Student Spotlight: Craig Luis

Meet second-year PharmD student Craig Luis, who is pursuing a dual master’s degree in Regulatory Science. In this interview, he shares his career aspirations and describes his summer internship at the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Why did you choose the USC School of Pharmacy?
USC offers dual degree programs that greatly supplement and train students to be leaders in nontraditional fields of pharmacy. When I was applying to USC, I wanted to pursue a dual degree and distinguish myself. Currently, I am pursuing a PharmD/MS in Regulatory Science to expand my knowledge of medical product regulation.

What attracted you to the field of pharmacy?
My research during my undergraduate education at UC Irvine was focused around neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation, and I tested experimental compounds in hopes of reducing symptoms such as anxiety and memory loss in mice and rats. I wanted to stray away from animals and focus on treating the human population either directly, by determining the most optimal treatment plan for an individual patient’s condition, or indirectly, by being involved in the development of novel treatments that are safe and efficacious. This desire, and my research experience, led me into pharmacy school.

What do you like most about the school?
I am delighted that students start their externships during the first year of pharmacy school. USC School of Pharmacy is also notable for the Trojan family, and it is wonderful that alumni, faculty and pharmacists who have been involved with USC share their knowledge and experiences with students. Furthermore, students can develop themselves through networking events and workshops that focus on fine-tuning their soft skills that are translatable to interviews.

What are the advantages of studying in a place like Los Angeles?
Los Angeles houses a population of almost 4 million with many different ethnicities and cultures. Being able to study pharmaceutical sciences in Los Angeles gives us the perspective that people from different backgrounds are unique and our approach in treating them must be personalized to attain an optimal outcome. With this large population, there are numerous community outreach programs through various organizations such as health fairs, clinics, and pharmacy education events. I am grateful and use these opportunities to supplement the didactic education of pharmacy school, so I can become familiar serving as a healthcare professional in the community.

What are your career aspirations?
I want to be involved in the drug development process and affect patients on a global scale. After being involved with either the pharmaceutical industry or the FDA for several years, I would like to come back to USC and provide knowledge and guidance to future pharmacists.

Tell us about your internship experience at the FDA this past summer.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Maryland and conduct research as a fellow through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I was in the pediatrics group in the Office of Clinical Pharmacology (OCP) and my research and final presentation were focused on pediatric drug development. Specifically, I examined strategies used for pediatric dose selection in clinical trials and categorized which methods may be better suited in obtaining pediatric indication. Other than working on my project, my typical week at the FDA included many meetings with the pediatrics group and lectures within OCP and other offices which included information sessions, advisory committee meetings, and presentations from industry representatives about breakthrough therapies.

I am grateful for these experiences since I learned so much about investigational drugs and building clinical trials for industry sponsors. Also, I had the opportunity to participate in a phone call with several representatives from other regulatory agencies in Europe, Canada, and Japan to discuss drugs in the pipeline in their respective regions. Furthermore, I wrote several articles for the pediatric pharmacology newsletter and gave weekly summaries of drugs under pediatric development at our journal club. Working at the FDA during the summer was a fantastic experience, and I highly recommend it for students who are interested in drug development and regulatory science. I was very fortunate that Dr. Susie Park reached out and provided details about this opportunity.