Professional Advice / Opinions:

Finding Your Niche in Pharmacy

By: Nandini Puranprashad

As primary advocators of patient care, student pharmacists and pharmacists are well on their way in changing the public’s impression of us staying behind the counter at the corner drugstore doing nothing but “counting, licking, and sticking.” It is time to step out of the classroom and from behind the counters – you must see what the pharmacy world has to offer!

So, what are your choices? Well, the next generation has a plethora of career paths to choose from. You will be surprised with what opportunities exist for PharmD graduates. While community (or “retail”) practice has been the dominating career path, the reality is that pharmacists play critical roles in many other areas related to health care. How about careers in information technology companies, government and regulatory bodies, ambulatory clinics, the pharmaceutical industry, public heath, managed care, law, and inpatient institutions (hospitals)? The list goes on.

An exciting new field that has seen recent growth (and is a great way to practice clinical pharmacy) is specialty pharmacy practice. This field will continue to develop as new products such as biotechnology/biotech medications (e.g. monoclonal antibodies) arrive into the market. Biotech products typically require clinical management due to more rigorous FDA regulations. The FDA and biotech pharmaceutical manufacturers mandate clinical programs such as Medication Therapy Management (MTM) and Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS). Therefore, pharmacists who practice in this area essentially become specialists in disease state management and cutting-edge biotech products.

A career path in managed care allows a pharmacist to work in mail order pharmacies, where he or she reviews drug utilization, counsels physicians on appropriate use of medications, or negotiates formularies. Pharmacists are also employed by health maintenance organizations (HMOs), pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), and insurance companies.

The pharmaceutical industry is another option. Manufacturers employ many pharmacists to conduct research and develop new compounds. Pharmacists also act as medical science liaisons by communicating specific drug information to a variety of health care providers.

If you thirst for a broader role, consider a career in public health by joining the US Public Health Service (USPHS). This offers jobs in advanced pharmacy practice, health policy development, emergency and humanitarian responses, public health leadership, global health, and much more. As part of the USPHS, you will be able to work for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and a variety of other organizations.

Community pharmacy is also exciting because of increased patient care initiatives and pharmacists’ involvement in patients’ health. National giants (Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid) have increased their priorities in delivering services through individualized patient care programs. These programs primarily involve MTM, which increases patients’ disease state awareness and medication adherence, as well as promotes cost-effective generic medications.

To conclude, one of my professors asked me to imagine a pharmacy environment in which everything is perfect. I am sure we have passionate thoughts on what changes we would like to see in pharmacy. My advice to you is to let those thought-provoking ideas guide and shape your career paths and drive you to create this utopian dream. Whatever career path you choose, I hope it is fulfilling and rewarding.

Published by Rho Chi Post
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