By: Kristin M. Cheng, PharmD candidate c/o 2014
The Drug Information Association (DIA) 2013 Annual Meeting took place from June 23rd to June 27th at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Twenty-one students from the St. John’s University DIA student chapter attended this year. The purpose of the meeting was to advance therapeutic innovation and regulatory science. For students, it was a great opportunity to become immersed in current pharmaceutical issues such as FDASIA and on-the-rise topics like “big data.” The forums, workshops, and conferences were categorized into 23 “tracks” that included topics such as clinical operations, public policy, and rare orphan diseases. This organizational scheme helped to guide attendees in scheduling sessions of interest.
On our first night in Boston, our chapter and our student advisor, Michelle Pernice, PhamrD,St. John’s University alumna, gathered for a chapter meeting so that we could discuss how to navigate the structure of the conference. Returning attendees also used this opportunity to pass down their previous experiences from last year’s meeting onto newcomers. Although a significant amount of members from the St. John’s University DIA student chapter attended the meeting, it was unique in that each person’s experience was still able to be highly individualized and tailored to his or her own personal interests. Also, regardless of the amount of knowledge of industry one possessed, there was an appropriate pace for everyone.
DIA is a special organization; Despite its focus on pharmaceuticals, its annual meeting featured specialists in a wide spectrum of disciplines. For example, in a session focusing on FDA collaborations and its effect on the reach of health care communication with the public, the speakers included a pharmacist from the FDA, a chief public health officer from the American Optometric Association, and an executive director from Medscape. The vast diversity of experts, thought leaders, and innovators present at the conference provided students with the chance to practice networking skills and to learn from different types of professionals, mirroring a post-graduate environment, in which interdisciplinary teams are common and beneficial to the advancement of medicine.
Another advantage of attending the meeting was being provided with the opportunity to meet students of other newly formed collegiate chapters. As of the moment, all student chapters of DIA are pioneers because the organization on a national level has just recently started to collaborate with students. By convening in one central location, we were able to meet other students and gain an insight into how other chapters are run. Furthermore, this meeting has fostered a foundation for future collaboration among chapters across the country.
In addition to learning from sessions and other student chapters, students had the unique opportunity to learn directly by participating in student poster presentation sessions. Prior to the meeting, students were given the chance to submit research and abstracts of their studies to share with industry professionals at the DIA Annual Meeting. This excellent experience allowed students to gain exposure within the research realm and to develop professionally. Upon seeing this year’s poster presentations, students who had attended may have been prompted, to initiate research to present at next year’s meeting, or to motivate others from the St John’s University student body.
Speaking as a first time attendee, the initial experience may seem daunting. However, as evident from this past conference, it is extremely helpful to have a support system of fellow St. John’s University students. I noticed that as individuals gained more confidence, their independence from others and the ability to comfortably network became more apparent. These are important qualities that cannot be taught in a classroom, but instead can only be acquired from first-hand experience. The conference also provided a multitude of sessions that supported the professional development of skills such as presenting and interviewing, which are important for success in any field. As for returning attendees, these students and professionals seemed to navigate more easily through different sessions where they honed their knowledge of specific current events including those in regulatory affairs, medical devices, and evolving policies. Because of their past experience at the DIA annual meeting, they were able to fine-tune their interests and attend more advanced sessions this year. Regardless, whether a seasoned conference veteran or rookie, the field of medicine is ever-changing and there will always be new knowledge and advancement within pharmacy to be learned by all each year.