This week we are continuing with our first year articles—meet Tucker Ward, one of our new Biogen fellows and an MCPHS University alum. For many PharmD’s considering an industry fellowship, selecting which program they want to apply to is one of the most important aspects of the application process. Learn more about what makes Biogen’s programs different from our other fellowship companies and the advice Tucker has for candidates looking to apply to a fellowship.
My name is Tucker Ward, and I am a Worldwide Medical (WM) Fellow at Biogen. Like any Medical Affairs organization, our overall goal is to effectively distribute and communicate scientific information in a fair and balanced manner in order to improve patient care. A previous blog post gave a nice overview of this functional area and its related subgroups, in addition to outlining how the training PharmDs receive can effectively prepare pharmacists to contribute to this team. Furthermore, a recent survey by Industry Pharmacists Organization demonstrated that Medical Affairs fellowships are the most prevalent of any functional area. In this article, I will highlight what makes the WM fellowship program at Biogen unique and what made me want to pursue this fellowship in particular.
Many Medical Affairs fellowship programs provide their fellows with meaningful opportunities to get experience in functional areas, such as medical communications, publications and medical science liaison (MSL), but the WM program takes it one step further. As a 2-year fellowship, this program is tailored to each fellow’s specific interests within Medical. The first year of the program is divided into four 3-month experiences where fellows can join a different functional and/or therapeutic area for each rotation. In the second year, fellows will join one core Medical team of their choosing for the entire year, where they will lead and contribute to impactful projects while developing their skills within the pharmaceutical industry.
The structure of this fellowship program certainly stood out to me, as it would allow me both the flexibility of exploring multiple areas within Medical and the opportunity to gain long-term exposure to a function of my choosing. As the structure and culture tend to vary from team to team, it was important to me to get this diverse range of experiences in this early phase of my career in the pharmaceutical industry. It’s crucial that candidates consider what specific experience they want to gain when comparing different fellowship programs.
Several other aspects of the WM fellowship program were appealing as I considered which program was right for me. The host company, Biogen, currently supports a number of marketed and pipeline products. This presents an amazing opportunity for a fellow to get experience working in different therapeutic areas and to see how similar functions might differ between products. In addition, a robust pipeline presents plenty of opportunities for the company itself to grow as these products progress through their clinical development programs, as well as potential opportunities for fellows to get hired-on full time as they wrap up their programs.
Finally, it was the culture of the WM program itself that sold me. With two second-year fellows and two directors, it was immediately evident that this program had a cohesive group that supported and pushed one another to be successful. It was quickly made clear to me that this program demanded excellence at all times, and as the type of person who sets high expectations for himself, that was exactly the environment I was looking for.
Candidates should think long and hard about their own personal goals in pursuing a fellowship and it is only through this lens that they should consider which program is right for them. Though many fellowships exist within each major functional area, each will differ to some extent. The duration, structure and culture of each program, in addition to the host company’s clinical assets, are just some of the important factors to consider when choosing a fellowship. I am thrilled to be able to share my experiences in the WM fellowship at Biogen and hope they will help you find your ideal program.
Be on the lookout for future articles outlining my experiences throughout each rotation!
Tucker Ward, PharmD, is a Worldwide Medical Post-Doctoral Fellow with MCPHS University and Biogen.