate, as is an understanding of the US health care system. Starting early gives a candidate time to be participate in research, understand the process, and perhaps most importantly, decide if it’s something they like. Often, students don’t get a lot of exposure to the structure of the US health care system, so having time to learn about the complex channels through which medicines and payments flow can be very beneficial.