One of the strengths of this master's program is 1:1 advisement. How did the advisement help you?
One of the biggest attractions for me when matriculating into this master’s program was the supportive faculty. Even prior to matriculation, I was extremely impressed by the time and effort my advisor, Dr. Badheka took to schedule meetings with me and ensure my success in the program. Especially as someone who was juggling a fast-paced full-time job, a full-time student course load, research, and volunteer responsibilities, it was important for me to have 1:1 advisement to provide me with guidance on how to balance personal and school life. Without the encouragement and guidance, I received, this journey would have been much more challenging. As the old saying goes, “it takes a village”. There were times where I felt overwhelmed, but my advisor Dr. Badheka was always very encouraging and would say positive things like how she’s proud of me and would proceed to help me develop a manageable course load. My advisor’s practical advice, positive attitude, and realistic goals were critical to my success. I am grateful to SGS for exposing me to lifelong mentors and advisors to help my growth and development.
Other than the advisor, Dr. Badheka, what role did the various faculty or a particular SGS faculty member play in your success?
I enjoyed a lot of my classes, especially Fundamentals of Pharmacology and Introduction to Biomedical Ethics. Funds of Pharm was one of my favorite classes because I found myself engaging with the material on the day-to-day. Although challenging, the class was extremely rewarding because I found myself reading and understanding labels of common drugs like Benadryl or Tylenol and thinking about the drug-to-drug interactions, or drug to food interactions. Intro to Biomedical Ethics was an extremely thought-provoking class and Dr. Shapiro does a wonderful job of connecting real life healthcare issues with philosophy/ethics. Additionally, my research mentor, Dr. Ozlem Gunal had a huge impact on me appreciating lab work/research, and I will continue to participate in her lab during my time outside of day job. Although there was an option to do a remote rotation in other labs, I wanted the hands-on experience because I genuinely wanted to experience bench work research with a different lens than undergrad. I am so glad that I did because through my rotation I was able to perform in-vitro and in-vivo experiments, eventually presenting a poster at the Regional Student National Medical Association and winning Best Oral Presentation. But most importantly, Dr. Gunal was flexible and supportive of my job commitment, and she worked with my schedule to set up experiments.
Were there any specific extracurricular or co-curricular activities that were you were happy to be part of?
During my time in the Master’s program, I was exposed to a Caresparc Community Connections as a volunteer through an alum from the program. This included engaging with underserved, low-income senior citizens within Newark to distribute food. One of volunteer projects was Hello Fresh Produce Markets, where the team and I would organize community based “Farmers” markets for senior citizens that involved distributing Hello Fresh meals and engaging them in presentations about healthy lifestyles. Being a first-generation minority student and volunteering in a primarily African American senior citizen environment, I’ve gained a perspective into the social disparities affecting minority populations. For example, in my conversations with the senior citizen population while volunteering in Newark, I was able to understand why there was such a distrust of vaccines and clinical research trials in the African American community (events such as the Tuskegee trials). Especially working in clinical trials both in the hospital setting and within the Big Pharma industry, one of the industry goals is to improve diversity in clinical trials. By taking the initiative to converse with members of the community that I was serving, it allowed me to broaden my understanding of the disconnect for minorities and healthcare that I can carry over into my industry role. If it were not for SGS, I would not have been exposed to Caresparc and discovered a community initiative I am passionate about.
What would be your advice(s) for a student entering the School of Graduate Studies at the Newark Health Science Campus?
Regardless of your future direction, take advantage of the rare opportunity to be in a close knit environment with expert physicians and scientists and learn from the professors. Try to gain full value of everything offered (research rotation, asking questions in class, attending tutoring) and really use this experience to step out of your comfort zone to explore your passion for science. In my experience, I’ve observed that the faculty truly loves what they do, so don’t be shy and ask questions or engage in conversations—they’re here to help you!
You pursued your Master's education while working full-time at Novo Nordisk. Please share how the program was a good fit for you.
I worked full-time during this program. As an individual working in pharma without a strong pharmaceutical or business background this program offered me courses that integrated the two disciplines. For example, Pharmaceutical Marketing with Dr. Segarnick and Molecules to Medicine with Dr. Badheka are two courses that provide firsthand industry knowledge and expose students to ins and outs of the pharma industry. In my job, I was able to apply this knowledge in meetings and improve process flows because I have a stronger perspective of the drug R&D process and the business, regulatory, and marketing scope. COVID-19 emphasized the importance of clinical research and the importance of the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that therapies are accessible. Currently I work as a Sr. Clinical Trial Associate at Novo Nordisk, and I hope to leverage the Master’s degree and my industry knowledge to continue on a career that will help to bring the best therapeutics to all patients at a reasonable cost. The MBS program was a good fit for me because I had a certain insight into the clinical trial management process in the pharmaceutical industry, but I was lacking an advanced scientific perspective of biomedical research. The program helped to provide me with the necessary academic and professional tools needed to help me with my future goal of optimizing the biopharma industry to reach patients from all different socioeconomic backgrounds. An MBS degree with a concentration in Pharmacological Sciences from Rutgers University instilled confidence within me and enhanced my professional and networking skills to become a leader within healthcare.
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