Public Health Matters Video: Generative AI and the Future of Pharmacy


Tune into this episode of “Public Health Matters” to hear Dr. Bolu Oladini’s unconventional journey within pharmacy, his passion for mental health, and how artificial intelligence is beginning to be integrated into health care and everyday life.

In this episode, host Dr. Christina Madison interviews Dr. Bolu Oladini, PharmD, author, global medical affairs, generative AI medical content lead, Pfizer, to discuss the intersections of pharmacy, medical affairs, and AI. Dr. Oladini describes the importance of following one’s interest, and using those passions to one’s advantage when building on a career. Both Dr. Madison and Dr. Oladini also share the importance of understanding AI sources and prompts when using the available interfaces.

Key Topics Discussed

  • Dr. Bolu Oladini’s journey within pharmacy and how he has built his career with help from his passions.
  • The role of medical affairs in the pharmaceutical industry, and other areas of health care.
  • Dr. Oladini highlights different examples of artificial intelligence (AI), as well as how users can familiarize themselves and use it for efficiency.
  • Dr. Christina Madison and Dr. Oladini share their experiences with AI and their predictions on what it can mean for the future of pharmacy.

Christina M. Madison, PharmD, FCCP, AAHIVP: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Public Health Matters. I am your host, Dr. Christina Madison, also known as the public health pharmacist. I'm so excited to welcome today's guest, and again, just a friendly reminder, this podcast is part of Pharmacy Times Pharmacy Focus podcast series, so you can check out this episode as well as many others from different [shows], just by following along online. So, before we dive into some questions, I'm gonna go ahead and let our guest for today introduce himself.

Bolu Oladini, PharmD: Yeah, sure. So it's, it's really great to be here, [I'm] glad to be here. I always love talking to other pharmacists who kind of do things non-traditionally or kind of do things outside of the box, because I feel like—and hopefully this doesn't turn into a long soapbox—but I do think a lot of times in our profession...people kind of put themselves into boxes, "Okay, I'm this pharmacist from that pharmacy, I can't do XYZ," but it's like, oh, you have a set of tools and a training and you can do whatever...suits your fancy, or whatever your you're capable of doing.

But I guess I forgot to introduce myself. So, my name is Bolu Oladini [and] by the time this podcast comes out, I would have started my new role at Pfizer, so I am the Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Medical Content Lead in the oncology business unit. I'm not gonna be able to say too much about what I've done yet, because I haven't quite started yet—as of the time of this recording—but I can definitely get into some of the high level things of what we're going to do from a generative AI perspective, and we're trying to increase the efficiency of medical content creation. We'll get into that more later, and, you know, I have a lot of other things I do as well, which Dr. Madison will probably ask me about as well.

Madison: There are many hats, right? I always think it's funny when people say that statement, because I always think of myself as looking like Dr. Seuss. So instead of saying, I wear many hats, I typically say "I wear many pins," or "I have multiple roles" because it makes me think I have as giant like Dr. Seuss hat [up to here].

Oladini: They never say if you're sequentially wearing the hats, are you taking turns wearing the hats, or are you just wearing them all at once?

Madison: Well, look at you turning stuff on its head...I had never thought of it that way. I just assumed that when you are multitalented and multifaceted, that all of those hats are being worn at the same time, but in theory, I guess you can't really have them all on the same time.

Oladini: Not really, you kind of have to change gears, I guess. But it's 1 way to look at it. I think I just try not to put any labels on myself, so whatever I feel drawn to do, I just do it. And you know, somebody's like, "Oh, well, you do this, and you do that, and you do this, and you do this other thing," and I [think], well, I like it all. It makes me happy or...[feeds into] my curiosity or whatever.

