Membership Has Its Privileges - Pharmaceutical Executive


Membership Has Its Privileges
DIA Remains Committed to Quality, Individuals

Pharmaceutical Executive

Career Track Long before pharma companies instituted "customer-centric" approaches, DIA was keenly aware of how its efforts helped patients.

"I'm old enough now to say this: DIA is going to help society," says Assenzo. "Our goal is to help people develop professionally so they will do a good job for their employers. Then companies will produce better drugs for patients. They will look at the right questions and not cut corners."

The DIA center for career and professional development (CC&PD), launched in June 2002, is charged with centralizing professional programs aimed at developing the organization's-and the healthcare industry's-future. Susan McLaughlin, worldwide director of CC&PD (formerly with Johnson & Johnson), says, to help employees remain competitive in the event of a pink slip, DIA must offer the training programs pharma companies have cut in the last four to five years.

"Training and education are critical to meeting our members' needs," says McLaughlin. "The center focuses on individuals and helps them shape their career in whatever path that might be. Down the road, DIA plans to start a mentoring program, so a member can come to us and say, 'This is what I've been doing. I'd like to move over here. What do I need to be able to do that?'"

Layer believes that, because DIA is about career and professional development, people should join for the most selfish of reasons. She says, "I don't focus on the altruistic aspect of volunteering. People should join because they want to do a better job, get promoted, increase their pool of knowledge, and be able, when their company downsizes, to move into another job. They should be mentored, networked, trained. They should know as much as they can about everything that's going on. We have 27,000 members, but only 1,000 are volunteers. The 26,000 members are not here for the warm fuzzies; they are here for the nuts and bolts, the content that we give away and that they buy."

To jump-start college students' careers, CC&PD also maintains partnerships with several universities, including the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, and West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

"We've started working with students because they are our future," says McLaughlin. "Universities are where new people are coming from, and they need to understand everything that they possibly can about the pharmaceutical industry."

CC&PD also houses DIA's new e-learning programs, created to better accommodate its internationally dispersed membership as well as increased travel concerns.

"Everybody can grow, but we needed a spike of innovation to get us to the next tier," says Layer. "In the strangest way, September 11th was that spike, because so much of our information sharing-other than DIA journals-came through face-to-face meetings. What if we lost the opportunity to communicate to people in a live meeting? Would the association go away? No, but we would need to get content out in different ways."

In October 2002, the organization launched its first digital medical communications program, which is certified by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education and the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education. It was so successful, says McLaughlin, that DIA is developing more e-learning modules, including a first-of-its-kind clinical investigator certification program.

Like other associations, members maintain that much of the value of DIA meetings comes from networking. To transfer that interaction to web-based programs, the association is creating several "blended learning" initiatives, which consist of a face-to-face meeting and a follow-up or a continuation of that same subject online.

McLaughlin says those programs hold the most promise for now because they provide a middle ground for executives, regardless of how web-savvy they may be: "We conducted a one-day, face-to-face HIPAA workshop, which was followed by two weeks of online web board access in which attendees could ask the instructor or other students questions. Participation was much higher than expected-85 percent of students participated in the follow-up. We are now looking at adding a workbook, CD, or video withthe live instruction."

Going Global Efforts such as the International Conference on Harmonization and the common technical document are ushering in a decade in which drug development is a truly global process.

"Constituencies from around the world that were on the periphery of drug development are now becoming more actively involved because their governments are regulating more and want to interact with FDA and because the business of conducting clinical trials has spread to formerly fringe areas like Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim," says Michael Umen, DIA member and president of Michael Umen & Associates, a consultancy that helps generate drug approval applications for FDA submission.

With international offices in Basel and Tokyo, DIA already has a foot firmly planted oversees. Its executives believe that more offices may be established during the next five years as regional chapters begin to grow and prosper. In particular, DIA President Charles Depew, vice-president, worldwide regulatory affairs for GlaxoSmithKline, thinks membership in Japan will grow rapidly. Adding two new meetings there each year doesn't even keep up with demand.

"Even though you may develop a drug in one country, that doesn't mean it will be marketed in only one country," says Depew. "I was in a pharmacovigilance meeting in Japan, but the Japanese audience was interested in pharmacovigilance regulations outside of Japan. Industry people can go to DIA meetings to learn about regulations within their own country, but they can also learn about regulations involved in preparing their drugs for market elsewhere."


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