Residencies and Fellowships: A Pharmacist's First-Hand Perspective on Both

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers August 2016

A pharmacist who completed a fellowship and a residency gives advice on what pharmacy students can expect in both.

Some pharmacy students may struggle with the decision to pursue a fellowship or residency, while others might even be considering both.

Alexander Oladele, PharmD, a postdoctoral pharmaceutical fellow with the Rutgers Pharmaceutical Fellowship Program, knows the ins and outs of both kinds of programs.

Dr. Oladele attended Howard University for his undergraduate and PharmD degrees and completed a residency at the Howard University Hospital. During his tenure at Howard, Alex pledged Alpha Phi Alpha and joined the Student National Pharmaceutical Association, the American Pharmacist Association, and the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists.

Here is Dr. Oladele’s say on what pharmacy students can do to prepare themselves.

TH: What inspired you to pursue both a residency and fellowship?

AO: The inspiration came from my mentor Dr. Muideen Adigun. He thought I would be a great teacher because I was great at speaking to people. Prior to that, I wanted to go into pharmaceutical industry. The drive to go into the industry came from some mentors that I have in industry. The completion of my residency would open many opportunities, but doing the pharmaceutical industry fellowship will get me where I ultimately want to be in the industry.

TH: Can you give us a general overview of your role in each program?

AO: Within the residency clinical setting, your segmentation is a 1-on-1 basis, whereas on the industry side you’re doing that on a global basis. With my residency, my day to day consisted of running an anticoagulation clinic where I was chief pharmacist and provided counseling and dosage suggestions. I enjoyed the experience and the fact that you have to remain clinically sharp because there are always new drugs coming to the market.

Industry is a corporate setting, and I’m not involved with patients directly, but the decisions you make affect a wide range of patients. I am currently completing my fellowship in the medical affairs department, which includes medical information, medical research and strategy, medical science liaison, and publications. I have the opportunity to gain experience in each area.

In medical research and strategy, one of the goals is to figure out solutions to problems and develop new strategies to accommodate the drug development process. We also help the drug get approved and sent to a commercial department for marketing.

The medical science liaison, which is ultimately what I want to do, is an independent consultant that represents a certain pharmaceutical company, a biotech company, or even a medical device company. Essentially the job function is to develop relationships with individuals known as thought leaders or key opinion leaders.

TH: What was your favorite aspect of each program?

AO: My favorite part of residency was when I was given the opportunity to teach psychiatric pharmacotherapy. I facilitated that course for 5 weeks. I saw the reality was that professors use each of their experiences when teaching; that’s why it’s called being a practitioner. I also really enjoyed rounding because it put everything into perspective for me.

For industry, I like that it is challenging for me in different ways. The biggest thing is my day to day is not the same. On Monday, I could be meeting with the director about collaborating with partners or merging drug compounds together. On another day, I might meet with the associate director of medical information and review advertising and promotional documents. Additionally, I love to travel, and working for a pharmaceutical company gives you that opportunity.

TH: How was the work and home life balance for each program?

AO: The salaries are very comparable; they are essentially the same. I would say that I was in the hospital everyday of my residency. I would wake up around 6 AM and be in the hospital around 8 AM. I would stay in the hospital until about 6 PM or 7 PM. There were days when I would work 12 or 13 hours straight.

Within industry, much of the work is project-based. I get to my company at 9 AM and leave around 4 PM or 5 PM, but sometimes I would have to take work home.

TH: How was the interview process for each program?

AO: I think doing the residency helped me because it gave me experiences to talk about during my fellowship interview. The fellowship interview, I must say, is strenuous, because you’re interviewing with each company. You can have 15 to 20 interviews if you keep moving forward to the next round.

For residency it’s not really the same. Based on your Pharmacy Online Residency Centralized Application Service application, if they like your information, grade point average (GPA), and experiences, they invite you to interview and you get your results on Match Day.

Everybody has their niche. Some excel in the fellowship area but may not do as well with the residency style interviews. There are some that would do well with the residency type interviews but not with the fellowship style interviews. It is critical to identify what you’re good at.

Although they are 2 different areas, I think doing the residency helped me get the fellowship.

TH: What advice do you have for third professional year students who are transitioning into their fourth year and are looking at applying for a fellowship or residency?

AO: The most important thing you can do is network. I say this because I personally did not graduate pharmacy school with the highest GPA. I had below a 3.0. I did not join many pharmacy organizations.

Most of my classmates joined more organizations and had higher GPAs, but what I was always good at was establishing relationships. Building strong relationships is the key to ensuring any level of success.

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