What It’s Like to Work in Research & Drug Development at Moderna
There are so many different types of careers within the field of pharmacy—from research and drug development to pharmacy informatics! To highlight some of the more unique career settings in the industry, we’re introducing a new page on our website—Novel Pharmacy Practice Settings—where you can explore these unique career pathways.
In addition to learning more about unique pathways on our new webpage, we’ll also be featuring pharmacists who work in these unique settings on our blog! Today we’re excited to spotlight Kaitlin Bova, PharmD!
Dr. Bova works as the Manager, R&D Quality at Moderna (a company you’ve likely been hearing a lot about since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic). The following is a look into how she got into the field of research and drug development and a little bit more about her role.
Please describe your novel practice setting. What makes your career path unique?
Clinical development is a major field within the pharmaceutical industry, and one that’s particularly applicable for pharmacists who bring clinical knowledge, critical thinking skills, and a patient-centered approach to new therapies.
During the drug development process, a clinical quality team like mine is tasked with the quality oversight of clinical research to ensure data integrity and to protect the rights, privacy, and safety of all participants. We’re responsible for issue management and proactive process improvement for clinical trials, as well as health authority inspection preparation and management. Additionally, the quality team handles vendor and clinical site quality oversight and conducts audits when necessary.
What led you to this career path? What steps did you take?
Having gone to school in the Midwest, industry wasn’t on many people’s minds and it certainly wasn’t on mine. I interned at an independent compounding pharmacy and a hospital pharmacy, and I always planned to become a clinical specialist at a hospital.
After an internship in the Investigational Drug Service (IDS) at Johns Hopkins Hospital, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in clinical research that would enable me to deliver new treatment options to patients who needed them.
I discovered that I could most actively contribute to clinical research in the industry setting, and so I chose a fellowship in quality assurance because of my interest in protecting patient rights and designing safe processes and systems. That led me to my current role.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Like most roles, there’s no typical day at work!
I work in an office setting and most days involve meetings with the clinical trial teams and our quality team, as well as time for project-based work.
I manage my time throughout the week which gives me some control and flexibility over my work hours. However, when an urgent issue arises or a project needs to be completed our team works around the clock to complete it.
Describe the most exciting or rewarding aspect of your novel practice role.
Because my team supports any issues that arise, we challenge ourselves to solve new problems everyday with the clinical development team. It’s rewarding to use my critical thinking and communication skills to improve processes and systems to prevent issues from occurring.
Describe the most challenging aspect of your role.
In my role, I work with complex processes and systems, which can make things challenging. Thankfully, I work with experts in each component of the development process and I’m able to learn from these experts everyday.
How can someone learn more about this unique practice setting and the career opportunities it presents for pharmacists?
The Industry Pharmacists Organization (IPhO) is a great place for students (and pharmacists!) to learn about the different career opportunities in industry, including careers in clinical research.
What advice would you give to a current student pharmacist who is interested in pursuing a similar type of practice role in the future?
Although I didn’t have industry-specific experience when applying for fellowships, I was able to demonstrate the value of the experiences that I did have to obtain my fellowship position. Communication, project management, and teamwork are some of the most important skills in many industry roles. You can use opportunities in any setting to improve these skills even those outside pharmacy specific experience such as athletics or volunteering.
What general advice would you give to a high school or college student who is interested in pursuing a pharmacy career?
There are many different opportunities when pursuing a career in pharmacy. Pharmacists have the flexibility to change their career as their interests change during their training or even once in practice. My advice is to explore these various career opportunities and don’t be afraid to make adjustments!
Share a brief story about a time you had a positive impact on a patient, population, or community in your role as a pharmacist.
Usually in my work in industry, I impact patients at the population level by bringing new therapies to market. But one experience where I was able to impact a specific patient directly has stuck with me from my fellowship.
During my fellowship, I had a teenage patient on one of our phase two clinical trials who—like many teens—wanted to be able to go on his high school class trip. I was able to work with the team to have his medication overnighted to his treatment location so he could make the class trip and also receive his treatment within the treatment window for the clinical trial.
It was a great feeling knowing that I was able to get my job done and the patient was still able to attend his trip!