Which dietary supplement should I recommend? It doesn’t hurt to leave this medicine bottle outside the fridge for a few days, right? What does it matter if I compound without gloves? I’ve often wondered who writes all the standards that apply to pharmacists, and how they come up with these things.
As an intern at the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), I’ve had the amazing opportunity to answer these questions for myself. I’ve been working with some of the most inspiring scientists, physicians, and pharmacists in the scientific and healthcare field, who converge from places like the CDC, CMS, SureScripts, FDA, and from countries such as China and Brazil.
I spent my summer at USP assisting the work of the Compounding Expert Committee. My job was to review and organize public comments submitted by both the general public and health care professionals regarding new compounding standards. I met some of the brilliant volunteer experts who worked on these standards, and I even had the pleasure to learn valuable information (that some would pay hundreds of dollars for in a classroom!) from these very experts. It has been so interesting to learn USP’s standards-development process—from hearing a patient’s concerns about his cancer, to seeing the standards progress in order to prevent others from meeting the same fate.
I also gowned up and toured the Reference Standard production laboratories, asking questions of the USP staff who ship out thousands of vials across the country. I learned about their processes regarding sterility and quality testing, and I was given the opportunity to train on sophisticated spectrometry equipment. Learning about the scientific field here has been unparalleled, as science is the core of all of USP’s operations and achievements for the purpose of helping to improve public health.
USP arranged for me to attend fascinating conferences, including the FDA Pharmacy Compounding Advisory Committee Meeting, where pharmacy regulations unfolded before my eyes.
From the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP), I learned about residencies; from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), I learned about the role of pharmacists as healthcare providers; and from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), I learned what it would be like to open an independent pharmacy. In a way, I was introduced to many possible careers in pharmacy and gleaned priceless insights I otherwise wouldn’t have had.
Because of my internship at USP, I have gotten a better understanding of non-traditional pharmacy career prospects, as well as traditional ones such as independent pharmacy, compounding pharmacy, veterinary pharmacy, and pharmacy legislature from professionals who already have solid careers in those fields. At USP there is also an opportunity to learn about public health in other countries—USP has a diverse workforce and is also a global organization dedicated to helping ensure the quality, safety, and benefit of medicines around the world. Nothing could replace the sense of reward that I’ve received from knowing that my efforts contributed to a greater purpose.
Although nestled in Rockville, Maryland, my internship here has been boundless.
About the Author:
Tsz Tiffany Chan is a doctorate of Pharmacy (PharmD) candidate studying at Shenandoah University’s Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy. In her spare time, she explores on and off of her motorcycle and is always seeking out new adventures. She is currently working on fundraising for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It’s Tiffany’s goal to make a positive impact on the lives of patients in a meaningful way once she becomes a pharmacist. Tiffany can be reached at email@example.com.