Professional Advice / Opinions:

6th Year Perspective: Experiences in the Pharmaceutical Industry  

Featuring: Khushbu Doshi, PharmD Candidate c/o 2023
By: Justin Budz, PharmD Candidate c/o 2023

Khushbu Doshi is a sixth-year pharmacy student at St. John’s University. During her time at St. John’s, Khushbu has served on the boards of a variety of campus organizations and has had invaluable internships and APPE rotations pertaining to the pharmaceutical industry. Khushbu’s goal after graduation is to obtain a post-doctoral fellowship in Regulatory Affairs. Her interests in the pharmaceutical industry stem from a curiosity into the legal side of pharma, specifically to how laws and regulations are applied to the medications pharmacists and healthcare professionals utilize so frequently.

Why did you choose to go to pharmacy school?

I wanted to be a part of healthcare, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I found managing the diagnosis to be a little bit more interesting than actually making the diagnosis. While I was in pharmacy school, I saw all the different avenues that you could take… and it was cool that you weren’t stuck in…one therapeutic area. You could kind of move around and learn about different things. And I liked that sense of learning and constant growth that came with the profession.

What clubs and organizations have you been a part of at St. John’s?

I was Historian and then Vice President of CPNP (College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists), Vice President of Rho Chi, and currently I’m the President of Student Congress.

Tell us about your internship experience with Merck.

I was the Regulatory Planning and Publishing Intern at Merck for the summer…so my role was with onboarding and getting familiar with the role as a Regulatory Submission Manager (RSM). That’s the person (RSM) who’s planning all of the submission timelines. They also execute the strategy portion of regulatory, so they work with the GRL (Global Regulatory Liaison) to come up with the timelines. I was part of the onboarding team so my role was more like, “how do we get the RSM up to date” or “what information do they need to execute the job properly”. I was looking at everything through the perspective of a new hire and at what they might need to support themselves. I think Merck is unique in that they really emphasize networking and finding your place within the company. My manager was really supportive of me learning about different functional areas and networking with people…to learn about their roles.

Tell us about your internship experience with Novartis and how it differed from Merck.

My internship at Novartis was in Labeling Strategy, so both internships were in Regulatory Affairs but in different areas. With Novartis, …I worked on projects that were actually going to be submitted as part of their IND (Investigational New Drug) or NDA (New Drug Application), whereas at Merck, I was focused more on what someone being new to the role would need. So I was a little bit more on the back end at Merck. At Novartis, I was more involved in the actual things that my manager was doing; he was the Global Therapeutic Area Lead, so he was writing these documents which would become the USPI (United States Prescribing Information). Also at Novartis, I think I had more of an opportunity to meet within regulatory and within my team…whereas at Merck, I had a little bit more opportunity to experience other areas. That might have come down to the fact that I was in my sixth year of pharmacy school while at Merck, so they really wanted me to have the opportunity to see all the other functional areas to make sure that when I was applying for fellowships, that’s what I really wanted to do. At Novartis, I was in my fourth year, and they knew that I liked regulatory, so they fostered my growth within that functional area itself. So overall, two different experiences but both really good and very fitting.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned from these internships?

At Novartis, …my manager was a very big proponent of me taking the time to attend meetings and sit with him. So I didn’t start with projects right from the beginning. I spent the first week or two fully sitting in meetings with him and then he would set up meetings with me afterwards and we would talk about what happened, what I learned, and if I had any questions. At the beginning, I didn’t understand that because I thought that I wanted projects right from the beginning to be helpful and make a difference on the team. But in those first two weeks, I thought it was so valuable, now looking back on it, that I gave myself the time to learn and understand the dynamics of the team and…what the role actually was. And I think if my first experiences were doing projects all the time, …I wouldn’t have been as successful in the role as I had been. It taught me to slow down and kind of level myself before I got too ahead of myself.

Asides from your internships, you also had an APPE rotation with the FDA. Can you tell us more about this experience?

At the FDA, I was in the Division of Drug Information. The first portion involved these write ups for advisory committee meetings where we would basically create documents from the meetings for internal use. The other portion was answering drug information questions from different stakeholders using the FDA website and their regulations and guidance to see what was applicable to the questions. So that was really interesting to see how the agency looks at the questions that come in, and then how you’re trained to answer them. With the write ups, you’d present to the whole division and everybody would come and listen to what happened at the meetings, because a lot of times if a stakeholder asked you a question, they would use those internal documents to see if a recording of that advisory committee would help that person understand more about the question they had.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned from the FDA rotation?

I think it was really good for presentation skills. I had a really hard time prioritizing information for write ups. My write ups would be like 30 pages long, and that’s not an easy thing to go through for someone to quickly see if the information they need is actually going to be in that committee meeting. I worked a lot on prioritizing information to what was actually applicable. I think this was a great way for me to hone in on those writing and comprehension skills in order to answer drug information questions.

What tips do you have for students who may be interested in pursuing an internship in the pharmaceutical industry?

When I was applying for internships in my third year, the only company that I heard back from was Novartis and the only team that I heard back from was my labeling team. I think that the more you apply to, that’s great, but I would also advise to apply for positions that you’re actually interested in. I always loved the legal side of pharma and how laws and regulations applied to the medications we put out, so regulatory, in that sense, was kind of my interest right from the beginning. So yes, I do recommend applying to all places, because the more chances you have, the better, but I also recommend having actual thoughts as to why what you’re applying to matters to you and why you would be well fit for that role. I also think that getting involved in campus is not only good for your resume but on top of that, it gives you a lot of skills that you probably wouldn’t have developed otherwise. For me, it was time management and leadership. I was able to put those two skills together in a lot of the roles that I’ve done when I needed to present to people, lead a team, or lead a submission. But I think that having those leadership experiences and that positive reinforcement from your peers really helped me in being able to speak to that in interviews. Lastly, start early! You might think that you’re too young to do this stuff, but there’s no harm in trying. There are people that will teach you the role if you want to do it and you’re willing to put in that time. I feel like that an openness to learn really carries you through and that’s kind of why I have been successful to a certain degree in the roles that I’ve had.

Published by Rho Chi Post
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