Pharma Lab

A Student’s Journey towards Becoming an Industry Pharmacist

Today we host Viraj Barot, a student at University of North Carolina, Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Viraj writes about how they came to discover their interest in the pharmaceutical industry and what parts a pharmacist might have to play in the pharmaceutical industry. Viraj also discusses how they have worked to target their career trajectory, even as a student.

Thanks for the write up Viraj! Do you have a story you’d like to share or something you’d like to say to pharmacists and or students? If so, shoot an email to PharmsConnect at with your pitch idea. We love to host unique voices and conversation.

Pickup Viraj’s write up below!

The Senator’s Slight

A certain Senator from New York recently drew the ire of pharmacists across the United States. He classified pharmacists as non-medical essential workers in a speech.

His statement justifiably raised the eyebrows of pharmacists. We toil away for 4 years in professional school to receive their Doctor of Pharmacy degree, before any post pharmacy-graduate training they might receive. 

Can we blame him?

However, can we truly blame him for disrespecting our profession? There are millions across the country who would make similar claims.

Many people don’t know what exactly a pharmacist does and has the potential to do. That onus falls upon us, as current and future pharmacy professionals. We must not only advocate for legislation to allow top of the license practice but also to spread awareness amongst the general public about our skills and areas of practice.

How I became informed

I was one of those uninformed millions not too long ago.

My introduction to the profession of pharmacy came through a summer pharmacy institute hosted by the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy. I attended the institute at their Rockford campus during the summer of 2017. I went into the 5 day event with zero knowledge of the profession and came out wanting to be a health system pharmacist. 

Following my goals

Even with no prior experience in the field, I was admitted to the #1 pharmacy program in the country, the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina.

At an industry pharmacy conference I attended during my first year, someone described the program I was in as the Harvard of pharmacy schools. In true millennial fashion, I can confirm that the description was ‘on point.’

Becoming a pharmacist

I started the 4-year pharmacy program in August 2018 with the intention of becoming a clinical pharmacist.

One of the reasons I came to that conclusion was because I was only aware of 2 areas of practice, community and health systems. I naturally gravitated toward in-patient care, hoping to work in a large health system.

By September of my first year, however, I had set aside all those plans because I had fallen in love with “industry pharmacy” and the idea of becoming a pharmaceutical industry pharmacist.

Who would’ve thought that pharmacists could work for a pharmaceutical company?!

A pharmaceutical industry pharmacist sounded like an ideal career for me. I would have the chance to use my clinical skills but also have the opportunity to have a macroscopic impact on patient-care, through drug development. It would also give me the freedom to incorporate entrepreneurial skills I had picked up from my family over the years.

A pharmaceutical industry pharmacist does what?

So what does an industry pharmacist setting do?

Pharmacists can play a variety of roles in the drug development process to ensure that patients across the world can access life-saving medications at the right time.

Some examples of crucial job functions are clinical trials management, preparing regulatory submissions, medical communications and formulary management for large payers. Pharmacists are in a unique position to use our medical skills and to advocate for our patients, and at the same time, ensure that pharmaceutical companies are efficient at drug development. 

Forging my own path

I went on to become the President-Elect for the newly minted Industry Pharmacists Organization (IPhO) chapter on our campus. I immersed myself into learning about the role of pharmacists in pharmaceutical companies and advocated for better representation of the career so that incoming students could make an informed decision regarding their future.

My passion for patient-care driven drug development grew with time. Like most motivated pharmacy students, I started building short term and long term professional goals, in the field I had chosen.

Honing my focus

I soon realized that knowledge of only the clinical aspect of healthcare will not allow me to make the impact I desire.

Being a healthcare professional alone will not be enough to rally large companies behind a culture change. The business of healthcare is much more complicated than that.

We spend more money on health and wellness than any other industry globally. To have a macroscopic impact on both quality and cost of global healthcare, I would require an expanded set of skills. Fortunately for me, I attend a university with a business program that would provide me with those necessary skills. 

Seeking additional education

Kenan Flagler Business School is a globally renowned business program, especially in the field of healthcare. Kenan-Flagler and the Eshelman School of Pharmacy collaborate to provide dual-degree enrollment to interested students so that they can obtain both degrees in 5 years.

Dual-degree students have the opportunity to pursue careers in:

  • management consulting
  • research and development strategy
  • product development
  • marketing
  • healthcare venture capital

I was hesitant about applying to a competitive business program. After all, I had no knowledge of accounting and finance, and no “real life” work experience.

However, I soon found what the is the beauty of an MBA is. Programs don’t expect you to be experts in what they will teach you. They do expect you to have passion, drive and vision. My healthcare background and passion for improving patient care were enough to get me admitted to Kenan-Flagler.

Bringing it altogether

I will begin my MBA journey in Fall 2020 and graduate with my PharmD in 2023 (instead of 2022).

I aspire to work in healthcare marketing or commercial strategy (stay tuned to find which one I pick).

A unique learning experience awaits me. My non-traditional choices will mean that more often than not, I will have to carve my own path. I will have to create goals to realize my vision. I will have to take risks and put myself in uncomfortable situations.

But in the end, I am confident that I will succeed because I have found a purpose that allows me to serve my community, (which I consider to be the entire world) while being true to myself. 

More Resources

If you’re a pharmacy student looking to explore careers in the pharmaceutical industry, check out:

  • Industry Pharmacists Organization (IPhO)
  • Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP)

These organizations are excellent tools for students who need assistance with professional development. They are great places build relationships with like-minded individuals.

As a first year pharmacy student, I also completed some certification courses that solidified my knowledge of the basics. Check them out at:

  • FDA
  • Duke University
  • Eli Lilly Making medicines course (offered through my college of pharmacy) 

If you’d like to learn more about healthcare spending, these are some resources to help you get started:

Viraj Barot

Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read my first ever blog post. It has been an exciting opportunity and I’m immensely grateful to Dr. Moore for trusting me with it. Since you’ve already read about my professional journey, I thought to share a little bit about myself. I was born and raised in India and moved to the US (to the best city in the world aka Chicago) as a teen. I attended the University of Illinois at Chicago to major in Kinesiology. When I am not learning about pharmacy, I enjoy reading (history books are my bread and butter!), cooking and traveling. I’ve traveled to 19 countries so far with a goal of traveling to 50 before I turn 50. Feel free to add me on LinkedIn so we can chat about anything under the sun!

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