Friday, February 24, 2012

Midyear & Fellowships

Posted by Eric Zhao at Friday, February 24, 2012

Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowships
Since a majority of Michigan students pursue a post-graduate residency, I’ll post a bit about industry fellowships (there were only 3 of us who applied). Before I begin, please take a look at a previous blog post by Michigan alumnus, Jeffrey Huang, a clinical research fellow at GlaxoSmithKline. His advice and wisdom was instrumental in helping me succeed.

Midyear PPS
Where do I begin? The Rutgers Industry Fellowship program could be one of the most intense interview processes I have ever experienced (14 interviews and 6 receptions over 4 days; see schedule at end). Before you are allowed to sign up for interview slots, you have to watch a 30-minute crash course about the Rutgers program. You can bypass this and sign up for interviews immediately if you attended the Fellowship Information Day at Rutgers in New Jersey about a month before Midyear. I did not attend Fellowship Information Day, so despite being one of the first people in line, I was sent to the middle of the pack after watching the video onsite.

This line is silly

Get there early! I got there about 2 hours before opening and there was already a line forming. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but interview slots are given out on a first come, first serve basis.

Interview Tips
Mock interviews: Do at least one mock interview with another fellowship candidate and ask all the tough questions. You’ll thank yourself later.

Curriculum Vitaes: They say to bring 50 copies, but I only handed out 21. Future candidates can get away with only bringing 30 or so. If you can, print at least 10 (ideally all of them) on resume paper and paper clip them instead of stapling them.

Between interviews: Space your interviews out by 30 minutes, so you can take notes and breathe. Bring some snack foods because sometimes you won’t have time to go eat. There can also be a lot of sitting and waiting if you scheduled your interviews far enough apart.

Presentations: While this isn’t necessary, you can print off any past presentations or materials to show to interviewers if they ask for it. It really drives the point home when you’re talking about your past experience while they are actually viewing it. I brought my PharmD Project, seminar, and pharmaceutical industry presentations.

Research the companies: Be smart.

Interview Process
First round interview: These are with the current fellows and last about 15-30 minutes. They want to see if you have the qualifications and desire to be in the industry. Practice answering “tell me about yourself,” “why a fellowship?” and “why this company?” Sign up and get these out of the way early. If they like you, they’ll set you up for a second round.

Second round interview: These interviews can be either with a fellow or preceptor or both, depending on the company and can last anywhere between 30-60 minutes. The questions are more difficult and typically involve behavioral questions.

Tell me about a time when…

Third round interview: After passing second rounds, the third round is with the preceptors and directors of the departments (one company brought in a vice-president!). Again, the majority of questions are behavioral. If they like you, they will extend an invite to their reception.

Reception: If you want to succeed, you’d best go to these receptions, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Most will have hors d’oeuvres (pronounced HORES DE' VORES*) and an open bar, but it’s not a time to party. Make connections and try to meet everyone at the company, as they may be potential supervisors and mentors. Here is where pharmacy student business cards might come in handy…but they are not necessary.

*not really, but I petition for an alternative pronunciation…Kudos to Bernie Marini, Andrew Wechter, and Brian Dekarske for this wonderful pronunciation.

Thank you cards: Send one to each interviewer. They had a basket at PPS for these, but I ended up mailing all of mine once I came back from New Orleans. I don’t think it matters either way, but if I had to do it again, I’d bring a set of blank cards to Midyear.

Sample Schedule
To give you a taste of what to expect, here was my schedule for PPS:

  • 12:00pm PPS Opens
  • 4:00pm 1st round
  • 8:20am 1st round
  • 9:30am 1st round
  • 10:30am 1st round
  • 11:30am 1st round
  • 12:30pm 2nd round
  • 3:30pm 2nd round
  • 4:30pm 2nd round
  • 10:15am 2nd round
  • 11:30am 3rd round
  • 1:00pm Residency Showcase
  • 3:00pm 3rd round
  • 4:00pm 3rd round
  • 5:30pm Reception
  • 6:00pm Reception
  • 7:00pm Reception
  • 8:30am 1st round (non-Rutgers)
  • 9:00am Residency Showcase
  • 1:00pm Residency Showcase
  • 3:00pm 1st round (non-Rutgers)
  • 6:00pm Reception
  • 7:00pm Reception
  • 8:00pm Reception
  • 8:30am Breakfast Reception
  • 11:00am Sleep until 4:00pm
I had a fantastic time at Midyear and had no regrets going through the process. I liken it to running a triathlon: the training and actual event is very tedious, but once you are finished, you feel a great sense of accomplishment. I will leave you with some words of wisdom for all you future candidates out there.

