Pharmacy Fellow Q&A: Why Pursue a Pharmacy Fellowship?
Given the expanding role for pharmacists in the pharmaceutical industry, hear one pharmacist's experience on completing a pharmacy fellowship.
Kristina Bundra, PharmD, is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Bristol-Myers Squibb in New Jersey. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy from MCPHS University in Boston in May 2014 where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. Over the past few years, Dr. Bundra has gained a variety of experiences from her experiential rotations and extracurricular activities in a range of settings. She has also completed 2 summer internships in Medical Information at Genzyme in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
has become involved with the National Organization for Rare Disorders in updating Rare Disease Reports, and she was student chapter president of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy where she planned and coordinated the first Pharmacy and Therapeutics competition for the chapter and implemented a Medicare Part D community outreach project.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a pharmacy fellowship?
KB: A pharmacy fellowship provides a comprehensive training program to prepare a professional for a career in the pharmaceutical industry. I decided to pursue a pharmacy fellowship because I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the industry, as well as knowing that, ultimately, I am contributing in bringing life-saving medications to patients that need them the most, thus impacting patient care on a global level.
Q: What is the structure of your fellowship?
KB: I am the first fellow in this specific position at Bristol-Myers Squibb. My first year is spent in Worldwide Medical Content, Oncology and then I transition into a US Medical Strategy, Oncology position my second year. I really enjoy the rotational structure of my fellowship and having the opportunity to get both global experience my first year and then US-based experience during my second year.
During this first year, I have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the development, execution, and strategic alignment of global medical communications and content, primarily for customer-facing activities. In addition, I work closely with the oncology medical team to assist in the development of oncology communications and delivery of educational content. I also work with the global markets to leverage and transfer knowledge of medical information and educational platforms.
During my second year, I will have the opportunity to gain experience in the development of US-specific medical communications for the oncology portfolio and in the execution of the strategic medical plan for the oncology portfolio. Some of the key medical activities I may be involved with include development of oncology strategic medical plan, field medical resources, and planning advisory boards. As a member of the US medical matrix team, I will have the opportunity to interact with colleagues in health economics outcomes research, field medical, marketing, medical information services, and clinical development.
Q: What are your day-to-day tasks?
KB: One of the really great components of being in industry is that no 2 days are the same. There are always new projects to get involved with and meetings to attend. A majority of my day is spent, however, in meetings with cross-functional teams where we collaborate with groups across the organization in fulfilling department tasks.
Additionally, because I am in a global role this year, a lot of the meetings are through teleconferencing and videoconferencing in which I have the opportunity to interact with colleagues around the globe.
Q: What are the benefits for completing a fellowship? What about the disadvantages?
KB: There are many benefits of completing a fellowship program. In addition to the time I spend at Bristol-Myers Squibb, there are additional opportunities offered through the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers. We have a very comprehensive Professional Development series in which fellows are taught key skills, including professional and business etiquette, emotional intelligence and working with different personalities, how to effectively hold a meeting, and presentation skills, among many other skill sets.
Fellows also present once annually during a Professional Development Day, providing us the opportunity to enhance our public speaking skills, as well as obtain feedback from our fellow colleagues. In addition, fellows are encouraged to collaborate with Rutgers faculty in performing scholarly activities and research. Furthermore, adjunct faculty fellows have the opportunity to coordinate and facilitate a variety of courses in the pharmacy program at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy.
There are also many leadership opportunities available in which fellows can take roles in various committees within the fellowship program. These types of opportunities allow us to not only develop professionally but also collaborate with other fellows and stakeholders invested in the program. Finally, another major advantage of being in the fellowship program is the large alumni network of the program that fellows can interact with as a part of the mentorship component.
I do not believe there are any disadvantages to completing a fellowship because many of the skills that a fellow acquires during the fellowship can ultimately be transferable to many career paths.
Q: How did you decide your fellowship program was the right fit for you?
KB: I decided my fellowship program was the right fit based on a variety of factors. I thoroughly value the company culture at Bristol-Myers Squibb and the amount of emphasis placed on the fellowship program. Additionally, I enjoy the fact that I am in a 2-year position where I have the capability to rotate to different departments within the organization and gain a multitude of experiences.
Q: What opportunities does an individual have after completion of a fellowship?
KB: The opportunities are endless after completion of a fellowship. The extensive clinical and management training provided by the Rutgers Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship Program has helped to expand the pharmacist’s roles and responsibilities within the industry. Many alumni of the Rutgers Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship Program have found careers in various departments including Medical Communications/Education/Information, Medical Science Liaison, Medical and Scientific Affairs, Regulatory Affairs, Early Phase and Late Phase Clinical Development, Drug Safety, Marketing, Health Economics and Outcomes Research, among others.
Additional opportunities exist in careers even outside of the pharmaceutical industry, as many of the skills obtained over the fellowship can be transferable to a variety of settings.
Q: What advice do you have for students looking to pursue a fellowship?
KB: The best advice for students looking to pursue a fellowship is to keep your options open and find a program that is a right fit for you. It is important to remember that the pharmaceutical industry is constantly changing and being flexible is an invaluable asset to have.
In addition, it is very important to find a program that fits well with your working style as well as professional goals. A fellowship is a great opportunity to polish skills that you may have coming into the program and gaining a full variety of new skills.