The Greater Boston area is a hub for biopharmaceutical companies. Amee Mistry, PharmD, explains how MCPHS is nurturing and connecting motivated, highly-qualified workers with these companies as they pursue groundbreaking therapies.
Welcome to Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Podcast, the Secret to Living to 200. My name is Jennifer Persons and I'm your host. In each episode of this series, we will explore different aspects of health and the factors that allow us to live longer, healthier lives. With the help of a thought leader from the university this year, M C P H S is celebrating its 200th birthday, and what better way to kick off our bicentennial celebrations than with a podcast about longevity? Joining me in the studio today is Dr. Amee Mistry. She is a professor of pharmacy practice and the director of the Biopharmaceutical Industry Fellowship Program. Welcome. Thank you for having me. Before we get started and dive really into our conversation, we're going to start with an icebreaker. So it's just one question. If you had a time machine and could travel 200 years into the future or 200 years into the past, which would you pick and why? I think I would travel 200 years into the past. I like history. I like seeing how things have evolved and changed and how we have adapted. And I, just knowing pharmacy history, would love to see some of that from where it was 200 years ago to where it is now. So yeah, I think that's where I would go. I would go back in time. I love that. So just to start off, I want to talk a little bit about the Biopharmaceutical Industry Fellowship program because it is very unique, it's exclusive, it's competitive, but the idea is that Pharm Ds of any level of experience, age, no matter what university they came from, they're placed at 11 major pharmaceutical companies around the country. Can you talk a little bit about that process and how they can get involved in that? Sure, absolutely. We are partnered with 11 companies. Most of them are in the greater Boston, Cambridge area. We have a company that's down in New Jersey and one out in Connecticut, but these are national, if not international companies. They service patients globally. The fellowship program and going into the industry is just one of many pathways that PharmDs can take, and so it seems to be over the last 10 years or so, gained a lot of attraction and attention from PharmDs because it allows pharmacists to really display their skills on a different level instead of direct patient care with just one patient, you're looking at making impact across the country or across the globe. And so it allows students really at any level to apply to the fellowship program after you have finished your doctorate degree and you get to go through either a year or two years of specialized training, and that really sets you up for wherever your career wants to go within the pharmaceutical industry afterwards. And as you're going through their histories and whatever come from, what are some of these motivating factors? Why Boston? Why MCPHS? So I get the nice part of being able to talk to them at all different levels. So a lot of them will reach out to when they're earlier on in school trying to learn about the program, and then I get to kind of revisit them when they're applicants. And a lot of times, from what I've been told and what I hear is that they love Boston because of the city, obviously. So we have a lot of history, we have a lot of culture, we have a lot of sports teams, all of that wonderful stuff, which comes with a great city, but we also have so many pharma companies that are now in this area. If you go over to Cambridge in particular, Kendall Square, there are tons and tons of pharmaceutical industry companies, so that is a huge attraction for them. So if they come here for training, they get to stay and start their career after they have completed their fellowship training. MCP in particular, from what I have seen and kind of gathered from these candidates is that they really like the culture that we've developed here through the fellowship program. We are, like you said, 11 companies. We have about a hundred fellows any given year, and so a lot of them really appreciate the size that we have, the integration with teaching and scholarship that they get to do here on campus. We have a number of our own alumni that got to go through this program, which has been really wonderful, so they get to give back. But I think for candidates and students that come from any school of pharmacy, they want to be able to give back. And being paired with a school of pharmacy that has been around for as long as we have, I think just really is attractive to them in that respect as well. And then obviously the network that they get to build, so the a hundred fellows that are in their group, but then we have over 200 alumni in and around the area. So it's kind of like a big package deal, I guess you could say, when they do get to come to MCP and the fellowship program. Absolutely. What about personally, what kinds of things make them want to maybe switch from the retailer patient to patient care to working at these companies? A lot of times you hear stories about my aunt had this, or my uncle did, or my mom or my dad. And a lot of these are diseases that maybe we don't have as many therapies available to our patients for. And so a lot of times that's a driving factor to say, I really, I've seen this and I've seen the hardship that my family went