One of the benefits of joining a fellowship program is being able to meet likeminded individuals from across the country. For the MCPHS Fellowship, you also become part of the MCPHS Fellows’ Network, which is comprised of our current fellows and program alumni. Throughout the fellowship duration, fellows have opportunities to network with their peers and alumni.
The MFN receives guidance and assistance from two Alumni Representatives who serve two year terms. Back in February, we introduced Amanda Nguyen, who is serving her second term. For this article, we would like to introduce Melissa Laracy as our newest Alumni Representative. Melissa recently completed a fellowship at Biogen and has accepted a position with them post-Fellowship. In her article this week, Melissa reflects on her involvement as an MFN E-Board member and the value of having a network during her fellowship.
As I reflect on my time in the fellowship, I truly can’t believe how quickly the last two years have gone by. I’m so grateful for all of the experiences and opportunities I’ve been given as an MCPHS University/Biogen fellow in Regulatory Sciences – Global Medical Writing.
One aspect of my fellowship that surprised me was how seamlessly I was integrated into my department at Biogen. Prior to my start date, I had been apprehensive that I would be treated more like a student intern than a postdoctoral fellow. However, it quickly became apparent that the fellowship is a highly valued part of the Biogen culture. After more than 10 years of Biogen fellows completing this program, a strong brand has been established and paved the way for future fellows. I’ve always felt appreciated by my department and treated like any other member of the team. All the projects I completed as a fellow had a business need and an impact on my department or the company as a whole. I’ve worked on cutting-edge and innovative therapies in development and have seen how my contributions mattered and would be part of bringing life-saving medications to the patients who need them.
My experiences as a fellow shaped me as an industry professional and allowed me to exhibit more confidence in myself and my abilities. The mentorship I’ve received from Biogen and the support from MCPHS University fostered an environment that allowed me to take risks, ask for help when needed, and grow both personally and professionally. Working at Biogen, presenting scholarly research with my co-fellows at national conferences, lecturing pharmacy courses, and attending professional development seminars have all contributed to my growth over the past two years. In addition, they have prepared me for my current job at Biogen and laid the foundation for the rest of my career as well. Even as a recent fellowship graduate, I still feel supported by this program because of the network I’ve built along the way and will continue to be a part of.
The best part of my fellowship has been the experiences I’ve shared with my co-fellows and program alumni. Our quarterly Professional Development Days provided a regular forum to catch up with fellows from other companies (some from out-of-state) and attend networking events. I was also fortunate to attend national conferences, such as DIA and RAPS, with my co-fellows. During this time, we were able to learn with and from each other while making some unforgettable memories along the way.
A piece of advice that I would give to all incoming MCPHS fellows is to take advantage of the unique network that the fellowship provides you. The MCPHS Fellows’ Network (MFN) is such a crucial part of the whole fellowship experience. I had the privilege of serving as the External Vice President (now the Relations Officer) of the MFN Executive Board and Co-Chair of the MFN’s Community Relations Committee (CRC) this past year, which allowed me to work closely with brilliant fellows and the MCPHS Leadership Team. The MFN provides fellows with a voice in how the overall fellowship functions, creates a strong collaborative community of current and former fellows, and supports the core pillars of the fellowship program: professional development, networking, community service, fellowship promotion, and academics.
A part of the fellowship that was close to my heart was the CRC. I’ve always been very involved in volunteer work. When I learned about the CRC at fellowship orientation, I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of! During my first year, I served on this committee when it was led by two of my co-fellows at Biogen. When I transitioned to the second year of my fellowship, I was passionate about leading the effort to find worthwhile service events for the MFN to participate in. In my time on the CRC, fellows volunteered with organizations like Cradles to Crayons, The Salvation Army, The Greater Boston Food Bank, and the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge. But a particular memory that stands out in my mind was when we volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable homes in underserved communities in partnership with the families who need them. A group of 11 fellows and alumni volunteered their entire Saturday to hang drywall and prepare for the installation of a basement bulkhead. We worked as a team to accomplish these tasks and there was a true sense of camaraderie as we all came together to help others.
I’m excited to continue being an active member of the MFN—not only as an alumna, but as an Alumni Committee Co-Chair. Serving on the Executive Board for the past year has shown me the importance of including alumni members in the MFN and fellowship discussions. It’s extremely valuable to be able to pull from the experiences of recent graduates from the program. There have been many times in the past year when a simple suggestion from one of the MFN’s two alumni representatives (Nick Heath from Takeda and Amanda Nguyen from Novartis) set us on a new path or helped us consider an alternative we hadn’t thought of. As an alumni representative with Amanda, I’m looking forward to planning networking events with current fellows and program alumni and providing useful contributions to the fellowship’s Professional Development Days. But most of all, I’m looking forward to giving back to a program that has given so much to me.
Melissa Laracy, PharmD, was a Global Medical Writing Post-Doctoral Fellow with MCPHS University and Biogen