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Pharmacy Spotlight

Meet Ryan Cecala, a 2020 grad from Drake's Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program. In his last year at Drake, Ryan was offered a post-doctoral Oncology Fellowship with Seattle Genetics.

Name:    Ryan Cecala
Hometown:    Mount Prospect, IL
Degree Program:    Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), MBA, May 2020
Current Position:    Oncology Medical Affairs Fellow with Seattle Genetics
Location:    Seattle, WA
How did Drake prepare you for what you're doing now?

The biggest impact Drake made on preparing me for a career as a pharmacist was providing ample opportunities to experience a variety of different pharmacy settings. Throughout the entire PharmD program, I had experiences in hospital pharmacies, community pharmacies, and other non-traditional avenues that lead me to understand how I can bring value to a myriad of different career settings. 

Looking back, Drake helped prepare me for my career in a lot of “unseen” ways. For example, Drake classes and professors push dramatically for peer-to-peer and student collaboration. Sometimes, as a student, I did not enjoy having to work in a team for every assignment. However, in the real world, every project I have ever completed in my career thus far has been within a team setting.

How did your career goals change as you progressed through the pharmacy program at Drake?

My career goals changed every year for four consecutive years until the spring of my P2 year (year 4 of 6 for me). I knew extremely little about the practice of pharmacy and what pharmacists actually do other than work at Walgreens. Through my time at Drake, I met people and had experiences where my perception of what a “pharmacist” is radically changed from year to year. My career goals changed from Compounding Pharmacy, to hospital pharmacy, to Managed Care (insurance) pharmacy, to continuing my education into a Ph.D. and I finally landed on industry pharmacy.

The most important catalyst for these fluctuations in career interest was networking with Drake Alumni. I asked faculty, staff, professors, preceptors, and friends to get me in contact with Drake Alumni that currently held positions I was interested in as a career. The insight, guidance, and willingness to give time back to students from these alumni was invaluable. I do not think that I would be where I am today without the help of 2-3 key alumni that drove me to continue pursuing a career path that many others did not see. Embrace change and do not be scared to have different career goals than those around you.

What is something about the field of pharmacy that might surprise people? 
  1. Some states allow pharmacists to prescribe medication, similar to a medical doctor.
  2. Nuclear Pharmacists make radioactive medications that patients take for procedures and often work atypical hours such as 2am – 10am.
  3. Pharmacists work for drug companies to research medicines (like me!).
  4. Pharmacists work in hospitals on teams that administer investigational drugs to patients enrolled in clinical trials (testing to see if a new medicine works).
  5. Pharmacists work for insurance companies to help make sure patients do not pay too much money on their drugs and medical interventions.
What's something you do in your job that you never thought you'd do as a pharmacist?

I help cure people of cancer around the world. I work in Medical Affairs – Oncology, meaning I do a lot of work regarding how to properly use my company’s drug(s) in patients with various types of cancer. I myself do not cure people, but I am part of a team & company whose overall goal is to find and develop new treatments and cures for cancer patients. That is never something I could have imagined doing prior to entering the PharmD program at Drake, but my mentors and faculty helped push and shape me into a professional that is capable of doing so.  

Where do you see the future of pharmacy going and how did Drake prepare you for that?

The future of pharmacy is what we want to make it. I decided to pursue the PharmD/MBA dual degree because I saw the changing landscape and understood that I can add value to organizations on a large scale, such as at a company. Pharmacists will continue to become involved in more patient care activities and will continue to find new avenues to share their expertise such as within drug development, research, insurance, and other unique/ entrepreneurial ways. YOU are the future, make something of it!

What was your favorite rotation while in the professional program at Drake?

My favorite rotation was Block 5 at Eli Lilly and Company. Lilly was my final test to see if working in the pharmaceutical industry was the right fit for me. I learned a lot about drug development, marketing, medical communication, clinical trial management, and dozens of different job opportunities where pharmacists can work in a large corporation like Lilly. It solidified my desire to pursue a Post-Doctoral Fellowship and provided me with valuable experience that separated me from many other applicants.

What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing pharmacy?

The best piece of advice I could give an incoming student is this: believe in yourself. The PharmD program, your advisors, your friends, and sometimes even your family cannot understand what you are going through and where you see yourself ending up. I had many people close to me tell me that the career path I wanted did not exist, is unattainable, or is something that a pharmacist should never consider doing. Your attitude, work ethic, and professionalism are the most important driving factors to your success as a future professional. Always believe in yourself and relentlessly chase after what you see as your dream.

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