Madison: ...Well, with that being said, [I] definitely want to dive into some questions. So, working in...obviously, an industry is something that we consider to be sort of not done by a lot of pharmacists, and so, I'm curious if you could maybe talk a little bit about how your journey ended up in that space. So, you know, previously to you moving into this new role with Pfizer, you were working in the mental health space at your previous company, and so, [could you] maybe take us through a little bit of how that journey happened. Just for those who are listening or watching that are maybe curious about getting into the industry space, or doing more around medical affairs. And what is medical affairs?

Oladini: Yeah, as far as my journey...I guess [my journey was] interesting and not usually like the path [that is often] an undergrad, I've always had interest in psychology and mental health, how the brain works, neuroscience, that kind of thing, and I was a psychology major in undergrad, my mom was a mental health nurse, so I was always just kind of drawn to it in that way. And there came a time—I think [during] my second year of pharmacy school—and I needed more elective credits just to meet all the graduation requirements and all that stuff. So, I ended up taking an independent study course [where I] worked with like a professor, you determine what your research project [is], what it's going to be, how are you going to present it? So, since my interest was in psychiatry, I found a professor and we worked...basically, I ended up writing a paper on dopamine supersensitivity in schizophrenia, so it was like...fully referenced and everything, it was like, 11 to 12 pages, and I just wrote it because I was interested in the topic. And I guess...maybe around this time I was realizing, oh, I kind of like writing, [it's] not that hard for me, it's something I'm good at, it's valuable...My drug information class it was great, I enjoyed it...whatever paper we wrote, I was like, okay, this is a breeze. Right? So, yes, I wrote that paper, I did great in the class and everything, but it wasn't until after I graduated from pharmacy school that I realized, "oh...I can maybe have this paper published if I wanted to and that might help my career or lead to some other avenues." So I did that, I found a journal to submit it to and everything, so maybe [about] a year to a year and a half after graduation, I had a paper published, [which was] super cool. And I think it was right around that time...I was still in a community, kind of a hybrid position, and I realized, "oh, I think I can leverage my writing skills to get into the medical communications industry."

So, I kind of leveraged that publication along with my other experiences to get a position with a medical communications agency, so that's how I was able to go from community pharmacy to a medical communications position. And then I spent about a year there, but...turns out, it wasn't the best fit for me culturally, because I think [of my] personality, I'm very dynamic, I'm outgoing, I'm engaging, and certain settings, they kind of want you to be more like a fly on the wall, a little bit more quiet, and that wasn't who I was. So, I guess that's why I didn't stay too long.

Madison: I would agree. You're definitely not a fly on the wall.

Oladini: Yeah, but I didn't fit into that box, so I left. But yeah, that same schizophrenia paper I wrote in pharmacy school it ended up, I think being a gold star on my resume for my most recent position that I just left because at my previous company, the drug I was still is indicated in schizophrenia, so I was able to leverage my knowledge of the disease state as shown by my publication, [people would] say, "Oh, hey, well, this person already knows the disease state, so they just have to learn some more about medical affairs."

I guess I say all of that to say [that] following your curiosity and...what you're interested in, you never know where it's gonna lead you, you never know what avenues are going to open up [for you]. I think it's never a waste of time to pursue anything you're drawn to because you never know how you're going to use it in the future or what opportunities might come up that you can take advantage of.

Madison: Absolutely, I love that you followed your passion. I always say that people should do what their zone of genius is, which is what are you innately good at and what are you better at than anyone else that [might] take you a tenth of the time that it would take someone else. And so, when we're able to use our God-given talents and gifts, it really does make a difference and it helps us to be able to enjoy the work that we do.

Oladini: So I fully agree, just a quick thing...I think it was a quote I read said that hard work is only useful if you found an area you have an advantage in. And I just thought that was like super duper interesting, right? Because...working hard is great, but [there's also] that idea of working smart, which is like, where do you have the advantage? Where is your zone of genius to hone in on that? So you work hard on that you're getting 10 [times] the return compared to work in something you're not like really great at.