Clinical Pearls
  • Get to PPS early.
  • Go to Fellowship Information Day to skip the line at PPS to sign up for interviews. Plane tickets can be expensive, so perform a cost-benefit analysis. I didn’t think it was worth the cost and did just fine.
  • Mock interview with a friend.
  • Print CVs on resume paper and bring past presentations.
  • Bring a set of business cards and about 30 blank Thank You cards.
  • Snacks on snacks on snacks.
  • Go to receptions.
  • Get some sleep.
  • Reward yourself and sight-see after it’s all done.
That’s all folks!

Eric Zhao

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February Rotation + Residency Interviews

Posted by Elizabeth Kelly at Thursday, February 16, 2012

Well, I am one of those select few that chose to keep my February rotation in place and go through residency interviews. Do I regret it... kind of but not really. I am going on a cruise to the Bahamas next month with my best friend during her spring break from Western, so I am pretty stoked to have March off.
Anyways... I am on my Quality and Medication Safety rotation with Paru Patel who is the Associate Vice President at Sinai Grace.
What is majorly cool about this rotation... I have my own HUGE office, with a HUGE desk and computer. And a secretary outside the room who is SUPER nice. And 2 doors down from the President's office (they had one of their executives leave for a year to go to Afghanistan so his office is empty).
I do a lot of work as well... right now I am putting together the process for first fill patients through the outpatient pharmacy at Sinai Grace and evaluating the number of patients in the hospital who get first fill and are rehospitalized. Note... rehospitalizations are a HUGE deal in hospitals right now with the new CMS standards that are being implemented starting this fall.
I am also putting together Executive Safety WalkRounds with the executive team here at Sinai Grace in order to cut down on safety issues in the hospital and make it a better more cohesive environment.
Now mixing all this with residency interviews has not been the greatest. I have had to take 5 days off and done a lot of work at home. I am potentially making those days up the first few days of the March rotation block. We will see... hopefully I can get all my work done ahead of time!
I would recommend if you are going to have a rotation and apply for residencies during February then make sure its a low key rotation where you can potentially get a lot of work done at home to make up for missed time.
Recommendation: Sinai Grace is a really fun environment and I highly recommend having a rotation there!! And Dr. Patel is great and really cares about the students she has on rotation and makes sure I have a great all around experience.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

ReSiDeNcY - Follow-up

Posted by Melanie at Thursday, February 09, 2012

Great Advice, Jenna!

I think this brings me to another point - depending on who you ask for advice, you may get varying answers. For example, when you put together your CV, some preceptors will tell you they like you to provide a little blurb about what you did on that rotation, while others will tell you not to put that information on there.

Conflicting advice does not necessarily mean someone is wrong because it may just be preference. If you use your own judgement and common sense, you can usually come up with a solution that best fits your style.

As you can see, Jenna and I already did things a little bit differently but we both received all but one interview from our programs.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Let the Games Begin!!

Posted by Jenna at Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Interview season is in full force and it's going to be a fun-filled but bumpy ride! While some of my classmates have had quite a few interviews already, I'm just preparing for interview #3. It seems that a lot of the in-state, Michigan, programs had early interviews, starting a little over 3 weeks ago now.
I thought that I'd add to Melanie's great advice because you can never have too much advice during this crazy part of your life:

#1. As soon as you know where you're applying, give the people writing your letters of recommendation their materials. I put together a word document that listed each program, in order of due date. I wrote out the addresses on each envelope, stamped them, and included any supplemental papers, if required, in the envelope. While my deadlines ranged from Dec 31-Jan 15, I asked that my letters be mailed by Dec 20th, if possible. My preceptors already had their letters written for the most part (I asked one in August, one in October, and one in early November). Ask your preceptors to let you know when they sent their letters and follow-up with them if it's a day or two before 'your' deadline. Give your preceptors plenty of time. Give them everything they need, in an organized, ready-to-mail fashion. Ask that they let you know when letters have been sent. Don't bug them! Follow up with hand-written thank you notes.

