Meet Dr. El-Sabae (aka super woman), a current Medical Affairs Associate at Chiesi USA, Inc, who was not only able to manage having her first daughter while attending ESOP but also able to manage having a job, internship and being an amazing student! On her free time, she finds joy in learning new languages (she already has studied French, Spanish, Arabic and aim to learn Italian!), and enjoys cooking delicious dishes for her family! This week, Sit with Senate’s Jessie Kim interviewed Dr. El-Sabae about her time at ESOP and career path.
Sit with Senate (Jessie): How did your career path lead you to your current position?
Dr. El-Sabae: I was fortunate enough to have an internship in clinical research development during the last two years of pharmacy school. It was an amazing experience that made me realize that pharmaceutical industry was my passion. To gain more industry knowledge, I also completed the drug development elective, the Duke Regulatory Affairs internship, and a PY4 rotation with the company where I am currently employed. There are plenty of companies around RTP to explore if you want to learn more about pharma while in school, and it’s important to explore and connect with many as you can.
SwS: Can you tell me a little bit about what medical affair associate do?
Dr. El-Sabae: It typically depends on if you are field-based (medical science liaisons) or office-based. My job is unique in that it is a mixture between Medical Affairs and Clinical Development. I am responsible for Phase IV study management and publication activities for our cardiovascular products. I also prepare responses to medical information requests and am involved with cross-functional activities with other departments, such as promotional material review, prescribing information label changes, and medical training for sales representatives.
SwS: What is your day-to-day like?
Dr. El-Sabae: I’m mostly working at my desk or attending meetings, but I feel like every day is something different and new projects come in frequently. I don’t see patients so most of my conversations are with other medical affairs professionals, research sites, and other departments within the company. We have several community partnerships and it seems like every week there is an opportunity to volunteer during our lunch break or occasionally for a few hours at a local school or organization. Best thing about working in an office? They feed us a lot and there is unlimited free coffee in the break room. I don’t work weekends or holidays either, so that is a huge plus!
SwS: What made you want to become a pharmacist?
Dr. El-Sabae: The decision to become a pharmacist was influenced by my professional goals and personal lifestyle. Pharmacy was an appealing option that offers flexible work hours, numerous career paths, and job availability anywhere I go. I could decide to work in a hospital, open a business, do research, etc. and a PharmD would be suitable for any of those positions. As the role of pharmacists and the practice of pharmacy evolve, I know I will be successful because of the outstanding training and support I received from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
SwS: I know that you had your baby girl while you are pharmacy school. Could you kindly share how you managed your time during pharmacy school?
Dr. El-Sabae: The professors probably won’t appreciate me sharing this information, but I have to tell it like it is. The biggest time saver was listening to ECHO recordings on x2 speed to take notes in half the amount of time. I was a busy Mom/Wife/Student/Employee (I still am) and that is just what worked best for me.
My internship also let me work from home, so I was able to complete my assignments whenever was most convenient for me. I did lose a lot of sleep and had to make some sacrifices when it came to student organizations, but I just tried to focus on activities that would benefit me the most in the long term. It obviously all worked out fine…my stress level has subsided, and my hair is finally growing back! I want to take a moment to say that I am incredibly grateful for the professors who accommodated my schedule when my daughter was sick or in the hospital, and I will never forget their compassion. Thank you!
SwS: If you could give one piece of advice to current students, what would it be?
Dr. El-Sabae: Don’t let anyone make you feel as though being confident or outspoken is a negative attribute. Don’t let someone tell you that your personality is “too strong”. We always talk about how pharmacists should advocate for their patients and be more involved in the medical home, but our professional strengths will not be recognized and we won’t get the respect we deserve if we are afraid to use our voice. It is not offensive or disrespectful to express disagreement in a professional manner, but you are likely to encounter some insecure individuals who feel that way regardless. Stand up for yourself, give solid recommendations supported by evidence, and pay them no mind!
SwS: What activities did you participate in as a pharmacy student, and how did they help shape your career or perspective on the profession of pharmacy?
Dr. El-Sabae: It was challenging to participate in many activities and events as a student with a baby, but I did hold a few meaningful leadership positions during my time in pharmacy school. I organized Phit Pharmacist student activities as the Health and Wellness Coordinator for CAPS and lead the AMCP Insurance Billing Pocketbook project. During PY3 year, I served as a TA for the Clinical Pharmacology class and mostly focused on volunteer activities with Kappa Epsilon. I am continually impressed by our pharmacy students’ commitment to community service and diversity of student organizations that gives everyone a chance to learn about the different careers within pharmacy.
AMCP hosted a pharmaceutical industry speaker series in which I was able to connect with multiple industry professionals. That experience was incredibly helpful for me to ask for advice and guidance about fellowships versus job opportunities. And although I was not able to join Kappa Epsilon until my PY3 year, I was welcomed with open arms and I finally found the pharmacy phamily I felt that I was missing all along!
SwS: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
Dr. El-Sabae: I wish I was more interesting to be asked such a question! Usually I am just trying to spend as much time as I can with family and friends and do some kind of exercise. I keep an exhaustive list of desirable restaurant and travel destinations to visit *one day*. I am not a North Carolina native, but I love exploring the surrounding areas and making this place our new home!
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