through, and I want to be part of that change. That's usually the biggest driving factor for a lot of our candidates and our fellows. When people are switching, they also see that, right? They're like, I get to make an impact day-to-day in a community pharmacy, which they love, but this allows 'em to do it on a bigger scale. Absolutely, and we have so many biopharmaceutical companies, so the opportunities here to be a part of something potentially groundbreaking or innovative. They're kind of everywhere. They're everywhere. So whether it's large pharma, small pharma startup companies, it could be that you're working on a product that is curing cancer and you know, get scooped up by a larger company. They really can make their impact anywhere. And I think that's what makes PharmD so versatile that we really are adaptive, that we have the knowledge and you can teach us whatever disease state it is that you want to go into. So it can really open up so many different avenues that maybe were not there 10, 15 years ago. And those things do take time and you need the people to get involved now and be committed to kind of that cause and that process. Yeah, so I mean, I'm not going to say that Ds are creating the molecules or not the bench scientists, but I think that our ability to adapt the medicine and apply it to so many different areas and for so many different patients and providers and the versatility of what our degree offers really allows us to be in multiple different areas within these pharma companies and to other healthcare providers or other backgrounds don't have. Yes, so they could fill a variety and they do fill a variety of roles in these companies. So a little bit ago you mentioned that in addition to their jobs, the fellows also teach MCPHS students. So what is that relationship like and how do both the fellows and the students benefit from being able to interact with each other like that. Our fellows get to teach on all three campuses, which is kind of nice. So this fellowship program spans all three. We have faculty mentors on the Worcester Manchester campus as well as in Boston. The fellows are paired with a faculty member in the School of Pharmacy. And then what we do is we really help them to get integrated into our classrooms. So it's a really great place for the fellows to meet our P3 students right before they're kind of going out on rotations and talk about what the industry has to offer. And the fellows love it because they're getting to talk about what they do in their day-to-day job, which they are really enjoying for the most part. And then the students love it because they're really learning firsthand. These fellows were in my seat a year ago, or a little over a year ago, so there's this automatic connection. We're also lucky because a lot of our fellows help with our industry pharmacist organization chapter, and they'll come back and they'll talk to our students there or to other professional organizations on campus. It's really easy for us to connect our students to our fellows because they are all local and in the area, and they're really excited to give back. They want to help the next set of students to pave their way into the industry and make sure that they're aware of the options that are available to them so that they can make the right career decision and the right career choice. So it sounds like it's creating a pipeline or flow of people into the industry. Why is it important for biopharmaceutical companies to maintain and nurture this relationship? I think for them, they see that this is a lot of talent, and so wherever you're coming from, whatever school of pharmacy you've graduated from, but they know that these are talented individuals, and so they are really trying to harness that energy and that talent, train them to be managers when you first come out and really get them to be kind of the next wave of leaders. And so if they can invest a year or two years of their time, the industry companies in these fellows, the return on their investment is also huge. So they're able to take on higher-level projects a lot more quickly than maybe an entry-level position could. I'm not saying that fellowship training is the only way to get into the industry. I think that the training and the mentorship and the guidance that you get during that postgraduate training is what's really invaluable in both ways for the industry companies as well as for the fellows. And so I think that's what really allows for these fellowship programs across the country to keep growing. And that excitement just keeps building and building and building. Yeah, that's great. Especially I think when you can get a first or second-year pharm d maybe When you were talking, it made me think about how in general society, when we talk about fellowships, you think that, oh, they're still a student and they are, but their primary focus is the work. They will be dedicated employees to these pharmaceutical companies. Most of the time they are spending at their companies and they're really making impacts or leading projects. They're leading congresses and these big global and international meetings that they're going to. So it's actually really exciting for them to get these opportunities. I think that that's where thinking about, okay, I did six years, at least six years of pharmacy school, and now I'm doing another two years of postgraduate training. It's a lot. It's a lot of time that you're committing, but those two years are really