As a prospective fellowship candidate, there are a number of things to consider when choosing your program: location, company, therapeutic area. As the number of fellowships continue to grow, another consideration might be program length. Many company and university sponsored fellowships offer both one and two year fellowships to PharmDs. Here at the MCPHS Biopharmaceutical Fellowship Program, we offer two one year programs at Takeda Oncology.

Is a one year program right for you? Learn more about the benefits of a one year program from one of our Takeda Oncology fellows, Ronak Patel. Find out how his program is structured to provide essential training for an MSL career and what type of student would benefit from a shorter program.

My name is Ronak Patel, and I am the U.S. Medical Affairs/Medical Science Liaison (MSL) Fellow at Takeda Oncology. Unlike the other fellowships offered by MCPHS University, my position is one of two fellowships that are only a one-year commitment (the other fellowship is also with Takeda Oncology in Global Medical Information and Review). As you can imagine, a one-year fellowship will be focused on a certain role within a functional area with the primary goal of maximizing the skillset of that position. Keeping this in mind, I will share a little on my background, why this fellowship appealed to me, and my key takeaways for anyone interested in pursuing a one-year fellowship.

First and foremost, my background is not one of a typical fellow. For starters, if anyone has indulged in the TV-series “Friday Night Lights,” you may have a sense of what a small-town atmosphere feels like in Texas. For myself, I knew this firsthand being born and raised in Hamilton, TX with a population of 3,004. Leaving Hamilton after high school (graduating class of 72) to attend the University of Texas at Austin where I received my PharmD truly exemplifies the thought of going from “farm to pharm.” Jokes aside, by attending a pharmacy school in the south with limited exposure to industry, I was tasked with pursuing a fellowship to obtain my footing in pharmaceutical industry. I gained exposure to the MSL role through first-hand experience of shadowing an MSL, which helped me develop a foundational knowledge of what the role entails and further solidified my interest in pursuing this career path.

During my fellowship, I realized the importance of understanding and becoming fluent in the Takeda Oncology molecules and pipeline products. Being a recent pharmacy graduate with minimal clinical experience, I found it beneficial to be able able to collaborate with two of my preceptors who both completed a PGY1 and oncology PGY2 residency along with a decade of clinical experience. The importance of developing strong clinical knowledge ties in with the responsibilities of an MSL role, where MSLs interact with key opinion leaders and share clinical updates. Seeing as how the MSL role is primarily territory-bound, traveling was a major component to the experience as I was scheduled with weeks of travel across the U.S., where I visited different MSL colleagues and attended conferences. Through this experience, I was able to adopt the key responsibilities of an MSL, have scientific exchanges with key thought leaders within oncology, and gain invaluable mentoring from the MSLs.

It is understandable to not know which career path to choose within industry. My advice to any pharmacy student wanting to pursue a fellowship is to research the variety of careers a pharmacist can have in industry and try to narrow down which functional area is of interest to you, whether that be Medical Affairs, Commercial, or Research and Development. A one-year program is beneficial for those who know which segment they want to work in industry. It allows you to be completely immersed in the role to be able to gain necessary exposure required for receiving an expedited fellowship graduate certification.

In terms of the opportunities outside of the MSL role, I am given complete flexibility on what other functional area I would like to explore. I have had the opportunity to support various subgroups throughout Medical Affairs whether that is working closely with the Medical Information team to help develop responses to medical inquires or with the Medical Research team by supporting Scientific Directors and Medical Leads on a Phase IV study.

Takeda Oncology is a company dedicated to their mission statement: aspiring to cure cancer. By being able to deliver novel medicines to patients with cancer worldwide through the commitment to science, breakthrough innovation and passion for improving the lives of patients, the work being done at Takeda Oncology is achieving the aspiration component in the mission statement. The opportunity to be part of a company who values patient-centricity in their everyday work is truly a rewarding experience and one that provides deep satisfaction for my personal and professional interest.

ronak patel headshotRonak Patel, PharmD, RPh, is a US Medical Affairs/Medical Science Liaison Post-Doctoral Fellow with MCPHS University and Takeda Oncology

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