Ji-Young (Lauren) Lee (MS’06), Director of Health Economics and Outcomes Research and Pfizer Consumer Healthcare portfolio at Pfizer, speaks about her experiences as a graduate student in the Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy program and shares what it means to “chart your own career pathway.”
Could you share a bit about your career and describe your current work at Pfizer?
After graduating from the PharmD program at the University of Washington, I pursued a post-doctoral fellowship at Allergan while being enrolled in the master’s program in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy at USC. After graduating from USC, I spent over a decade or so working in both pharmaceutical and medical device companies leading Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR) strategy and execution. At Eli Lilly and Company and Daiichi Sankyo, I led a wide variety of initiatives in type 2 diabetes, insulin delivery system technologies, atrial fibrillation, and chronic kidney disease. Then as Director at LifeCell Corporation, I led HEOR initiatives on tissue matrices and medical devices for reconstructive surgeries before joining Pfizer in 2015. I currently am the Director of HEOR on Chantix®/Champix® and Pfizer Consumer Healthcare portfolio, including the development of public health rationale for prescription to non-prescription switch programs and self-care value messaging. Pioneering the pathway for HEOR capabilities to be used in Pfizer Consumer Healthcare as well as gaining expertise in prescription to non-prescription switch programs have been an exciting and rewarding journey for me in HEOR.
What interested you in the master’s program in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy? And how did the resources and faculty members at USC help prepare you for what you are doing now?
I took a cost-effectiveness analysis course in my PharmD program and wanted to learn more about healthcare decision-making process. Also, I was particularly interested in learning more about the interactions among patients, healthcare providers, government agencies, and insurance companies. That’s when I found the master’s program in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy at USC. The program led me to develop a deeper understanding of health economic theories, healthcare marketplace dynamics, and outcomes research methodologies. I didn’t realize this at that time, but what we were learning was going to be highly applicable in the workplace. Our faculty members paid acute attention to developments in healthcare decision making, policies, and passed on what would greatly benefit us. They definitely balanced teaching the technical knowledge with understanding the applicability of it in the real world. Frequent presentations we had to give in our courses helped us with communication and presentation skills that I still draw on today.
How would you describe the environment at USC when you were a student?
The program was not easy. You have to work, put the time and effort into learning and enhancing your skill set. However, at the end, your knowledge and insights into healthcare marketplace dynamics and technical HEOR methods will make you be a competitive employee from an employer perspective. I believe that the training you get from the USC program is top-notch and look forward to continue being an advocate for the program.
What advice do you have for students who may be interested in following a similar path to yours?
Don’t be afraid to chart your own career pathway. I started out in art field with a bachelor’s degree in Art History followed by a PharmD and then pursued a master’s in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy. I don’t hesitate for a second to recommend the master’s or PhD program at USC to any student. It was the best choice I made in my career and am extremely grateful for the opportunity. The alumni network is tight and I remain good friends with some of my peers and seniors from the program. Those bonds that you develop in the program are lasting and extremely valuable.
Is there anything else about your career or experience at USC that you’d like to share?
The faculty at USC made sure to inculcate a culture of collaboration and professional development. Many of us also attended conferences including ones organized by the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) where we learned the application of our work. I also had the opportunity to present my master’s thesis at the Society for Medical Decision Making (SMDM) conference thanks to the guidance of my advisor, Michael Nichol, PhD. I think both technical and professional development conferences are important. I am currently a member of the Healthcare Businesswoman’s Association that does a phenomenal job with its annual conferences. It involves women in healthcare business sharing their experiences and supporting other women and men in the field. As for HEOR conferences, I have to recommend the SMDM conference as they provide a significant learning experience, pose challenging questions, and enhance one’s professional network.