Industry fellowships create pharmacy fast-track

What kind of a person gets to lead a high-profile project at an international corporation just one month out of college?

Answer: A graduate who has landed a Northeastern pharmacy fellowship.

Margaret Chuang, PharmD’19
Photo courtesy of Margaret Chuang

“I was only here for a month when I took the lead on an important international project,” said Margaret Chuang, PharmD’19. is who Medical Affairs Fellow at Sanofi Genzyme, a Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company that develops medications that treat rare diseases.

Chuang works on the team that focuses on rare blood disorders and is leading the global training project about cold agglutinin disease (CAD) for new members of the team. She is also creating a new website to educate healthcare professionals about a variety of rare blood disorders including CAD, sickle cell disease, hemophelia, and more.

Fellowships provide several advantages to graduates, according to Ralph Reyes, PharmD’18, who is in his second year as a fellow at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.

Participants receive personalized mentorship from company experts and perform a level of work they would never get in an entry-level job.

In a regular job, my entire purpose would be to perform that one role,” said Reyes. “Instead, I have an opportunity to build my own path. I’m in the medical affairs team, but I’ve also worked with the market access and commercial teams. I worked with three key opinion leaders to develop a patient video for a neurology conference in Italy. It allows me to test the waters in several types of careers.”

Ralph Reyes, PharmD’18
Photo courtesy of Ralph Reyes

Fellowships also provide a foot-in-the-door at world-class pharmaceutical companies.

Alnylam, for example, appeared on the Forbes Magazinelist of the nation’s “Most Innovative Growth Companies” in 2016. In August, the company launched the first medication approved in the U.S. to treat a potentially fatal hereditary disease (transthyretin amyloidosis) and is considered a pioneer in the creation of RNA Interference drugs that attack diseases at the genetic level.

A growing program

Northeastern’s pharmacy fellowship program has been growing rapidly, thanks to the efforts of department chair Andrew Orr-Skirvin. In July, the program placed 15 new fellows and have 11 more returning to begin their second year. The program draws PharmD graduates from around the country.

Andrew Orr-Skirvin
Photo courtesy of Andrew Orr-Skirvin


“We’re developing career pathways for our students and an alumni network throughout the industry,” said Orr-Skirvin. “At the same time, we’re strategically aligning ourselves by becoming an active partner with the bio-pharm industry in the Boston area.”

Students also gain teaching experience at Northeastern as part of their fellowship requirement, which prepares them for giving high-level presentations to large groups—a skill they will need as future leaders in the pharmaceutical industry.

The growth of Northeastern’s program also stems from the efforts of Pharmacy alumni and past fellows who have risen to influential positions within the pharmaceutical industry.

“We develop quality touch points with smaller companies, and then people move on to larger companies, or the smaller company merges with a larger company,” explained Orr-Skirvin. “When executives move to another company, they know about Northeastern and the quality of our fellowship program.”

Northeastern is currently in negotiations with four more companies that are interested in developing partnerships with the university.

“The pharmaceutical industry in Boston is growing rapidly,” said Orr-Skirvin. “There is a huge need for good people in Boston because of all the startups and small companies.”

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