Thursday, February 18, 2010

Interviewing for a PGY1 Residency Position

Posted by Shannon Hough at Thursday, February 18, 2010

January and February seem to be the big months for applying and interviewing for further pharmacy training. Jeff’s post really was an eye-opener about the process of applying for a fellowship in the pharmaceutical industry! I just completed my residency interviews (PHEW!), and thought that I’d share about the experiences that I had.

Those of you who have been following the blog, may remember that I am a commuter, and live in the Detroit area. I am looking to stay locally, so my interview experiences may differ than those of my classmates who have been traveling across the country for interviews.

That said, I applied to only four local programs. I received invitations to interview at all of them, and scheduled each of my interviews between January 26 and February 16. I was amazed at the interview process at each of the institutions, for many reasons.

Setting up Interviews:
You should expect to receive contact via e-mail, snail mail or telephone a few weeks after the application deadline, as to the program’s decision to schedule an interview or not. All of the programs that I applied to used e-mail. Most of them gave me 1 or 2 options for the interview date and time.

Preparing for Interviews:
Do your research about the programs. You should have a list of questions prepared that you want to ask each program. And I mean a list. You will be interviewing with a handful of people (think 3-8 separate interviews), and they will all leave time at the end for you to ask questions. You should think of thoughtful questions that will not seem like you are just asking questions because Dr. Kraft told you to in Opportunities in Pharmacy.

You should also be prepared to answer the “standard” interview questions. Give yourself time to reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses, and why you want to do a residency program. (HINT: you should know those 3 things!!) I also did some reading in AJHP about residency interviews. Mancuso and Paloucek do a nice job of summarizing what residency programs want to know about you. (Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 2004; 61:1686-9).

Most programs will send you an itinerary and directions weeks in advance. Be sure know out where you are going, where to park, if you need cash to park, and what the weather will be like in the morning for your drive. You can plan how many copies of your CV to bring with you when you have your itinerary. Most programs have copies for all interviewers, but it is a good idea to bring them along. Especially if you have made any changes since you sent your application materials.

During the Interview:
Relax! Engage yourself in the conversations with interviewers and residents. Don’t spend your interviews staring at the clock, gauging how much time will be left for you to ask questions. Don’t think about your next question while the person is answering your last question. Take advantage of the pharmacy residents you will meet. Ask if they are happy with the residency program, and other questions that are important to you. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you!

Don’t be surprised by requests to test your abilities and knowledge. Be prepared to do small projects, answer clinical questions. Be prepared for situational interview questions. You should prepare a scenario of “when your recommendation wasn’t received well by the team?” and “what you are going to do if you don’t match?”.

After the Interview:
Set aside some time to compare notes from your other interviews. Be sure you take note of what you liked and didn’t like. Write thank you notes. The handwritten old fashioned style still brings a smile to the faces of the people who took time from their day to interview you.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowships: ASHP Midyears and On-site Interviews

