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Fostering diversity and talent: A Pfizer case study

Posted 15 September 2021 | By Monique Carter, MS, RACLesa JenkinsMasooma Razvi, PharmD, RACChung-Hyun Lee-Sogaard, PhDArlene Waugh, MBASue-Ann Chen, BAJennifer Duru, BS*Hadiya Strong*Jamila J Jorden, PharmD*Saima Khan, PhD  | PDF Link PDF | ©

Fostering diversity and talent: A Pfizer case study

The Pfizer Global Regulatory Affairs (GRA) – Howard University College of Pharmacy (HUCOP) Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) program fulfills a requirement of the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) curriculum and helps students explore biopharmaceutical industry career options and prepare for their career after graduation, such as pursuing postgraduate training and seeking employment. The HUCOP Preceptorship Program at Pfizer was designed to broadly increase awareness of pharmaceutical industry careers in regulatory science and enhance diversity within Pfizer GRA. [*Authors from HUCOP]
 
Introduction
Equity is a core value that defines Pfizer’s company culture. It speaks to the fundamental truth that every person deserves to be seen, heard, and cared for. This core value and its meaning were reassessed by colleagues in summer 2020 as people from diverse backgrounds worldwide raised their voices against racism, injustice, and inequality suffered by Black Americans. These events were the catalyst that moved Pfizer’s GRA community to lead candid conversations, foster a greater understanding of equity, and drive actions toward meaningful change.
 
Following a GRA Leadership Team (LT) equity panel discussion in which senior-level leaders candidly shared their feelings and personal experiences on race and inequity, rank-and-file colleagues expressed the need to learn and do more. This sparked a volunteer-led movement by GRA colleagues around the globe who took a grassroots approach to form the Global Regulatory Affairs Equity in Action team (GREAt) under GRA LT sponsorship and in partnership with Pfizer’s human resources and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) groups. In an effort to first examine the pulse of the organization and colleague perceptions of DEI, a GRA-wide equity survey was conducted. In an overwhelming response, GRA colleagues reported the value of equity as being a high priority within the organization. The key message was that efforts should advance to nurture diversity internally and outreach externally to develop high-potential, diverse talent.
 
Equity in action: Community, content, and collaboration
GREAt is composed of GRA colleague volunteers, ranging from the administrator to senior leader level management. Colleagues represent numerous functions within GRA – such as strategy, operations, policy, and intelligence – and come from more than six countries and multiple Pfizer sites worldwide. The team focuses on educating colleagues on the value of DEI and launching programs to improve equity and talent development across GRA. This is implemented through three pillars – Community, Content, and Collaboration:
 
  • The Community pillar seeks to strengthen the GRA community by building an enduring foundation of communication and trust.
  • The Content pillar strives to enhance GRA-owned tools (e.g., Label as Driver) to promote equity, awareness, and inclusion.
  • The objective of the Collaboration pillar, which is the focus of this article, is to grow and maintain a diverse regulatory talent pipeline.
 
A fundamental goal of GREAt’s Collaboration pillar is to take a more focused approach to being a sought-after employer for diverse talent globally, reflective of the patients and communities that Pfizer serves. In the US, there is noticeable underrepresentation of high-potential Black colleagues within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)‒related professions overall, and in the biotechnology industry in particular.1 Existing literature on the lack of diversity in these professions emphasizes the impact that inclusion of Black colleagues could have in closing the economic and health disparities gap by enhancing healthcare system interactions, and furthering respect for cultural sensitivity.2 In an effort to address that gap, GREAt built relationships with pharmacy school leaders and students at Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCUs) to foster greater inclusion of Black talent in the regulatory profession. HBCUs are US-based institutions formed to support high-potential Black students by providing an educational learning environment that caters to their unique challenges and cultural understandings. HBCUs, particularly Howard University in Washington DC, have been noteworthy in preparing minority students for STEM professions. Since 1867, Howard University, has awarded more than 100,000 degrees in the arts, sciences, and humanities and ranks among the highest producers of the nation's Black professionals in medicine and pharmacy.3
 
Inclusion and access
Of the many talent pipeline efforts initiated, the Pfizer GRA APPE preceptorship was a pilot program in partnership with HUCOP. The experience provided the opportunity for talented, rising fourth-year PharmD candidates to gain valuable hands-on, industry experience through integration within Pfizer cross-functional teams while attaining credit toward degree completion. The program promoted student understanding of the regulatory profession, allowed for student participation in the many activities associated with gaining health authority product approval, and, most important, raised awareness of the many opportunities to address unmet healthcare needs and improve patient outcomes. Despite challenges owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, students were successfully integrated into the APPE preceptorship program in a fully virtual format, which led to enhanced inclusion and access. This virtual format option was particularly appealing to many of the HUCOP students, given economic burdens, such as travel and lodging costs, that are associated with onsite opportunities. The timeline and stages for the development of the pilot program and the active student program are shown in the Figure. The key challenge associated with this novel program was the time and effort required to set-up and finalize the Pfizer-HUCOP education affiliation agreement/contract. This process took about 3 months to complete. However, lead times for renewal of the contract will be more efficient moving forward now that the process has been established.
 
