S2BN Waterloo: Breaking into Industry: Insights from Sanofi, Roche, and Eli Lilly Residents

On February 27th, 2020, S2BN Waterloo held an event with a dynamic group of Pharm.D. graduates in an industry-focused panel at the School of Pharmacy. This was met with the warm welcoming of two S2BN co-founders, Dr. Pari Shahrezaei and Dr. Naushin Hooda, as well Dr. Arash Rezaeian. These newly minted pharmacists took an unconventional path post-graduation, with the acceptance into prestigious 1-year industrial residency positions. Now half-way through their residency positions, the panel shared key insights into the application process, their current experiences, and their viewpoints on professional development as drug experts, as it relates to the future of the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr. Pari Shahrezaei is S2BN-Waterloo Chapter’s co-founder and is currently the Medical Information Resident at Eli Lilly. A Montreal native, she has extensive background in front-line pharmacy care. She used these key experiences when completing pharmacy school internships at Costco Head Office (Ottawa) in Pharmacy Operations and Professional services, as well as St. Joseph’s Hospital (London) in the stroke rehabilitation program.

At Eli Lilly, her core role is to address complex medical questions from healthcare providers about the company’s diabetic and autoimmune products. In the current boom of biologics, many of these questions require her critical eye in the assessment of medical literature. This data-driven, dynamic venture perfectly suits her – she is a life-long learner with a drive for growth, innovation and continued personal development. By interacting with Key Opinion Leaders and improved medical care, she also appreciates that her role directly makes a difference to the health of patients on a broader scale.

Pari addressed the path to industry without residency.

“If you have the skills, are driven, willing to learn, it is possible”.

She comments that opportunities outside of Ontario may also be a good option, as the biggest hub for pharmaceutical companies outside of Ontario, is in Montreal. She also urged the audience to access and use the UW career center resources. The free facility helped her leverage her resume and showcase specific experiences for her residency position during the interview process.

Dr. Naushin Hooda, another S2BN co-founder, is undertaking the role of Medical Affairs Resident at Sanofi Pasteur. A seeker-and-achiever, she self-arranged many of her pharmacy school co-op experiences throughout her time at Waterloo – which included Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Center, an Alberta Pharmacist-led Travel Clinic, and the corporate head office of Shoppers Drug Mart. During her 4th year rotations, she opted for a life-changing experience working at a hospital and Family Health Team on Manitoulin Island. Along with her physician preceptors, she rose to the occasion as the only pharmacy expert on the team to serve this Northern Ontario community.

As the Medical Affairs resident at Sanofi, she works in a cross-functional and global team involved in evidence generation within the field of vaccine epidemiology and modelling. She also contributes to medical strategy by informing the team on competitive intelligence around new studies and competitor pipeline products. She provides clinical insights into real world evidence data, corroborates with colleagues, and translates insights of Key Opinions Leaders and field-based medical personnel into internal informational tools and resources.

What draws Naushin to industry, and specifically Sanofi?

“Innovation is encouraged and there is always movement”. Every day, she sees first-hand how ideas translate into actions that better serve Canadians.

Our third panel member was Dr. Arash Rezaeian. A UofT Pharmacy graduate, he was introduced to industry during two APPE blocks at Sanofi Genzyme and is currently working as the Regulatory Strategy resident at Hoffmann-La Roche. Arash loves the patient-interaction aspect of community pharmacy, and he still maintains his Part A license as a registered Ontario pharmacist in Toronto. But what draws him to industry is the ability to use both his clinical and non-clinical knowledge in a field that promotes continued intra and inter-professional growth.

In Regulatory Strategy, Arash is a problem-solver. He identifies and addresses regulatory inefficiencies in the drug approval process. At Roche, he values the work culture - where managers become coaches, and he is empowered to make faster decisions and eliminate inefficiencies. The regulatory team at Roche includes more than 900 people globally, and he regularly meets with diverse team members to assess efficiency loopholes at any stage of the regulatory drug approval pathway.

One major piece of advice Arash had for students was to be your own advocate.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get”.

Being a self-starter and remaining curious has served him well, especially at Roche. When he first started at the company, he made the effort to reach out to his preceptors, ask them to chat over a coffee, and glean new insights into their personal stories. Roche’s work environment fosters collaboration, and Arash mentions that it is easy to meet with whoever you want, at any point in time. Both himself and his colleagues are always promoting further career development within the team.

The University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy wants to give a big thank you to Drs. Shahrezaei, Hooda and Rezaeian for venturing out to KW during the snowy weather, and providing key insights into the industry residency application process and their personal career trajectories. For more information about industry residencies, please visit https://www.pharmacy.utoronto.ca/programs/residency-programs

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