A Winning Formula: Trust + Helping Others = Pharmacist

Christina Jiabao Yuan, Market Access Post-Doctoral Fellow, Women’s Healthcare and Dermatology
 Kizito Kyeremateng, Medical Affairs and Clinical Development Post-Doctoral Fellow, Consumer Health Division

If you ever tried reading a prescription drug label or over the counter medicine box, you know how complicated the world of medication can be.

October is American Pharmacists Month. Kizito and I thought it would be a great time to share with you why we became pharmacists, the importance of knowing your pharmacists and your medicine, and how we got involved in the pharmaceuticals industry.

Why did I become a pharmacist?

Kizito: One word, “trust.” I grew up in Ghana, a country faced with serious challenges to provide health care to its people. As a child, I often wondered about what would be the best way for me to positively impact my community. I didn’t have to wonder for too long because where I would be needed the most became very clear to me.

The healthcare field was where I wanted to be so that I could touch the lives of many people.

With this dream in mind, I decided to pursue my education in the United States. Choosing to become a pharmacist was easy because pharmacists have consistently been regarded as one of the most trusted professionals in the U.S.

Trust is something that pharmacists take a lot of pride in. In the hospital setting, pharmacists are trusted by patients, nurses and physicians, to give the most correct and up-to-date information about the proper use of medications.

We go through an extensive graduate level education where we become experts in drug therapy and we are required to have a doctorate degree to practice medicine in the U.S.

Some of us make the choice to follow a career in retail pharmacy stores, others in hospitals, and for some like me, I chose to work in the pharmaceutical industry to make available lifesaving medications to the people who need it most.

No matter where you find us, you can trust that pharmacists work tirelessly to uphold our reputation of being a trusted professional.

Why did I become a pharmacist?

Christina: It’s simple, I wanted to help people. I know it sounds like a cheesy reason, but it is sincerely why I chose this path.

Many in the general public tend to view pharmacists as “pill pushers” who only know how to count by five. Often restless patients do not understand why it takes so long to get a prescription filled. “Can’t you just get a bottle, fill it up, and hand it to me? I’m in a big rush,” is something I’ve heard many times. Of course, pharmacists are not simply slapping a label on pills and handing them out.

We are part of a healthcare team that is responsible for patients’ lives, and we take every prescription we verify seriously.

What patients don’t see are the evaluations we make and the factors we have to consider. Birth control pills can increase the risk of blood clots, antibiotics and anti-seizure medications can decrease the effectiveness of birth control which means a secondary method for a prescription should be used. These are just examples of countless things to consider before handing a person a prescription.

Even though I enjoyed the direct patient contact I received in the retail setting, it was not enough for me. I craved more unique opportunities to use my business and clinical mind, while being able to reach a larger patient population.

After much research into careers outside the traditional clinical path, I discovered the pharmaceutical industry and I knew instantly that I had found my niche as a fellow at Bayer.

I was the only student from the University of Kansas to apply for an industry post-doctoral fellowship, and I am so glad I did because industry interest has now rippled across my university.

How to get involved in the pharmaceutical industry?

A post-doctoral fellowship is one pathway for pharmacists seeking to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Fellowship programs are offered by almost every major company, usually partnering with an academic institution, and offering the opportunity to get 1–2 years of hands-on experience and training in various functional areas.

The programs are highly competitive with hundreds of graduating pharmacists applying every year and most, including myself, had to go through a grueling interview process that lasted almost a full week.

Bayer has taken an active role in recruiting pharmacists for many years and in fact, the Bayer-Rutgers fellowship program is now one of the largest programs in the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharmacists in the industry

The value that pharmacists bring to the pharmaceutical industry stems from the unique skills that we have acquired through the course of our training.

Pharmacists are detail-oriented people who truly understand the clinical landscape of medications after years of education in pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacotherapy. We understand the therapy not only from a patient’s perspective but also from a clinician’s perspective, which is beneficial in any function.

The aim of the pharmaceutical industry in general is to bring safe and effective medications and products to the market. What better way to achieve this aim by including pharmacists.

In addition to using our clinical knowledge to help business needs, we can also use it to help colleagues and even the local community.

Pharmacists at work, not the pharmacy

Pharmacists at Bayer (PhAB) is an important employee resource group at our company. PhAB is leading the way with informing and educating communities where we live and work about the importance of Drug Safety through lunch and learns and other health-related events.

It’s important for others to understand the way we work, why helping others matters so much to us and how pharmacists are well equipped to help Bayer succeed in and out of the marketplace.

One of our favorite programs is when we present to our employees’ children during our annual Take Your Kids to Work Day. With children ages 8–11 participating, it’s really important to be clear and use “every day words” to help them understand how to read drug labels…and how to help their parents and caregivers do that too. We also secretly — well, maybe not so secretly — hope to inspire some of those children to consider a career as a pharmacist. That would be a real win!