#2. I sent all of my applications via the USPS. I sent them priority mail (~2 day delivery) with delivery confirmation, which cost $6 each. I sent half of them out before Christmas and the other half (which had supplemental parts) out right after Christmas. I sent everything together in one big envelope so I didn't have to keep track of individual pieces of mail getting to the program.

#3. My first interview offer came on 1/6 and my last on 1/26. You may get different advice but I would not recommend emailing RPD's (residency program directors) to ask if they've received your application. 12/13 of the programs I applied to sent me a confirmation email that all of my materials had been received. This is a busy time for RPD's and I think some could find it annoying if you're checking in on them. If you get delivery confirmation when you mail it, you know they have your stuff.

#4. Once you start hearing back from programs, scheduling interviews becomes quite the work of art. Keep your calendar with you at all times because you never know when you might get a phone call or email with the next interview offer! Some programs give you dates based on 1st come, 1st serve. I was lucky in that my January rotation I worked from home, so I was able to respond to emails quickly and answer my phone when calls came through. My biggest word of advice: don't schedule any flights until you've heard from all of your programs!!! I wasted a good chunk of change calling and changing flights so that I could fly from one city to the next, rather than flying back to Detroit in between. That's the only way to fit in as many interviews as you can.

#5. Prepare for interviews but know that you can't prepare for everything. I've actually shocked myself at how 'little' I've prepared for interviews, compared to how 'on top' of things I usually am.  I think part of that has to do with the fact that I want to be myself, so programs get to know me, not someone I'm trying to make myself out to be. I think it's important to have points in mind that you want to cover for some of the 'popular' questions but you don't want to sound like a recorder. Questions you must be ready to answer
-Tell me about yourself (i.e. elevator speech)
-Why do you want to do a residency?
-What are your short/long term goals?
-Tell me about your rotations and what you did on them.
-Why do you want to do a residency here?
-What are your strengths/weaknesses and how will that help/hinder you during residency?
-Tell me about a recommendation that you made that improved a patient's care.
-Tell me about a recommendation that you made that wasn't accepted and how did you handle it?
-What do you like to do in your free time?

#6. Have A LOT of questions ready to ask. You should be interviewing the program as much as they're interviewing you. You need to make sure that it's a good fit for you - a year is a long time to be miserable! The amount of time I've had to ask questions has been quite surprising to me so it's important that you can fill that time with intelligent, thoughtful questions. You will look like a doofus if you don't have questions and will just lead to either an awkward silence or your interviewers trying to come up with more questions to ask you. It's okay to repeat questions when you're with different interviewers, it's good to get multiple opinions.

#7. Write hand-written thank you notes to the RPD and pharmacy director(s) (if you interview with them). I also wrote thank you's to all of the residents but most of my programs only had 1-2 residents. Some people may recommend writing hand-written notes to every person that interviewed you but unless you have an abundant amount of free-time and unlimited stock in stamps, I would say this isn't necessary. If there's someone that went out of their way to make your experience extra pleasant or if you spent an extended amount of time with an interviewer, then by all means, write them a nice hand-written letter!

#8. There are a wide variety of interview formats. Some interviews will pretty much be straight Q & A/drilling all day with an opportunity to eat lunch/talk with the residents. This is probably the typical interview format, which seems 'all about them.' Some interviews will have some 'drilling' and may also include a patient case to work-up & present or a 15-30 minute presentation that you have to give. Other interviews will be much more 'relaxed,' and to me, seem much more about giving you the chance to figure out whether their program/institution is right for you. As an interviewee, I very much appreciate the last scenario. The interviews/places that I loved were the places where I got to attend rounds, tour pretty much the entire hospital, have sufficient time to talk with the current residents, and have had ample amount of time to ask questions of the RPD/preceptors. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

ReSiDeNcY !

Posted by Melanie at Friday, February 03, 2012

This post highlights some of my experiences in the residency process thus far...........

1 -- What month to take OFF -- If you are considering pursuing a residency and plan on applying and interviewing at more than a couple of places, I HIGHLY suggest you take the month of February as your OFF month. Yes, having the month of December off so you can go to Midyear and enjoy the holidays sounds enticing, BUT the month of February is very stressful and you will have enough to worry about rather than trying to balance interviews and the requirements of a rotation and making up time you had to take off for interviews.