Madison: [Work] smarter, not harder, for sure. So, the question that you didn't get a chance to answer was what is medical affairs?...So you worked in medical affairs before, and I believe, now this new position that you're going to have is going to be focusing more on AI, which is also super cool, and I'm going to ask you a little bit about how you came to be curious about AI also...but let's start with the medical affairs question.

Oladini: Yeah, I'll definitely give you that highlight. Actually my current role now, it's kind of a blend of medical affairs and AI, it's using AI in medical affairs...

Medical affairs, at a high level, it's really about communication and a lot of the communication is about the data. So you're communicating both product data and disease state data to different audiences. So, there's obviously providers and clinicians, patients, sometimes the plain language summaries are getting really popular now where you take a scientific paper and you just kind of translate it into, like, layman's terms, so it's easily understandable by the average person. Yeah, so data [goes] to providers, patients, payers, and other access decision-makers are also regulators as well. So, you're communicating the data on safety, efficacy, and really...protecting the patient's interests, right? So, just really making sure everything is fair and balanced as far as being a little bit of a counterbalance to the marketing and the promotional side, just to make sure things are scientifically grounded.

There's a lot of different facets of medical affairs, but some of it can include, you know, scientific engagement—so you build relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs) or experts in the field—and maybe you're doing programming, you're a conference, or you're doing disease state education, or maybe you need advice or feedback from them, so maybe you do some kind of consulting arrangement—like an advisory board—something where you're trying to gather data from experts. But then kind of, publications, abstracts, posters, just really engaging with the scientific community as far as new data, studies conducted by the company, and things like that, but then internally...starting from a global level—because that was my most recent role—there's the field medical affairs team, so—a medical science liaison, [for example], would be [in] field medical affairs—they are interacting with health care providers and KOLs in the field to gather insights on how is the drug being used in clinical practice, are there any additional concerns, safety, efficacy, competitive landscape, and so on and so forth. And then bring that information in to the regional medical teams, and then from there, the regional medical teams can if there's any tactics or any activities that can be done to address any gaps that are kind of identified by the field team, so that can happen at that level.

And then when you have a global company that has various, different regions, those regions are all going to communicate with the global medical affairs team, right? And at the global of the key dogs is really just to make sure that information is flowing properly. So, regions can support each other, you're not duplicating efforts in different regions, so sharing resources, sharing information, sharing best practices, and on a global level, you're a lot closer to the data. So, things like prescribing information or the label, you're kind of in charge of that. I said a lot, but that's kind of like a high level.

Madison: Yeah, no worries. So kind of thinking about how does are we helping the health care professional that's in their office, or the clinical pharmacist that's working in this are we helping them to figure out best practices? And then, also, we've seen sort of a huge expansion in the social awareness around mental health, and then also AI. So, I'm curious, how do you see that...when I think about public health, I think about communications as being part of that and communicating preventative care, and really talking more about the wellness space and preventing illness versus treating illness once you have it. So, I'm just curious...what are your thoughts about looking at this more from a public health space, and maybe communicating to either vulnerable populations or populations of color that maybe are not as familiar with some of the latest data that your companies have in order to make [the] best decisions about themselves in their families?

Oladini: Yeah, so I think it really comes down to partnerships and collaboration because medical science liaisons and other field medical affairs personnel, they're gonna have access to the latest data, they're staying on top of everything that's coming out, so like, if you just have general disease state questions or any kind of inquiries, they're a good resource for that. But I also think that from a public health standpoint, I think that, typically, a lot of that kind of falls on the FDA, the CDC, and I think each clinician making sure that they're [practicing] according to the latest guidance, and just really being proactive for their patients. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the role of the patient taking an active role in their own health as well, because I think sometimes people can kind of just think "the doctor has all the answers, and I'll just do whatever they say," but it's like, okay, well, [health care providers] can only go off of what you tell them, and if there's information you're not telling them, or there's concerns, or even just suggestions...because 1 thing that's actually really big in psychiatry is the concept of shared decision-making...meaning like—I'm sure the listeners might be aware—but just the idea that the doctor and the patients are kind of making decisions together, or incorporating what does the patient feel like, what [are] the patient's goals, is there a caregiver in the picture whose input should also be factored in, and [it's] just more of a 2-way street than the doctor says this, and that's it, and that's how it goes, right? Because that doesn't really engender trust or a strong doctor-patient relationship, I think.

