AstraZeneca Internship (June – August 2017)


Koh Xue Qi (Year 2 Pharmacy student)

In the summer period after Year 2 ended, most of my peers were going to overseas universities for summer exchange Programmes to clear some of my modules. Since I did not have such plans, I decided that I too wanted a meaningful experience in those 3 months and was on the lookout for internships or job opportunities that could potentially broaden my scope of careers that a pharmacy graduate can undertake. Moreover, the commercial sector of pharmaceutical products are not as often talked about to us undergraduates, hence I advocate that a good way to be exposed more about it is to work in one of such companies, at least as an intern.

Through this experience at AstraZeneca, I gained a new perspective contrary to my initial impression of pharmaceutical companies being mostly focused on hitting their sales targets and coming up with different marketing strategies only. While working in my internship company, there was repeated emphasis about being patient-centric which made me realise that this principle is critical for developing the drug and making it available to the people who need it. Therefore I learnt that not just the clinical healthcare professionals, these pharmaceutical companies are also powered by people who care greatly about fulfilling healthcare needs in the society.

There is a lot of work that goes on behind getting a drug out to being approved by HSA, and even more to persuade the practitioners to prescribe the product for their patients. A substantial portion of my internship involved me reading up on many clinical research papers regarding randomised clinical trials for the drug; to learn and be convinced of the approved indications and therapeutic benefits substantiated by statistics results. I was then tasked with the input of clinical outcomes of heart attack patients on antiplatelets, assisting interventional cardiologists in NUH for the publication of local Acute Myocardial Infarction data. Hence the pharmacy industry could potentially expose people to diverse learning experiences, such as attending conventions, talks by medical experts or even liaising with doctors to publish more clinical data.

I would recommend my peers to apply for this internship as it is a great learning opportunity especially for exposure to the industry if one is unsure about the different career choices other than being a clinical pharmacist after graduation. The colleagues in AstraZeneca were very enthusiastic and passionate in their work, constantly making sure that we took away lessons from each task that was assigned to us even though they were very busy with their own workload. I always felt comfortable asking questions about their profession and they also often gave me good advice based on my current mindset towards my future. It was a purposeful period in AstraZeneca which I am very grateful for.

Lim Jun Liang (Year 2 Pharmacy student)

During the summer vacation of my 2nd year, I was privileged to be offered the opportunity to intern at AstraZeneca. A UK-based global biopharmaceutical company that operates in more than 100 countries around the world, Astrazeneca is focused on transforming healthcare and improving patients’ lives through innovative science. As a Patient Access and Government Affairs Intern, my assignment was to support the implementation of patient  access programs and the planning of future government affairs initiatives. To broaden my perspectives, I was also exposed to other functions. Overall, I gained invaluable insight into the business and   left   with   a   greater   understanding   of   the   opportunities   in   the   pharmaceutical   industry.

Despite the seemingly short period, there were many lessons that i picked up along the way which shaped my perception of corporate life. Firstly, having the discipline to assume responsibility over my own learning became highly important as we tried to keep up with the pace at work. It was also crucial not to shy away from asking questions to seek clarification where need be as doing so facilitates effective communication and would ensure that projects remain right on track. With a positive attitude, a willingness to learn   and   an   openness   to   trying   new   things,   we   can   maximise   our   experience   and   expand   our   understanding   in   any   area.

At the end, this internship  has enabled me to develop a greater appreciation of the value of medical innovation and entrepreneurship in an evolving healthcare landscape. Moving forward, my impression of the pharmaceutical industry has also changed as I come to realize that there are many more avenues where healthcare professionals may contribute their expertise to outside of traditional clinical and research roles. As Singapore moves to tackle the challenges of rising healthcare costs and an aging population, there would be more opportunities where aspiring pharmacists like myself can work hand-in-hand with our counterparts in   the   industry   to   pursue   a   promising   and   sustainable   solution   for   the   benefit   of   our   patients.

Aside from the greater exposure, I was also fortunate enough to meet and learn from experienced professionals while honing essential soft skills that would become useful both in college and later in life. Without a doubt, I would definitely recommend anyone   who   wish   to   explore   a   career   in   the   pharmaceutical   industry   to   apply   for   the   internship.

Ryan Leong Kai Sheng (Year 1 Pharmacy student)

It is a well-known fact that pharmaceutical industries invest more in Research & Development than almost any other industries in the world. This means that pharmaceutical industries are constantly at the forefront of innovation, pushing boundaries in order to deliver impactful, life-changing medicines. For this reason, I had the desire to experience how it was like to be part of a transformative industry that is an indispensable asset to the healthcare sector.

I managed to secure an internship role at AstraZeneca Singapore (AZSG), a research-intensive biopharmaceutical company, after my freshmen year.  Throughout my two and a half month attachment to the Respiratory unit of the Medical Affairs Department, the key takeaway was the significance of identifying & aligning to a professional identity whilst performing my duties. The need for a professional identity was reiterated as my assigned major project entailed independent, direct interactions with health care professionals (HCPs), & being representative of AZSG, it was necessary to consider the company’s standpoint before making any decisions/actions as it could lead to unintended repercussions. Therefore, adhering to a professional identity at all times had enabled me to fulfill my duties with good faith.

Alongside professionalism, a great deal of emphasis is placed upon the development of interpersonal communication skills, an undoubtedly useful skill applicable to all areas of life.  Specifically, it had enhanced my awareness of the impact of word choices as well as subconscious non-verbal cues presented to & received by the receiver.  This is significant as there is often an initial general resistance presented by HCPs, & attempts to engage them in the conversation would tap on such skills. Thankfully, many rounds of mock rehearsals with my line manager had helped me anticipate the types of resistance that HCPs may present, & enabled me to improvise accordingly.

Lastly, proactivity in voicing out uncertainties & asking the right questions had helped me to achieve tasks within timeline. In fact, this was very much a daily affair given the challenging volume of tasks to deliver. Asking the right questions is important as it serves to reaffirm that the right thing is done. While this may sound intuitive, it is often overlooked, resulting in avoidable errors.

For those interested in a pharmaceutical industry attachment, expect a challenging but fulfilling experience ahead! Staying open & adaptable to changes & being resilient will certainly serve you well.