Students Consult for Top Healthcare Companies

By Linda Wang

Success in the ever-changing world of healthcare requires continually launching new products, gaining formulary status, increasing margins and expanding market share—invariably on tight deadlines. Amid this competitive bustle, promising ideas risk being shelved due to the lack of bandwidth needed to propel them forward.

The USC School of Pharmacy’s Enterprise Team Projects (ETP) program helps healthcare companies solve this problem while providing real-world experience to graduate students. Leading healthcare companies are paired with teams from the school’s Healthcare Decision Analysis (HCDA) and Biopharmaceutical Marketing (BPMK) programs.

Over a four-month period, ETP teams devote nearly 1,200 hours to each project. For example, to enhance early-development strategies, Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals charged its group with unpacking cost-benefit information about several therapeutic areas.

“We knew what the basic economic data said about these therapeutic areas, but we needed the team to look behind the numbers and help us understand what was really going on,” says James Hassard, Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals’ chief commercial officer.

USC graduate students also partnered with Fujifilm Medical, whose visualization systems provide benefits to surgeons and surgical teams but require a large investment from hospitals.

“The deliverable from our team was a hospital value analysis committees ‘kit’ that our account leaders can use to enhance their interactions with hospital customers,” says Devon Bream, global vice president of endoscopy at Fujifilm Medical. “The team also did research on how artificial intelligence is being applied in the surgical arena to advance patient safety and hospital efficiency.”

Besides the potential to speed results, corporate partners can interact with skilled graduate students and develop a talent pipeline by partnering with the ETP program, says Ken Wong, associate professor of pharmaceutical and health economics at the USC School of Pharmacy and director of the HCDA and BPMK master’s degree programs.

By creating opportunities for students to apply the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to real-world consulting projects, the ETP program has helped many graduates land interviews and full-time positions.

Vicky Wang, HCDA Class of 2021, worked on a team of five to help uncover valuable insights for life science testing company BioAgilytix Labs.

“The program prepared me and my teammates really well professionally,” Wang says, crediting the hands-on experience she gained for helping her land a full-time consulting job with her dream company, L.E.K. Consulting.

Ivy Bien, who’s pursuing a dual PharmD and MS in HCDA, confirms the program’s value. “This unique opportunity allowed me to work with an HCDA faculty mentor, my fellow classmates and a pharmaceutical company to grow and learn together—much like an internship— to tackle difficult questions that arise while working on the various stages of a product,” she says.

“Working with Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals also allowed me to explore different career paths within the pharmaceutical and consulting industry,” Bien adds.

Healthcare companies interested in partnering with the ETP program should contact Program Administrator Anthony Moreaux at moreaux@usc.edu  for more information.