supposed to help you to really launch yourself into your career. Absolutely. So this year marks 20 years of the program. That's really exciting. How do we continue to make sure that it thrives? I think as long as things in the life sciences continue to move the way they are, which I don't anticipate that changing. I feel like it's such a big focus for Boston, Cambridge, but then just in general, pharm Ds are always going to be valued. So I think it's now up to MCP and I guess partially me to make sure that we're making the right choices and the right decisions with companies and partnerships and year after year fellowships are expanding across the country. So it's not just us. So that obviously is a challenge to say, how do I remain competitive over other programs and other schools of pharmacy? But I have a great support system, and honestly, I think just being in this area alone is a huge, huge benefit. So I think pharmacy itself is going to change a lot over the next decade to two and interested to see how fellowship training will continue to adapt and change as well. That's true of any education though. The PharmD program here I'm sure is adapting and changing. We're going through our strategic plan right now, and it's actually one of the biggest things. What is the next 20 years going to look like for our PharmD? And then for post-graduate training also, how does that apply and impact residents, fellows, any of us that are going into post-graduate training? And that just speaks to meeting the industry standard, right? Meeting the needs and making sure that the fellows and the grads, they're ready to walk in the door somewhere and help that company advance. On a more personal level, what are you most excited about for the future of this program? I think for me, I'm excited to celebrate 20 years this year. That's, I guess, our first major milestone. And so I'm looking forward to bringing back alumni and fellows and preceptors and companies and getting everybody together to kind of acknowledge the fact that we've made it 20 years. That's kind of, I guess my first goal right now, looking forward the next five or 10 years, my excitement is just to see how we are going to continue to adapt and change. I know that in the seven years that I've been part of this program, there's been a lot of change and I'm looking forward to kind of seeing that continue. Yeah, I think there's something so exciting too about reconnecting with the people who have been involved. Absolutely. And I mean, even just from hearing their stories to say, I was part of this amazing project and I saw it come to fruition, or I was part of a launch of a new drug, or I was part of the vaccine rollout for our company for COVID, right? There are just so many really exciting stories to hear, and you can see that passion in their eyes and that the fire that's kind of lit inside of them, that they really want to keep pushing the envelope. They want to take this to the next level to make it the next big thing. So I think some of that, their passion, excitement, keeps me really motivated and keeps me excited about what I do and coming to work every day. It's amazing. And as you mentioned, things like that cue in into you that this industry is not slowing down. Exactly right. Because eventually, even if it is going to take time, eventually it's going to impact somebody you may know if it not yourself. And it's kind of cool to see how much therapy has changed over the last even five years or 10 years. Amy, thank you so much for this conversation. It's been great. To learn about the program. Like I said, it just makes me excited for the future and for me too, all these people. So before we say goodbye, we've come to a part of our show called Red's Rapid Fire. So I'm going to ask you a short series of questions. The goal is to just answer them as quickly as possible with whatever comes to mind. Okay. So we'll start off with what is your favorite color? Purple. Mine too. What was your dream job when you were a kid? I don't know. Actually. I wanted to be a pediatric clinical pharmacist from middle of high school, and probably even before that. Definitely didn't go down that route, but that's okay. But I think science was always in my future. What was the name of your first pet? I've never had a pet. Always wanted a dog. Oh my goodness. Yeah. Well, then to be determined. To be determined. My kids might convince me differently this year. Are you an early riser or a night owl? No, I'm an early riser. Would you ever go to space? Yeah. That'd be amazing. If you could have a meal with any famous person, dead or alive, who would it be? Michelle Obama. I kind of love her. A lot of people do. Coffee or tea? Coffee. What is your favorite or most used emoji? The laughing one. Sideways. Laughing with tears coming out of my eyes because I'm usually finding things probably a lot more funny than they need to be. What is the most memorable place that you've ever traveled? I'd say Greece. I went with my husband on our honeymoon 15 years ago, and it was just magical. And last question, what is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self? Don't ever give up. Keep trying to find different ways to get where you want to go, but even if it's off the beaten path, it's okay. You'll eventually get there. Well, thank you again, Amy, for joining us, and thank you for listening to this episode of The Secret to Living to 200. We hope you'll join us next time. And as always, stay curious Cardinals!