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6th Year Perspective: From Pharmacy Student to Pfizer Fellow

Featuring: Frances Alexis Dela Cruz, PharmD Candidate c/o 2024

By: Celestine Van Sertima, PharmD Candidate c/o 2027

Frances Alexis Dela Cruz is a driven and dedicated PharmD candidate at St. John’s University who is anticipated to graduate in 2024. With a focus on pharmacy studies, Frances exhibits a passion for the pharmaceutical field and is committed to excelling in her pursuits. As a first-degree connection, she demonstrates a strong network and engagement, making her a promising future pharmacist. Recently, Frances received a Post-Doctoral Fellowship position in Global Clinical Supply: Clinical Research Pharmacy at Pfizer in conjunction with the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) Industry Fellowship Program!

What motivated you to choose a career path in the pharmaceutical industry?

Throughout pharmacy school, I had the invaluable experience of holding leadership positions in different pharmacy organizations. This was instrumental in helping me discern which path of pharmacy I wanted to pursue after graduation. With my involvement in the Industry Pharmacists Organization (IPhO), particularly during the VIP Case Competition and various speaker events, it was inspiring to see how pharmacists play a vital role in the drug development process. I ultimately chose to pursue a fellowship to contribute to the success of clinical trials and ultimately work on large-scale projects to benefit patients globally.

What specific research or projects led you to pursue a fellowship, and how do you envision applying your skills and knowledge gained in school for your fellowship and contribution to the industry?

My involvement in the Clinical Development team for IPhO’s VIP Case Competition was the initial project that sparked my interest in the drug development process and helped me discern which functional area would best suit my skills and interests. I also had an APPE rotation at a Medical Communications agency, where I had the opportunity to work on slide deck creation, conduct literature searches, and interpret clinical data. These two experiences solidified my decision to pursue a fellowship where I could play a role in the execution of clinical trials. I was also able to develop communication, critical thinking, and project management skills – attributes I hope to apply and further cultivate during my fellowship.

What specific skills or experiences do you believe made you a strong candidate for the fellowship?

One of the biggest pieces of advice I got during the fellowship process was how important it is to be able to speak about your unique experiences and highlight the skills you gained and the impact you were able to make. During interviews, I expanded on transferable skills I gained through my leadership positions in pharmacy organizations. I emphasized leadership and time management and tied in specific instances where I showcased these skills. The leadership positions do not have to be from industry-focused organizations such as IPhO! I also used experiences from the Rho Chi Honor Society and the Student College of Clinical Pharmacy (SCCP) to answer interview questions. Lastly, I spoke about my research projects with faculty from my APPE rotations.

What advice would you give to someone who is currently in college and aspiring to secure a fellowship in the industry after graduation?

Get involved and attend the various events hosted by IPhO and DIA! This is a great way to learn about the different functional areas, hear from industry professionals, and also build your soft skills. Speaking of soft skills, leadership positions, work, and research are also ways to gain transferable skills for industry. As a P3, I also attended IPhO’s free March Fellowship Madness series, which provided valuable insights into the fellowship recruitment process. Finally, if you plan to pursue a fellowship, have a good answer for “Why industry?” A PharmD is a versatile degree, so it is important that you explain why you are applying for fellowships rather than other career paths.

What role did networking play in your journey to securing the fellowship?

I did not have any industry internships or rotations, so networking was a great way for me to meet with fellows, learn about their roles and experiences, and determine which programs I wanted to apply to. I networked through the IPhO Annual Meeting, reached out to fellows, and also attended company/program-specific webinars. Be intentional, prepared, open-minded, and engaged when meeting with industry professionals.

Lastly, what is Clinical Research Pharmacy, and how do your experiences connect with this role?

Clinical Research Pharmacy is centered on creating investigational product (IP) manuals for investigational drugs and providing training for clinical sites. It involves using clinical pharmacy knowledge to optimize the administration of IPs and clinical trial conduct, working closely with sites and clinical teams, and ultimately ensuring that IPs reach patients in need. I currently work as a pharmacy intern in an inpatient hospital setting, and I hope to use this experience when assisting with IP documents for clinical sites.

Published by Rho Chi Post
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