Having the month of February off has allowed me to spend time preparing for my interviews. I am able to spend adequate time reviewing programs, practicing interview questions, and preparing questions for the programs. It has also allowed me to have extra travel time -- I am only applying in Michigan but some places are still quite a hike from Ann Arbor, especially if you have to arrive to your interview by 8AM and it is a 2-3 hour trip, you might want to travel the day before and spend the night at a hotel. That being said, if you are applying around the country you need to be able to have time to fly out there and back.

2 -- Midyear -- I did not go to Midyear and I have secured five interviews. Keep in mind -- I am only pursuing residencies in the state of Michigan. I certainly DO NOT discourage anyone from attending Midyear as it is a great opportunity to network with people from other schools and gain experience with talking to people about their programs and what they have to offer -- AND there is the chance to discover a residency that might be perfect for you that you were not even aware of. However, if you feel like you are in the same boat as me and you are debating about whether you should go or not, have peace of mind knowing that you can still get interview offers.

That being said -- Instead of going to Midyear I networked with the institutions I was interested in using other means. 1 -- I went to the SMSHP Residency Showcase; 2-- I attended career gateway; 3 -- I contacted current residents or residency directors with questions that I had; 4 -- I explored websites for programs that had them available.

3-- Narrowing it down -- Because I knew I was not going to Midyear, I was able to take my list of programs that I had explored and narrow it down after Career Gateway. For those of you who go to Midyear, narrow your list down as soon as you get back, keeping in mind the deadline for some programs is the end of December.

I had a list of 13 programs I was interested in and narrowed it down to 6. How did I narrow it down? I had a list of criteria I was looking for - some of mine included a teaching component, a management rotation option, and a positive interaction with a program director or past/current resident. When it came down to it, only 6 of the programs had everything I was looking for in a PGY1 residency program.

4 -- Letters of Support -- Once I had my six programs picked out, I immediately notified my letters of support writers to inform them that I had picked out the institutions I was applying to. I gave them the deadlines for each institution and asked if they would be able to meet these deadlines. I am glad I did this because one of mine was unable to provide the letters in time. After I had received confirmation from the people who agreed to write my letters, I put together pre-addressed envelopes with stamps on them, printed off any forms that needed to be filled out, printed out instructions for how to complete each letter, and printed a copy of my CV. I gave each letter of support writer a packet with their information in person and also provided electronic copies of the forms, instructions, and my CV.

About 2.5 weeks prior to the first deadline, I sent an email out to each writer reminding them of the deadlines for each program.

5 -- TRANSCRIPTS -- For my U of M transcripts I went online and ordered transcripts to be sent right away to all of the programs AND another set of transcripts to be mailed after grades were posted. OF NOTE -- Some programs require undergrad transcripts (INCLUDING if you took a class at a community college or online). Be prepared to email the program director if you are unclear whether they want your undergrad transcripts or not. About half of my programs required undergrad while the others only wanted pharmacy transcripts. ANOTHER NOTE - None of my programs asked for an application "packet" but some of my peers' programs did. In that case you would have to order your transcript for pickup rather than direct mailing (same goes for letter of support).

6 -- APPLYING -- Some programs have application forms, some just require letters of intent and CVs, others require online submission. Make sure you are clear about the application materials. Once I had completed an entire application and sent it out (I sent them out at least 2 weeks prior to the deadline, asked the post office to put confirmation on them and when expected delivery was) I waited until a couple of days after the confirmation delivery date and then sent an email to the program directors informing them that I was applying to their program and all materials had been sent (note - I checked with my letter of support writers to make sure that they had sent their letters out) to them. All of the programs emailed me back saying that they have received my materials, which gave me peace of mind.

7 -- INTERVIEW OFFERS -- Most programs will contact you a couple weeks after the deadline has passed extending you an interview or politely declining. The programs I received interview offers from gave me a list of dates to rank for interviews. NOTE -- Keep track of the dates you are ranking for each place because a lot of the dates will OVERLAP and you need to make sure you don't rank Feb 3 for Program A as your number 1 choice and Feb 3 for Program B as your number 1 choice, as well. ALSO -- I ranked a list of four dates for program X and then program Y offered me an interview on one of those dates, I emailed program X to let them know my availability had changed and I was no longer available on that day. Some programs require a presentation and some programs require a patient case. Be prepared for that.