Madison: Yeah, absolutely. I'm so glad you brought up that concept of shared clinical decision-making because I do feel that is part of how we're able to create a meaningful relationship with our patients. I always say you have to have that "know, like, and trust factor," and there's plenty of times where you may know your physician, or you may know your prescriber, but do you trust them? And so much of the way that people will make decisions about their health care is based on emotion and whether or not you're able to connect, and I think if you don't have trust in your health care professional, and you don't feel like they have your best interests at heart, then you're not going to be able to have that type of rapport, and that leads to poorer health outcomes.

Oladini: Yeah, and I totally agree.

Madison: So my next question for you is, how did you get interested in AI? This is obviously a big hot topic that's been going around...and it's interesting, I just attended [the American Pharmacists Association Annual Meeting and Exposition] and there was a whole conversation around digital health and generative AI coming to steal our jobs, and all of these things...obviously, I think it goes beyond just ChatGPT, I think there's definitely ways that we can utilize the assistance of technology in order to amplify and enhance our ability to provide good patient care. So, I'm curious how you got started in that space and what is your prediction as far as the future of the use of AI in pharmacy?

Oladini: Yeah, it's...really an interesting time—I just think it's an incredible time to be alive—but...I guess how I got into it was experimentation, I think. I'm someone who...likes to experiment or try things out...I kind of dabbled around with ChatGPT, maybe not long after it first came out, and I think probably the first thing I used it for was to write a thank you email for a job interview I had. It wrote a pretty decent thank you email...I mean, what would have taken me like, maybe 30 minutes took 5 or 6 minutes...and then I kind of slowly, you know, I would try, like, other things are like, Okay, let me ask this question. Let me ask it that question. And then, I think, the more I learned, the more I saw what it could do, I just started exploring other ways to use it and other questions to ask it.

I think 1—not a misconception—but I think some people...approach these generative AI models in the most effective way, right? They think they start with...a top-down approach. "Can I use it for this, can I use it for that?" And they just start with a very limited thing, "can it do this?" instead of "what can it do, what can I ask it to do, or what can I have it help me do?" ...I feel like the way a lot of people approach it, you start with a few use cases are few. I'm gonna use it for X, Y, and Z, and then you kind of funnel down, right? But I think if you approach it [more] from a standpoint of curiosity, of "let's explore." ...sometimes you'll realize ways to use it that you hadn't even thought of. But I think what really sold, or when I really became like a true believer [of AI's capabilities] was the voice app for ChatGPT, you can use it on your phone and just talk to it, like you can talk to a person.

Yeah, but there's just so many things you can do with it, and there's different ways you can ask it stuff, it's really complex and really intriguing. And I think another thing that kind of really made me see its value...I actually used it to kind of draft certain parts of my book, or brainstorming...[I would] give it something I wrote, let me see if it can think of any other thoughts or ideas's a few pages of this point I want to get across, can [AI] help me think of a popular, well-known example that can help me...[provide] a story to illustrate certain points. So, it's a great research partner, brainstorming partner, and things like that. The sky's the limit, and I think this year, we've definitely seen a lot more enterprise investment, and budget, and headcount and stuff, which, obviously, my role now is a part of that expansion. But I think you're gonna see a lot more investment into business use cases and just that and generative AI being incorporated in general, but it'll be interesting to see how the different fields in health care can kind of adopt it and what the consequences are as well.

Madison: So, where do you think it's going? I mean, obviously, you kind of gave a few examples of [the business aspect] and now you have the new role that specifically is focused on AI and now AI use within the oncology space, but I'm curious, if you had a prediction, where do you see AI being used in pharmacy in the next, like, 5 years?

