Job title: Senior specialist, drug safety at Merck Animal Health
Describe your current position and what led to your job.
I am a pharmacovigilance veterinarian, the person on the phone when things don’t go as expected. I use my training, communication and people skills as I uncover what occurred, offer solutions and education to my caller, and submit reports to the FDA, USDA and EPA.
I’ve been an industry vet since 2004, after selling my second practice in 2003. I was approached by a Novartis manager in January 2004 who told me he liked the way I interacted with folks in his booth and gave me his card. I’d sold my practice the year before and had no intention of going into industry at that point in my life. In November 2004 I ran across his card in my wallet and gave him a call. The rest is history.
Describe job opportunity trends in your industry. What does the future look like for your industry?
I love pharmacovigilance (PV) for the reasons stated above. I get to educate, assist and fully utilize my degree daily. I think my practice ownership opened doors into industry for me, but I see others come in with special skills different from mine — board certification, decades of practice, from other places in industry.
Most PV departments are growing in our industry and it seems the future is bright. To me, this seems a stable branch of pharma.
What advice would you offer alumni/students looking for a job in your field?
Pharmacovigilance in particular requires an ability to pay attention to detail, so if you enjoy that aspect of yourself you might be a good candidate. When applying be clear about what sets you apart — practice experience, training or certification, ability to communicate well via phone, integrity.
Talk at length to others in industry about what they love about it and also what they’ve given up. Know that the wheels of pharma turn slowly and a resume or CV you hand to someone in January might bring about a phone call in July and a job in October.
I’ve had three pharma jobs and applied for four. It took me one month to onboard for the first one, five months to get a “no” for the one I didn’t get, 10 months to onboard for my second position and four months for my current spot. Don’t be afraid to enter as a contractor — two of my three positions took that path and all ended in headcount positions.
What is the best career advice you have received?
Be open to the curves in the road and the plot twists that might come your way.
Share one “do” or “don’t” that you have learned regarding resumes, interviewing, networking or job searching tactics.
Make good eye contact, smile at them with your whole self, follow up with an email or note and let them know that you really want the position.
Anything else you would like to add?
Enjoy the ride! Veterinary medicine has been very, very good to me and has opened up doors I never imagined existed: veterinary consultant on a CBS TV show, animal wrangler for commercials and film, work-from-home PV job for past five years, teaching highly motivated
kids at UNC-Asheville, owning two wonderful practices (house call in New Jersey and full service in North Carolina), multiple newspaper interviews, a few journal articles, a book in process and this PV gig for about nine years of my 29 years as a vet.
Be open to it all, and enjoy the ride.