8 -- INTERVIEW PREP -- To prepare for interviews, I go through a bank of residency interview questions and try to answer that question. Even if the exact same questions aren't asked, similar questions will be and you will be able to pull from your practice sessions. I practiced with a friend (my BPFE - best pharmacy friend ever) who is also interviewing for residencies. It was nice to be able to bounce ideas off of each other. Don't be afraid to practice with a friend and give constructive criticism to each other. For example, if they give an answer that doesn't make them sound or look good, let them know because they are in an environment where they are able to think of another answer. We were bouncing questions off of each other and I gave several first attempts at answers that did not sound great, but after refining it, I felt comfortable giving an answer. I also participated in MOCK INTERVIEWS. If you are able to go to a mock interview through the school, I encourage it; if not, I encourage you to ask one of your past preceptors or employer if they would be willing to mock interview you. When taken seriously, mock interviews can feel like the real thing and even give you a sense of nervousness -- which is good to get out of the way before the real thing.

Before you go to the interview, research the institution, those who will be interviewing you, and the program. Be sure you know why you are applying to that program.

9 -- THE INTERVIEW -- Well I have only had two so far so I will comment on this more later. But I guess the best advice so far is to just relax and be yourself. Keep in mind that you are trying to see if it is a good fit for you as much as vice versa. Make sure you get a good night's sleep and wake up with enough time to get ready and get to where you are going. Unfamiliar cities can be scary and confusing when you are already nervous about an interview. The threat of being late will only enhance these anxieties. It is better to get there early and sit in a parking lot and collect your thoughts than to be frazzled and rushing.

That is all for now. I will let you know how things go....


Posted by Melanie at Friday, February 03, 2012

My January Rotation was Drug Information (DI) at Michigan House. I really had a great time on this rotation and could see it as a potential career in the future.

The team of pharmacists that work at DI are absolutely amazing. Let me tell you a little about what a DI rotation at the Michigan House was like:

1 -- Phone Shift
The pharmacists take shifts working the phone line. Questions on your shift can come via telephone call, voicemail, fax, or email. When you receive a telephone call you want to make sure that you really delve deep into the question to find out all the pertinent information while you have the person on the phone. For example, if someone calls and asks you, "What is the dose of Magonate?" what would be the next step (HINT::: I just said it!) --- delve deeper!!

Who are you trying to treat? What are you treating? Is she on any other medications (including herbals, OTCs)? What is her magnesium level and what is her goal? What dose are you currently giving her?

From this conversation you learn that the patient is a 7 year old girl (DON'T FORGET TO ASK HEIGHT AND WEIGHT SO YOU CAN PROVIDE A DOSE REC!) who is deficient in magnesium with a level of 1.2 and a goal of 2 and she has been getting Magonate at a certain dose but the practioner is afraid she might be giving her too much.

Now you have a much different picture in your mind than if you had been told you have a 35 year old male who is around the lower limit of normal and would like to take a magnesium supplement.

At DI, you find out what the time sensitivity on the question is and get a callback number or email and then go and look up the information and then call the person back with the answer. Then you have to log the question and answer so if anyone else gets a similar question, they can refer to yours and see what you came up with.

2 -- 10:00 AM Meeting
At this meeting, all the pharmacists (and students) meet to discuss the previous day's questions. This helps the pharmacists become aware of the questions that were asked, and it also gives an opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other. Like many other times in pharmacy, there isn't always ONE correct answer but multiple acceptable answers. This meeting allows the pharmacists to share how they might have answered the question differently.... this is especially the case for some ethical questions that arise (IE - A parent calls because he found pills in his 17 year old daughter's room --- do you identify the pills for him?).

During these meetings, the students also learn about different references that are available to find certain types of information. Thing of a short EBM course review.

Students on the DI rotation also complete two MedWatch forms, which is reporting adverse events to the FDA. They also complete a P&T monograph and give a presentation on that to the pharmacists. In addition, students write an article for the UM Newsletter.