HSC College of Pharmacy students land dream fellowships

Friday, April 26, 2024

Rachel Clark, Sulin Kamt, Haley McKeefer and Elise Vo might be nearing the end of their time at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s UNT System College of Pharmacy, but their time learning what the pharmaceutical industry has to offer is far from over. After graduation in May, they are heading to places like New Brunswick, New Jersey and Washington D.C. to begin their fellowships at prestigious academic-affiliated fellowship programs such as Rutgers Institute for Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowships and the Howard University Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship Program. 

Earlier this semester, some of the fourth-year students presented at the Industry Pharmacists Organization student chapter meeting to share their journeys to landing competitive fellowships. Each had a different take on how they tailored their pharmacy school experience to meet their career goals. They encouraged students to reflect on their strengths and personal missions and align them with their career aspirations.  

Getting involved outside the classroom 

HSC's Haley McKeeferMcKeefer knew she wanted a different kind of pharmacy career than the traditional community and hospital role pharmacists typically take.  

“I’ve always admired the non-traditional paths pharmacists take like in administration, regulatory affairs and medical writing,” McKeefer said. “During my P3 year, I realized that I was happiest in classes like pharmacy management or pharmacy law.” 

 With this realization in mind, McKeefer set about determining the skills and experience she’d need to develop for this kind of pursuit. Recognizing that fellowships provided the industry training she desired, McKeefer crafted the rest of her pharmacy school experience to maximize her chances of landing one. 

Her extracurricular activities and publications are what stood out most during the interview process, she explained.  

“The things I did outside the classroom are what really caught the interviewers’ attention,” McKeefer said.  

One of the activities McKeefer highlighted during her interviews was helping organize “Potato Parties.” These mashed potato box donation drives are hosted by the Phi Delta Chi professional fraternity to help fundraise and raise awareness of the food pantry on HSC’s campus. Service activities like these donation drives allowed McKeefer to utilize technical skills like project management and communication — skills that she plans to showcase during her Health Policy & Communications fellowship with Rutgers and the National Pharmaceutical Council.  

With the support of the College of Pharmacy faculty’s mentorship, she has gained experience for a fellowship while developing her skills as a future pharmacist and leader.  

“Being offered my Health Policy and Communications fellowship means the world to me,” McKeefer said. “A fellowship with the Rutgers Industry Fellowship program is a very prestigious honor. I intend to use my next two years to specialize in pharmaceutical policy and executive level communication because I am passionate about the positive role pharmacists play in the American healthcare ecosystem.”   

Forming meaningful connections 

HSC's Elise VoMy pursuit of a pharmacy fellowship was a continual process shaped by various experiences and revelations.” Vo said.  

Her background in biochemistry and biomedical engineering, paired with research experience, naturally led her toward the world of pharmaceuticals, she explained. Throughout her time in pharmacy school, Vo found that drug discovery and development excited her the most. This passion propelled her toward pursuing a fellowship that allowed her to dive deeper into her interests and aspirations.  

Like McKeefer, Vo said participating in student organizations proved to be invaluable. However, it was the connections she formed that made all the difference for Vo as she navigated pharmacy school. 

“Being surrounded by encouraging friends and supportive mentors provided me with personal growth, professional development and confidence in my ability to learn and grow,” Vo said. “Without that support, I wouldn’t have achieved my dream of landing the fellowship at Rutgers.”  

Another extracurricular that helped Vo land her fellowship was the completion of her pharmacometrics certificate program. This certificate allowed her to further enhance her quantitative skills and analytical thinking, giving her a solid foundation to pursue her dream fellowship.  

“Achieving a fellowship like this is a significant milestone in my career,” Vo said. “It presents an incredible opportunity to immerse myself in the pharmaceutical world, build lasting connections and broaden my knowledge base.” 

Developing skills in research 

HSC's Rachel ClarkClark’s skills in outcomes research are what sealed the deal for her fellowship at Rutgers. Clark completed the online certificate in applied health outcomes research while she was a full-time PharmD student, providing a strong foundation in clinical pharmacy and health outcomes research. 

Her interest in understanding how pharmacists assess the safety and effectiveness of medications in real-world settings is what drove her to complete the certificate in applied health outcomes.  

“There are many environmental factors that contribute to the success or failure of medication therapy in addition to the medication itself,” Clark said. “Outcomes research involves many tools that provide evidence about benefits, risks and results of treatments so clinicians and patients can make more informed decisions.” 

The certificate program equipped her to navigate the complexities of health care resource management — empowering her to enter the field and work to make a difference.  

“The final capstone project was very helpful in my fellowship applications,” Clark said. “This experience enhanced my presentation skills and allowed me to demonstrate my learning during the interview process.” 

Through this fellowship, her goal is to enhance the impact pharmacists can have on patients’ well-being, regardless of the practice setting.  

Growing through curiosity and mentorship 

HSC's Sulin KamtFor Sulin Kamt, the desire to pursue a pharmacy fellowship came during her third year of pharmacy school. She was the secretary for the Industry Pharmacists Organization. This position taught Kamt about the diverse options of the pharmaceutical industry and sparked her curiosity to learn more.  

“I connected with current fellows on LinkedIn to learn about their experiences in different functional areas, Kamt said. “This solidified my desire to pursue a fellowship in the pharmaceutical industry.” 

Kant explains that her research she conducted with professors, her applied health outcomes research certification, publication in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and leadership roles in other organizations, are what helped her stand out during the fellowship application process. Like Vo, Kamt’s connections proved to be what really pushed her to pursue the fellowship. 

 “While all of those things helped my resume stand out, the mentorship of my professors and support of my friends are what helped me most during the fellowship application process,” Kamt said.  

This fellowship will provide her with hands-on experience in regulatory affairs and policy to address real-world challenges, she explains. Her goal is to make a meaningful impact in health care and be a part of something bigger than herself. Being part of this fellowship will allow her to do just that.  

“I’m just so excited about everything. The opportunity to work toward my goals, travel to the northeast, exploring the museums in Washington D.C., traveling to California for BioMarin, attending conferences, networking, and gaining invaluable experience in regulatory affairs and policy.” 

From HSC Newsroom - Research by Krista Roberts