Figure. Pfizer GRA-HUCOP APPE pilot program development and activities timeline (May-Sep 2021)
 
Carter_Figure.png
 
APPE, advanced pharmacy practice experience; CRG, Colleague Resource Group; ELT, executive leadership team; GRA, [Pfizer] Global Regulatory Affairs; GREAt, Global Regulatory Affairs Equity in Action team; HBCU, Historically Black College/University; HUCOP, Howard University College of Pharmacy; LT, leadership team

 
HUCOP issued a call for applicants from Pfizer for the GRA-HUCOP APPE preceptorship pilot program. Candidates who expressed interest in applying were required to be in good academic standing with the university, to have demonstrated strong leadership skills, and to have a robust track record that reflected their interest in pharma careers – particularly regulatory science. Selected students had previously gained experience through internships in industry and/or the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Following their onboarding at Pfizer, they were integrated into the GRA Internal Medicine (IM) and Global Regulatory Policy and Intelligence (GRPI) groups. Pfizer GRA colleagues who served as preceptors and mentors showed great willingness to provide meaningful, real-world experiences driven by their passion to teach and advance equitable change within the organization. Each preceptor had significant prior experience managing students at different educational levels. To support program expansion in future, GREAt is currently outlining plans to ensure subsequent preceptors have the appropriate training and tools to provide the best experience for students.
 
The students displayed exceptionally strong work ethic, analytical performance, curiosity, leadership, and teamwork. As fully incorporated team members, students worked alongside regulatory professionals at all levels to gain hands-on experience across global regulatory divisions, in strategy, operations, labeling, intelligence, and so on. They participated in networking and professional development opportunities, such as Pfizer’s centralized summer student worker (SSW) events and executive leadership team fireside chats. They advanced their drug development and regulatory knowledge by engaging in, and applying their learnings from, the inaugural 2021 Regulatory 101 curriculum series, which provided an overview of various regulatory lines and their key stakeholder functions across the drug development continuum. Students had the opportunity to showcase their learnings, which spanned patient-focused drug development initiatives and early- to late-stage drug development strategy, across various forums, including GRA LT members, Pfizer matrix/cross-functional drug development teams, and fellow SSWs. The culmination of these efforts highlighted the talent pool that resides within HBCUs, such as HUCOP, and increased student pharmacist interest in regulatory affairs as a potential career.
 
Student feedback
Qualitative student feedback suggests that the selected HUCOP students likewise deemed the Pfizer-GRA APPE useful and in alignment with their professional aspirations and passion for innovative patient care (Table).
 
Carter_Table.png
 
Conclusion
The Pfizer GRA APPE pilot program has been a right first step in fostering a diverse pipeline into the biopharmaceutical industry for highly talented, yet underrepresented, HBCU students interested in the regulatory science profession. Following successful completion of the pilot program, GREAt is actively working to establish meaningful metrics to progress toward the overall goal of growing and maintaining a diverse regulatory science talent pipeline. In addition to the activities initiated in 2021, Pfizer GRA and GREAt are considering the following next steps:
  • Expanding the APPE program to include additional colleges and universities, including HBCUs,
  • Assessing the feasibility of expanding the program globally, and
  • Creating additional Pfizer GRA postgraduate student training opportunities, such as fellowships.
 
Abbreviations
APPE, advanced pharmacy practice experience; DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion; FDA, [US] Food and Drug Administration; GRA, [Pfizer] Global Regulatory Affairs; GREAt, Global Regulatory Affairs Equity in Action team; GRPI, Global Regulatory Policy and Intelligence; HBCU, Historically Black College/University; HUCOP, Howard University College of Pharmacy; IM, internal medicine; LT, leadership team; PharmD, Doctor of Pharmacy; STEM, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; SSW, summer student worker.
 
About the authors
From Pfizer GRA
Monique Carter, MS, RAC, is a senior director, global regulatory strategy lead in the Pfizer GRA IM group, leader of the Pfizer Global Regulatory Equity in Action Team Collaboration Pillar, and Pfizer-Collegeville Global Black Community (GBC) Colleague Resource Group (CRG) site lead. She leads innovative and adaptive drug development regulatory strategies, ranging from the early investigational space through postmarketing approval, to support the continued access to safe and effective medicines for patients in need. Carter has more than 10 years of drug development experience, has authored many RAPS book chapters and peer reviewed Regulatory Focus manuscripts. She holds the Regulatory Affairs Certification (RAC) and is a Pfizer Enterprise RAPS member. Carter can be contacted at Monique.Carter@Pfizer.com
 
