To mark the one year anniversary of the MFN blog, this week we have a special article from our outgoing MFN President, Abimbola Cole. Abimbola is a 2nd Year Fellow in Takeda’s Global Pharmacovigilance program. During her time with the program, she has been an active member of the MFN and also co-chaired the MFN’s Community Relations Committee.
Joining any kind of post-graduate training program comes with many benefits. With the culmination of her fellowship in June, Abimbola asked to write about her experiences from her two year program. Continue reading to learn about her activities as a fellow and member of the MFN community.
As I near the end of my fellowship, the number of opportunities I have had truly amazes me. Like many other pharmacy students, I chose the path of a fellowship, particularly in pharmacovigilance, due to my interest in the pharmaceutical industry and my desire to impact patient safety. By attending various networking events as a student, I learned that fellowships offer a variety of benefits such as direct mentorship, academic engagement and scholarly activity. However, as I look back at the last 21 months of my fellowship, I realize that this program offered me so much more.
Throughout my fellowship, I have had the opportunity to lecture at MCPHS University, Northeastern University and Harvard University’s School of Public Health. Being on the other side of the classroom gave me insight and perspective on the thrills and challenges of teaching. Preparing a lecture and trying to convey a complex message is quite difficult; however, being able to communicate a topic successfully to a group of students is one of the most rewarding experiences. I have had students come up to me and express how much they enjoyed the lecture or that my lecture changed the way they look at the impact of drug safety.
One of the major highlights of my fellowship has been attending conferences. I attended an FDA public meeting, two Drug Information Association (DIA) meetings and the Columbia University Brands Innovation Technology (BRITE) conference. I also had the opportunity to help coordinate and moderate the North American chapter of the International Society of Pharmacovigilance’s (NASoP) annual meeting. Additionally, I presented a poster at the International Society of Pharmacovigilance’s (ISOP) annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland and at the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting. Learning to collate, interpret and express data both quantitatively and qualitatively is an invaluable skill that I will need throughout my career. Ultimately, the best part about attending conferences and participating in research is the engagement with various stakeholders: industry professionals, fellows and students, as well as faculty.
Unbelievably though, all the aforementioned activities only represent about 10-15% of my time. Fellows spend most of their time with their partner company, in my case the Global Patient Safety Evaluation department at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. During my fellowship, I was involved in countless activities and projects both within and outside of my respective department. The open and engaging culture at Takeda allowed me to meet and talk with various people within the company, including senior and executive leadership. My daily functions in drug safety tested and refined my pharmacy drug knowledge and attention to detail where I learned to review challenging data and assess the level of risk based on several factors. I also practiced how to communicate and defend my decision in a meeting with colleagues from other functions such as clinical sciences, regulatory and statistics.
Lastly, but surely not least, I became the President of the MCPHS University Fellowship Network (MFN) during the second year of my fellowship. This role taught me ways to effectively lead and collaborate among my peers. As MFN President, I was often the liaison between the fellowship program directors, MCPHS leadership and the fellows. The fellowship is comprised of over 70 fellows, each bringing their own uniqueness and strengths that create such a dynamic community. With this position, I had to learn to balance conflicting opinions and discern what issues were a priority and to whom. The role required commitment and could be challenging at times, but it also taught me to rely on and leverage the strengths of my E-board and other fellows. I often believe it is hard for us to admit weaknesses, especially in the scope of our profession, but being MFN President made me confront my own weaknesses. I found that I could learn to leverage the talents of the fellows who excelled in the areas where I lacked.
If I had to sum up my biggest achievement of this fellowship, it would be growth. The activities of the program gave me exposure that some professionals who have been in the industry for over 10 years have never experienced. In a span of just under two years, my accomplishments, skills, network, communication, professionalism and confidence has significantly flourished. My progress also taught me to trust the process and doubt myself less. Over the past month, I think back to the things that used to seem daunting or challenging when I started the fellowship, and I find myself laughing at how far I have come.
Abimbola Cole, PharmD, is a Global Pharmacovigilance Post-Doctoral Fellow with MCPHS University and Takeda Pharmaceuticals