Oladini: ...I actually know somebody, I think she has an AI startup, and...I think it's helping pharmacies kind of automate repetitive tasks. So, I want to say it can take phone calls, it can answer questions about refills, and all these things that you spend so much time on the phone doing in the pharmacy. I think it has a chatbot functionality and maybe even voice now—I'm not I'm not quite sure...but I think, they are definitely used in cases in the traditional pharmacy setting for sure.

But I do think...I've always been a little bit concerned that retail and hospital pharmacies are very slow to innovate, I think, just because not much has really changed in [about] 20 to 30 years—outside of MCM, immunizations, you know, "bolt on" stuff—but I think, fundamentally, so many things haven't changed, that people are just used to doing things a certain way. I think the pharmaceutical industry is already starting to take off more. You know, there's my position at my company, but I've started to see other positions at other companies as well. So yeah, I think definitely in medical affairs where I am, I've seen it in marketing, using large language models to draft marketing copy or to help with promotional campaigns, they're using it in drug discovery...they're using machine learning...If you think about all that stuff, [people are] teaching [AI] that these drugs have these structure and have this kind of a therapeutic effect, what other structures can you generate that might have a similar effect? Or just just training it how to put these molecules together, and then now you can do all of the high throughput screening or whatever the heck they do these days.

So yeah, drug discovery, marketing, I think even even like pharmacovigilance as well—which is like drug safety, patient safety—and I think, at the stage we're in, what AI and generatative AI can do is more so limited by your imagination and your budget and your capabilities and other kinds of operational and logistical things, and it's less limited by the technology itself at this point. I mean, it also is moving very fast—I think [as of this recording] the next model of ChatGPT is coming out in the next few months—but now there's so many large language models as well, there's, you know, Anthropic has Claude, Google has Gemini, and there's some other smaller open-source ones. So, it's a party.

Madison: Wow...we'll have to include that information in the show notes for those who are listening or watching who maybe are not as familiar with generative AI or some of the other platforms that you mentioned outside of ChatGPT. So, with that being said, I would be remiss if I did not point out the fact that you glossed over the fact that you said that you were using ChatGPT to help you with your book. So, I wanted to give you a moment just to say what that's about, and the fact that I'm excited that you will be adding "author" to your list of accolades. So, if you want to maybe just chat a little bit about that, that would be great.

Oladini: Of course, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Just 1 quick, last thing on generative AI before I pivot to the book, I think 1 misconception people have [is] that you need a really strong technical background to do well with these large language models, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Because the beauty with the natural language processing [is] you just type, or you just write as if communication, like you [would] write an essay, like an email, anything like that, you can use it that way.

Madison: I was just gonna say, also with the prompts, too. I feel like that's the other thing, [if] you put crap in, you get crap out right? You've got to be careful...and it will learn, but you have to make sure that what you're telling it is what you want to get out of it, and so that would be my only other suggestion/advice for people who are utilizing these tools...understanding what prompts work best for what you're trying to get from it, and then also, making sure that you source it and then you go back and you fact check. Because sometimes it can tell you things and make up things, and it's so cute about it. It's like, "Yes, of course this is true!" and you ask it, like, "Are you sure this is correct?" I was at a seminar recently, and the gentleman—it was on law—and the gentleman had said that he was using ChatGPT, and he was looking it up and he happened to search himself just to see and [ChatGPT] had actually given him his obituary. And I was like, "You're not dead!"

Oladini: Yeah, no, it can [do that] have to trust and verify, right? I mean, the same way if somebody gets up and gives a great speech, and they cite all these statistics, you know, they could be lying too, right? So, you definitely want to check it.

