A day in the LI-fe of Christine the Clinician

Career Profile By Christine W. Li, PharmD

The term clinician to most pharmacy-trained and pharmacy-inclined individuals usually refers to someone who is a health professional that works in a hospital setting to diagnose, treat, and care for their patients in a clinical setting. During pharmacy school, many of you endeavored to become clinical pharmacists: those that optimize medication therapy management, disease prevention, and promote the best health outcomes. I, too, strived to become a clinical pharmacist. And in my current role as a clinician in the pharmaceutical setting, while it may vary in a day-to-day variety versus the clinical pharmacist role in a hospital setting, I’m able to accomplish my early career dreams of having an impact on patient care clinically.

The overarching goal of the clinical research and development scientist in the pharma setting is to provide global care for patients’ disease states. We accomplish this by ensuring that the clinical trials for the future approved medications are robust, safe, and efficacious.  

A day in the life in the clinical research and development department at any pharmaceutical industry company looks similarly to the following roles and responsibilities:

  • Author the clinical trial protocol.
  • Review clinical narratives, including data and reports to identify any specific trends.
  • Work in a cross-functional matrix team environment consisting of operations, medical, regulatory, and commercial teams to translate the scientific information.
  • Train internal and external colleagues on your clinical trial.
  • Coordinate with the team to design, strategize, and incorporate business needs with clinical priorities to ensure success of the program.

Coffee first, then a busy day
Many times, I am faced with the question of, “What is your day-to-day like?” The best part about my role is that not one day looks the same! It is not the answer that most people are hoping for, but to give you a better understanding of what the roles and responsibilities look like, I will give you an example of what my day looked like today (on a particular Tuesday in mid-February 2018).

  • Arrive at the office. First things first: coffee.
  • Second thing immediately following caffeination: check my e-mails from last night (answer any outstanding e-mails), figure out my daily calendar and what meetings I have to attend, update my to-do list, etc.
  • Attended a strategy meeting for a new Rx-to-OTC switch project. Discussed lifecycle management of the product, which involves looking beyond just the immediate switch indication. Competitively examined the therapeutic consumer product landscape.
  • Attended a meeting for a new U.S. launch of a Pfizer product. Contributed clinical deliverables and inquired more about commercial and business needs for the product in order to strategically plan for the launch process.
  • Conducted my weekly one-to-one professional and personal developmental touch base with my clinical research and development supervisor.
  • Attended a meeting regarding company collaboration with an external organization for upcoming clinical trial studies.
  • Surprised a colleague at a baby shower! Cut the cake, drank some sweet tea, and helped take pictures.
  • Provided comments back and contributed clinically to the substance and conclusion portion on the skeleton draft of one of my studies: the preliminary results memo.
  • Rinse out my coffee cup, grab some snacks for the drive home, and say goodbye to those left in the office.

Feel at home
While those descriptions and activities above are mostly applicable to most clinical scientist roles in the pharmaceutical industry, one of the reasons why I love this career so much is the variability and ownership of the clinical science that I am involved in. Not only do I have the ability to lead and own the particular study, and eventually transition into owning a strategy pathway for a drug, I am also afforded the opportunity to interact with and learn from some of industry’s brightest and best leaders, strategists, and colleagues. Everyone makes you feel like you are at home and an integral part of the pharmaceutical family. 

There are multiple ways for a pharmacist to continue to be involved and tap into their clinical side post-graduation. Becoming a clinical scientist in the pharmaceutical industry is one great transitional career path for those that are seeking a more global and unique opportunity to impact patient care!