Students Set Sights on Fellowship Futures

While their peers waited for Match Day to bring news of where they would be spending the next year following convocation, Daniel Streng and McKenzie Stratton utilized the past two weeks to begin planning their future as pharmaceutical industry fellows. 

Pharmacy fellowships have only been around since the mid-1980’s but have seen rapid growth during that time with more than 100 programs in place today. Unlike pharmacy residencies which primarily focuses on clinical and patient care experiences, fellowships fall into two main categories. First are academic-based fellowships which focus on research in a specific clinical area such as infectious diseases or cardiology. Second are industry fellowships which allow a fellow to gain experience in various departments within a pharmaceutical company. While an industry fellowship may not be as focused on research, they do incorporate different aspects of clinical research or drug development within the pharmaceutical industry into their work.

For students, these one- or two-year fellowship programs are a doorway to a career in the industry or research fields.

“I decided to pursue a fellowship because I felt like it was a good way to get my foot in the door for an industry career,” explained McKenzie Stratton who was accepted into the two-year MCPHS University Biopharmaceutical Industry Fellowship program where she’ll be working with Biogen. “The fellowship is also designed to help accelerate your career path and I knew it was a unique opportunity to be able to rotate in a variety of core and elective rotations.”

But the road leading to a pharmacy fellowship is not always easy to navigate. Similar to pharmacy residencies, students complete a rigorous application process and attend numerous interviews before being accepted. In 2011, the College of Pharmacy established the Residency-Fellowship Preparation Program in an effort to help students prepare for the complicated fellowship application process. The program is led by AMY KENNEDY, PHARMD, BCACP, and it provides support, guidance and mentorship to fourth-year pharmacy students planning to apply for postgraduate residency or fellowship programs.

“The most stressful part came towards the very end of the process, heading into final-round interviews,” described Daniel Streng who accepted a fellowship in the Rutgers Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship Program where he’ll be working with AstraZeneca for the next two years. “Some of the companies offered ‘happy hours’ where we got to meet the other applicants. Getting that far into the interview process was, in itself, an achievement and I was thankful for the opportunity. Still, it was hard to avoid second-guessing my own abilities when meeting a group of other highly qualified students.”

Because fellowships are offered in very focused areas, students interested in pursuing them have often already identified industry or academia as part of their long-term career goals.

“Ultimately, I would like to utilize my clinical background to support sales and marketing within the pharmaceutical industry. As a particular area of interest, I would like to focus on pediatric oncology.” noted Streng. “I was incredibly fortunate to find a fellowship that would allow me to develop and grow in that capacity.”

“I have always had a goal of working for a biotech company in the rare disease space and this fellowship program seemed like the perfect fit for my career goals,” said Stratton. 

Now that the hard part is over, both Stratton and Streng are eager to share advice with students interested in pursuing a fellowship.

“Narrow down the area of industry you want to pursue and look over the company brochures early to decide what programs you’re interested in,” advised Stratton. “And be sure to get your applications in early! They are reviewed on a rolling basis.”

“My best advice for future students is to take every opportunity to get involved and add to your CV,” explained Streng. “Do everything you can to set yourself apart.