Posted by Jeffrey Huang at Friday, February 12, 2010

I would like to dispel some of the mysteries that surround the application process for pharmaceutical industry fellowships and hopefully clarify some of the steps for future students interested in applying. The process is quite a bit different from the format for residencies, which is generally the trend for most of our class seeking post-doc opportunities.
First off, it’s a tough process. No lie. But if you can successfully get through the initial stages, there are definite benefits. Let me explain:
At ASHP Midyears, interested students begin by registering for the Personal Placement Service (PPS). This service is a great way for both students and employers to quickly search through resumes and job descriptions. And through its internal messaging service, many interviews can be set up prior to Midyears. It’s kind of similar to an online dating service – or so I’ve heard.
Now here comes the tough part: interviews. For industry fellowships, candidates will go through the initial formal interviews at Midyears. With the Rutgers Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship Program, there were eight companies potential candidates could interview with, ranging from Marketing, Drug Regulatory Affairs, Health Policy & Strategic Advocacy, and Clinical Development. The Rutgers Fellowship is probably the only opportunity you will ever find in which you will be guaranteed an interview with industry representatives – you just have to sign up!
First-round interviews with Rutgers usually begin with first-year fellows. Immediately following the half-hour interview, you will be told if you are invited for a second-round look, usually with second-year fellows. If you are invited for third-round interviews, they will usually be with industry preceptors or directors. Questions range from specific questions about your CV and projects, to really tough situational questions where the interviewers try to assess how you would behave in the work environment, “tell me about a time when…” or even see if they can get you flustered, “why are you applying for this position, it doesn’t look like you have any past experience” (real question).
As one can apply to several companies, the number of interviews that you can potentially have quickly add up. There are also several receptions or lunches that candidates are invited to as a meet-and-greet opportunity but of course, you are constantly evaluated as a candidate in every situation. I think by the end of the week, I think I had about 18 interviews and receptions, with a total of at least 12 hours of evaluation by the different companies.
The hardest part is done once Midyears is complete. Shortly after, candidates will send in their application materials, which include letters of recommendations, motivation letter, and an updated CV. Sending thank-you letters is also highly recommended to all those who interviewed you, and gives you another opportunity to express your interests and qualifications as a candidate.
After this paper work is complete, it’s basically the waiting game to see if you are invited for an on-site interview. I felt very fortunate to have been invited by one of the industry partners through the Rutgers Fellowship, as well as three companies associated with the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill Clinical Research Fellowship.
On-site Interviews
As I had mentioned earlier, once you get through the initial formal interviews at Midyears and are invited on-site, there are its definite benefits. The interviews are completely organized and funded by the industry partner. Flight, hotel, and transportation are arranged and your itinerary will be sent to you a few days prior to your arrival.
Usually, the current fellows will also meet you for meals and take you out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is a great opportunity to ask them questions in a much more informal atmosphere. As described by one of the fellows, their role was to screen the candidates at Midyears and help determine whether you should be invited on-site. Once on-site, it is out of their hands and they just want to make sure the candidates are comfortable and prepared for the interview day.
And overall, the interviews at the company are much more relaxed and casual. As a candidate, you have already been screened and meet the qualifications to be able to perform the work. The on-site interviews are to determine how well you mesh with potential preceptors and directors and see if they would like working with you.
But keep in mind, it’s also a two-way street. While the directors and department heads are interviewing you, you are also interviewing them as well. The meetings are to determine if you ‘click’ with a certain individual and can see yourself being productive, challenged, and happy while working with them at the company.
And finally…
..the acceptance offer. I feel extremely fortunate to have been accepted by both the Rutgers Fellowship as well as UNC-Chapel Hill – I actually just received the offer from Rutgers earlier this afternoon! J It has been really difficult to decide which offer I would like to accept, as both are very well respected, established, and a great pathway into the pharmaceutical industry. I have spoken to a lot of people – family, friends, preceptors, residents – and as one of my rotation preceptors advised, “go with where you think you’ll be the happiest, not only at work but also with where you will be living”. And I think the determining factor for me will be quality of life and which location fits most into my lifestyle. I love being active and outdoors, near the water and sand, and have definitely missed the warmer weather and sunshine.
I think I will be trading in the Maize and Blue to become a Tar Heel!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Chemo

Posted by Shannon Hough at Tuesday, February 02, 2010

In therapeutics, we learned that we can treat cancers with chemotherapeutic agents. However, they are accompanied by toxic side effects. This month, I had a chance to see first-hand how these drugs affect our patients. This was a lesson in side-effect profiles I will never forget.

Lesson 1: Myelosuppression (decreased blood counts)
Many of the patients that we saw this month were receiving some form of 3+7 (3 days of an anthracycline and 7 days of cytarabine) for a leukemia diagnosis. These patients often became neutropenic (low white blood cells), anemic (low red blood cells), and/or thrombocytopenic (low platelets). Patients who are neutropenic can be at risk for infection, and were monitored very closely for fevers or other symptoms. Patients who have low red blood cells often had very low energy levels that improved when we gave them a blood transfusion. And patients with low platelets often experienced more bruising or bleeding, including nosebleeds. Many times, these effects can be delayed, and the patient can feel great during chemo, and even a few days afterward. It was almost predictive, that when we saw the patient’s blood counts decreasing, their spunk would decline as well. One of my favorite times to see patients was when their counts were recovering and they were excited at the prospect that they had had a successful treatment and would soon be able to go home.

Lesson 2: Cold-Induced Neuropathy
In this case, a patient with colorectal cancer was receiving FOLFOX, a chemotherapy regimen containing oxaliplatin. Certain patients can experience sudden pain when exposed to cold temperatures when receiving oxaliplatin. This can even be triggered by drinking a cold beverage or holding something cold. This is an important side effect to discuss with our patients as this pain can certainly be avoided with adequate education.

Sometimes studying drug side effects can be difficult. There are so many drugs and so many side effects. But as we continue to work as students, we can collect experiences to help our memories along the way.