Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rotation 5- Keeping it Under Control

Posted by E. Caliman at Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rotation 5 would have to be my favorite rotation so far. I rotated at the FDA with the Controlled Substances Staff, the people who handle concerns with the controlled substances coming through the pipeline as well as the drugs that affect them (ex. naloxone). Every day was something new and I got to do things most pharmacy students would not get to do, such as help my preceptor prepare for the World Health Organization's summit on international drug control and summarize a report requesting Schedule I substances for research. I also helped edit a drug label for a controlled substance that has since been approved and researched a topic of interest to my preceptor and other members of the staff.

One of the great things about the FDA rotation is that you get to go on a lot of field trips. You can go to the Pentagon as well as visit APhA and ASHP headquarters, all of which are in the area. Even though you are assigned to one department, you can attend lectures given by people working in various departments so you learn the broad scope of the FDA. It will force you to manage your time well, as there can be several lectures in a day and you'll have a project or two to work on.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the FDA and genuinely did not want to leave (and it's not just because the high was in the 70-80 range at the beginning of November). The people were great and the projects I worked on were very interesting. If you have any remote interest in regulatory affairs, definitely apply to do a rotation or an internship.

If you are lucky enough to be chosen for a rotation, here are some helpful tips I wish I knew before coming to the FDA.
1. Locate which campus you'll be on. Odds are, you'll be at either White Oak or Hillendale, both of which are on the same stretch of road, New Hampshire Ave.
2. If you're driving down from Michigan, bring about $40 in cash for the toll roads, mainly in small bills.
3. When you get here, you should get a SmarTrip card. It's like a pre-paid debit card that allows you to ride the public transportation in the area, including the Metro Rail, Metro Bus, and Montgomery County Bus. It can also be used to pay at parking meters. It will get you $1 off each Metro Rail ride and will serve as your transfer between the above modes of public transportation. There may be some days where you'll be traveling offsite on different field trips, so driving may not make sense. You can pick them up at any of the Metro Rail stations. Starting in 2016, they'll be the only thing you can use for the Metro Rail. Buses and Metro Extra Buses are $1.75 per ride.
4. When dealing with public transportation, there is no "Ride Guide", like we have in Ann Arbor. Each route is published on a separate pamphlet. You can access the website at You'll also note that the buses do not display the route name and number, followed by the destination (ex. Washtenaw, to Ypsilanti). Instead, they just display the route number and the destination.
5. Parking at the FDA is free, but if you're in one of White Oak's parking decks, it may be difficult to find a parking space where a permit is not required, so you may end up on the roof. If you enter the parking deck late enough, you may notice that the attendants have parallel parked some cars that are blocking a row of cars in.
6. Bring reusable shopping bags. There's a 5 cent charge per plastic bag you use when shopping if you use the store's plastic bags. Also, the sales tax is 6% in Maryland, 5.75% in DC.
7. The FDA is very close to the borders of Washington, DC and Virginia, so don't be too surprised if you hear about people commuting from Virginia.
8. Pack warm clothes if you're going from October to March. The highs may still be in the 60-70 range in early October, but in the mornings, it's in the 40-50 range.
9. This one is crucial: email your preceptor to find out when your badging appointment is. You'll have an appointment to get your ID badge, and they won't do that without all of your paperwork. You may experience some backups with the Badging Office. The sooner you can get your badge, the better. On the first day, you'll sign in at a check-in kiosk and get a sticker name tag. When you have this, you have to be escorted everywhere, but with a badge, you don't need an escort.
10. Some days, your preceptor will work from home. They'll tell you what days those are, but they'll likely be around for the first week, unless they're traveling.

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