Novartis is one of our smaller fellowship companies, but one of our most unique—their 5 programs all focus on early phase clinical trials. Accordingly, the program focuses on exposing fellows to a dynamic drug development environment and developing strong clinical research skills.
In this week’s article, we would like to introduce our first (current) Novartis fellow: Mary Bylo! Mary is about to start her second year as a Clinical Sciences & Innovation (CS&I) fellow. Continue reading to learn more about how Mary decided to pursue a fellowship and about the CS&I program at Novartis. For additional information check out the Novartis brochure on our Company Brochures page!
About a year into my PharmD curriculum, I decided that my ultimate goal after pharmacy school was to pursue a career in industry. This was sparked by my love for science and my dislike of spending time in retail and hospital pharmacies. I began to look into fellowship programs and took a backwards approach; I first thought about the role I wanted and matched programs against the arbitrary criteria I drafted in my mind. The two words that were front and center: clinical trials. More than anything else, I wanted to be part of the drug development process and learn about the process behind getting a drug to patients. In this way, I felt I could contribute the most impact on a large scale. This ultimately led to pursuing a Clinical Scientist fellowship, as clinical scientists are highly involved in the oversight of all stages of a clinical trial. Luckily, I was able to join the two-year Clinical Sciences & Innovation (CS&I) fellowship at Novartis, which has already given me a breadth of unique and valuable learning experiences.
One of the best things about working in CS&I at Novartis is how quickly I was welcomed and accepted into the group. There is a lot of support given to fellows through our “buddies,” preceptors, directors, and study team members. The buddy program is unique to Novartis. Upon starting, fellows are matched to a former fellow to offer guidance on how to navigate the fellowship program, onboard us to new systems, and help us assimilate into the company and our study teams. Since this fellowship program has been in place for several years, most people and departments are aware of the program and value our input and contributions. This fellowship also appealed to me because it is in early development (Phase I and Phase IIa clinical trials). We get to see a lot of the science early, and are one of the first to know if a compound works in patients the way it was hypothesized. This ultimately creates a very curious and dynamic work environment—I have already learned much more than I expected in my first year, and each project that I work on offers a unique set of challenges and successes.
In addition to fostering a supportive learning environment, the overall culture at Novartis sets it apart from other fellowship programs for me. I have the pleasure of working with a great people and have many invaluable resources available to me. I have been able to take several in-house personal development courses and have taken advantage of some fun company activities, such as lunchtime yoga and Ice Cream Tuesdays during the summer.
As I reflect on my first year, I am proud of how I started to step out of my comfort zone to lead meetings, ask difficult questions, and find my voice as a budding clinical scientist. It is really rewarding to see how the tasks and ideas that I contribute influence my projects. As I move into year two, I am looking forward to assuming more accountability and responsibility for the clinical studies that I am on and being able to provide a bit of mentorship to our incoming fellows. I am sure this second year will be just as exciting and rewarding as year one!
Mary Bylo, PharmD, is a Clinical Sciences & Innovation Post-Doctoral Fellow with MCPHS University and Novartis