But yeah, for my's going to be coming out October this year, October 2024, and the title is "Diamond At Your Rock Bottom." So, at a high level, it's basically a framework for a concept called post-traumatic growth. So what is [that]? It's kind of what it sounds like: ...people go through trauma—and this concept doesn't negate post-traumatic stress disorder, because that's still a very real phenomenon—but some people are able to kind of surpass their previous baseline after trauma, in a way, because of the trauma, or the trauma was like the catalyst for extensive personal growth at a high level. So I use the metaphor of finding a diamond at your rock bottom, so if you think about a diamond how's the diamond formed? It's coal, it's under's carbon and coal, but it's been under thousands of pounds of pressure. So, the same way, 1 of my main points throughout the book is that you yourself are coal at some point, and we have to go through a refinement process in order to become the best version of ourselves, or the "diamond version" of ourselves. And that process, you know, it can involve trauma or just suffering hardships, but it's all of those things that will make you stronger and make you into the person you're destined to be, right. But it's not an easy process, and I go through a lot of mental models, and philosophy, and personal development and spiritual things, just to really give people the tools and the skill set to be able to navigate challenging life circumstances to come out on the other side as the best version of themselves. I think a lot of people have gone through a lot of challenges, especially with the pandemic and everything since then, and so, I think—and I hope—it'll be a very timely book that will add a lot of value to a lot of people.

Madison: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing, I always like to see other pharmacist authors, and I'm really excited for you to take on this next journey. With that being said, [as we wrap up today's interview], I typically ask my guests to tell me 1 thing that they would tell their younger self and why?

Oladini: I would tell myself don't lose faith and don't lose hope. Because I think there are always those challenging moments or where things look so bleak, where you're like, "oh, my gosh, it's horrible." There's just always a way out, especially when you pray, [or if] you have a strong support network, your faith will carry you through a lot of a lot of things. But yeah, that's what I would tell my younger self.

Oh, well, that's very lovely. I think that's a great place for us to end.

I do want to say thank you so much for your time today, this has been a really great episode. I hope that the audience will now have a little bit more information around medical affairs, around mental health, around the use of AI, wanting to become an author...I think this episode is jam-packed full of lots of golden nuggets. So, with that, again, thank you so much for your time today, and I look forward to seeing all of your future successes...

Just to remind the audience, our listeners, again, this is part of the Pharmacy Focus podcast series by Pharmacy Times, and I am your host, Dr. Christina Madison, also known as the public health pharmacist. You can find me on all of your favorite social media channels, @thepublichealthpharmacist.

About the Expert

Bolu Oladini, PharmD, is a dynamic, diligent, and driven Medical Affairs innovator with over 6 years of experience in Medical Strategy and Scientific Communication. He is a clinically sound and commercially-aware strategic thinker and relationship builder with a background in psychology. He is a Doctor of Pharmacy and Board-Certified Medical Affairs Specialist (BCMAS).

Bolu is currently the Generative AI Medical Content Lead at Pfizer, where he works to transform oncology medical content creation with speed and efficiency using prompt engineering and multimodal AI. He is also certified in Prompt Engineering through Vanderbilt University and certified in Generative AI through DeepLearning.AI. Bolu is passionate about personal development, and his 1st book Diamond at Your Rock Bottom will be published in October 2024. In his spare time, he enjoys lifting weights, traveling, and spending time with his wife and son.

And actually, I forgot to ask Dr. Bolu, do you want to tell us where people can find you if they want to find where you're at and where your journeys are taking you?

Oladini: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I'm on I'm on LinkedIn, you can just search my first and last name. On Instagram, @doctor_bolu, I'm on Facebook, same thing [as LinkedIn], you can search me up. But yeah, we're working on other social media channels...I think I'm on TikTok, I might I dust it off pretty soon with my book promotion, but [it's] same same handle is Instagram.

Madison: Wonderful, we'll include that in the show notes as well. So again, my name is Dr. Christina Madison. I am your host and remember, public health matters.

You can preorder Dr. Bolu Oladini’s book here. He can be found on the following social media platforms:

You can check out the following discussed AI platforms:

  1. ChatGPT: 
  2. Claude:
  3. Gemini:
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