Lesa Jenkins is an executive administrator in the Pfizer GRA IM group, with 24 years of industry experience. She is a member of the GREAt Collaboration Pillar and Pfizer-Collegeville GBC CRG. Jenkins was instrumental in building relationships with HBCUs to support the Pfizer GRA APPE preceptorship pilot program initiation. She can be contacted at Lesa.Jenkins@Pfizer.com
 
Masooma Razvi, PharmD, RAC, is senior manager and US regulatory strategy lead in Pfizer GRA IM group and co-lead for the GREAt Collaboration Pillar. She is passionate about advancing diversity and inclusion and has participated in other training programs for pharmacists and pharmacy students. Razvi has more than 12 years of research, clinical pharmacy, and regulatory experience and is a US RAC holder and Pfizer Enterprise RAPS member. She can be contacted at Masooma.Razvi@Pfizer.com
 
Chung-Hyun Lee-Sogaard, PhD, is a global regulatory portfolio lead in Pfizer GRA IM and a member of the GREAt Collaboration Pillar. She received her doctorate degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and has more than 20 years’ experience as a research scientist, medical writer, and regulatory strategist in cardiometabolic, immunology/inflammation, and rare diseases. Lee-Sogaard can be contacted at Chung-Hyun.Lee-Sogaard@pfizer.com
 
Arlene Waugh, MBA, is a senior manager, in the Pfizer GRA – Strategy and Operational Effectiveness group, and the communications and change management lead for GREAt. She contributes to the success of key regulatory initiatives, providing strategic consultancy and day-to-day business support to align the GRA LT on a varied portfolio of activities. Waugh can be contacted at Arlene.E.Waugh@Pfizer.com
 
Sue-Ann Chen, BA, is currently the global diversity and inclusion lead for Pfizer’s science and operations business units – worldwide research development and medical, global product development, and the chief business innovation office. She is part of the HR Global Talent Solutions organization, enabling enterprise objectives and providing consultation about diversity, equity, and inclusion aligned to the company’s DEI strategy. Chen has more than 14 years’ experience scaling operations or strategic initiatives for senior leadership with key experiences in business technology, global regulatory affairs, and human resources. She has led employee resource groups across several states and was selected for two Pfizer innovative international assignments in Africa, one for a technology nonprofit building electronic medical record systems in Malawi; the other for a startup in Ghana. Chen can be contacted at Sue-Ann.Chen@pfizer.com
 
Saima Khan, PhD, is vice president, GRA category head for IM, Pfizer Innovative Medicines Business. She has more than 25 years of pharmaceutical industry experience and has held regulatory positions at global, regional, and national levels. Her experience spans early- to late-stage development globally in the areas of drug, biologics, devices, and combination products across various therapy areas. Khan received her doctorate degree in neuroscience from the Royal London & St Bartholomew’s School of Medicine. She is the GRA LT sponsor of GREAt and executive sponsor of the Pfizer-Collegeville Global Asian Alliance CRG. She is a Pfizer Enterprise RAPS member. Khan can be contacted at Saima.Khan@Pfizer.com
 
From HUCOP
Jennifer Duru, BS, is a Pfizer GRA IM APPE extern and a fourth-year PharmD candidate at the HUCOP, with 2 years of research experience. Duru has served as pharmacy officer in the Junior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program for the US Public Health Service at the FDA with the Center of Tobacco Products. She can be contacted at Jennifer.Duru@bison.howad.edu
 
Hadiya Strong is a fourth-year PharmD candidate at the HUCOP and was placed as a GRPI APPE extern at Pfizer. She had previously interned at Pfizer through the SSW program in North American Medical Affairs. Strong has led numerous initiatives dedicated to increasing education and decreasing stigma and transmission rates of HIV-AIDS. She can be contacted at Hadiya.Strong@bison.howad.edu
 
Jamila J Jorden, PharmD, is the director of experiential programs at HUCOP. She graduated from the college with a PharmD and received an MBA from the Lebow School of Business at Drexel University. She has completed a PGY-1 residency program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Before joining HUCOP in 2018, Jorden worked for almost 15 years in managed care/formulary management at a pharmacy benefit management company. She can be contacted at Jamila.Jorden@howard.edu
 
Citation Carter M, et al. Fostering diversity and talent: A Pfizer case study. https://www.raps.org/news-and-articles/news-articles/2021/9/fostering-diversity-and-talent-a-pfizer-case-study. Regulatory Focus. Published online 15 September 2021.
 
References
All references last accessed 14 September 2021.
 
  1. Center for Talent Innovation & Biotechnology Innovation Organization. Measuring diversity in the biotechnology industry: Building an inclusive workforce. http://go.bio.org/rs/490-EHZ-999/images/Measuring_Diversity_in_the_Biotech_Industry_Building_an_Inclusive_Workforce.pdf. January 2020.
  2. Gasman M, et al. HBCUs and the production of doctors. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6111265/. AIMS Public Health. Published online 27 November 2021.
  3. Howard University – History. https://www2.howard.edu/about/history. Not dated.
 
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