Dr. Phillip Saccone has recently completed a Medical Affairs internship at Ferring Pharmaceuticals for six months. Please read below for his personal experience regarding this exciting internship opportunity.
Dr. Phillip Saccone’s Experience (Medical Affairs Internship at Ferring Pharmaceuticals)
My experience as an industry intern: mentorship matters
During my time in graduate school, I received two particularly salient pieces of advice that, in retrospect, have made the greatest impact on both my graduate training and professional career: engage multiple mentors, and develop these relationships symbiotically. Such associations empower you to refine your interests, and unlock, or sometimes create, opportunities when the right circumstances are presented. My journey to Ferring Pharmaceuticals, and subsequent transition from intern to full-time employee was precisely the result of this kind of engagement.
At the University of Michigan, I was fortunate to be mentored by Dr. James Woods, who encouraged my independence and autonomy, and whose enthusiasm for science attracted a diverse group of people to the lab. Training in such an environment exposed me to opportunities beyond the traditional academic path, and gave me the confidence to pursue non-conventional prospects.
Three days after defending my thesis, I was in the lobby of Ferring Pharmaceuticals waiting to meet my new boss, Dr. Thomas Beveridge, who founded the nascent internship program. My position was on the Clinical Sciences team, within the Medical Affairs department, which focuses on educating researchers and practitioners about Ferring products. At the time, I had no idea what that entailed or how my research background, which was not in company’s therapeutic space, would enable me to contribute.
However, it was the perspective of Dr. Beveridge, as well as that of the team leader, Dr. Dennis Marshall, that the traits you inherit from earning your PhD (independence, critical thinking, creativity, persistence, meticulousness, perseverance) lend themselves to learning just about anything, and that the “business” of medical affairs could be cultivated on the job. Under their mentorship, I kept that perspective in the forefront of my mind, and got to work.
My first assignment was to coordinate the writing of an expert scientific review with multiple leaders in the field of prostate cancer, including a Nobel Laureate. I approached the project like any other scientific inquiry: I read up on the literature, synthesized information from multiple sources, integrated the work of collaborators, and shepherded through a working draft in relatively short order. Once the manuscript was complete, the team received very positive feedback, and Dr. Beveridge made sure my individual contributions were recognized. This acknowledgment bolstered my credibility within other areas of the company, which in turn created other opportunities.
Next, I assisted Dr. Beveridge in performing due diligence on a new medicine the company was interested in acquiring. After working closely with him to prepare product-specific materials for the company leadership, I was asked to take on similar (albeit smaller) projects independently that were related to business development. After a few months, it was clear that the bandwidth of the team was expanding, which enabled Drs. Beveridge and Marshall to find additional ways for our group to help the company. With the internship coming to a close, they asked if a new position could be created within Medical Affairs so that I could join the team. It was an unexpected, but wonderful conclusion to my first industry experience.
When reflecting back on such an outcome, some people choose to focus on crediting their abilities and/or their good fortune (and it certainly seems like many opportunities depend on both). From my perspective, the relationships that people create, and their ability to culture a healthy mentor-mentee relationship, formally or informally, is the mortar that marries hard work and happenstance. You invest in other people, and they invest right back in you. I am grateful to the people at Ferring for creating an opportunity for a young professional, and I’m happy they found value in my contributions. I look forward to being at a point in my career where I can provide that type of guidance for someone else.