By Jessica Morris
COPHS P4, Class of 2013

Contrary to the common view of government agencies, which depicts government officials operating without much public input, when someone calls the U.S. Food and  Drug Administration’s (FDA) Division of Drug Information, a live pharmacist answers the call. During the month of June 2013, one of those pharmacists was me.

As part of my Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences, I was selected to complete a very competitive four-week rotation at the FDA in the Division of Drug Information’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Office of Communications.

One of my main responsibilities was to respond to drug information requests received through the MedWatch phone number, 1-800-FDA-1088. The MedWatch phone number is available to the public as a voluntary means of reporting adverse drug events. DDI’s pharmacists are also able to provide general drug information and answer drug-related questions. Using my pharmacy knowledge as well as the FDA’s resources, I spoke to consumers, other healthcare providers, and pharmaceutical industry consultants. I had to be familiar with the scope of the FDA’s regulatory jurisdiction, current drug issues in the news, and FDA guidance.

In addition to my specific assignment in the Division of Drug Information, the FDA rotation program included an extensive pharmacy student lecture program. These lectures were given by pharmacists in various divisions, offices, and centers within the FDA. Through these presentations, I had the opportunity to meet pharmacists who were reviewers for clinical trials, project managers for drug approvals, and Commissioned Corps officers in the U.S. Public Health Service, to name a few.

I was exposed to a plethora of career opportunities for pharmacists that were previously unknown to me. These pharmacists had such interesting and unique careers; I learned a great deal by listening to the experiences that led them to the FDA, and the experiences they’ve had while at the FDA. Furthermore, they were eager to offer career insight and advice to me as I prepare to start my career.

Over the course of my rotation at the FDA, I met students from across the country and around the world. Each student came from a unique educational background and working with these students provided me with a fresh point of view. Not only am I walking away with new pharmacy friends, but future professional contacts. I learned the importance of not only developing a good rapport with a preceptor and other pharmacists, but to develop professional relationships with other pharmacy students.

Collectively, these experiences have made my career path much more uncertain, but in the best way possible. I was exposed to so many roles for pharmacists and many career paths. This opportunity was extremely invaluable, and I encourage any Butler COPHS students interested in a rotation at the FDA to apply. If you would like to learn more about a rotation at the FDA, visit the FDA Pharmacy Student Experiential Program website.

Morris has also submitted an article for consideration to APhA’s Student Pharmacist magazine, sharing her rotation experience with pharmacy students across the United States.

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