The Road to Success – 1st Edition

The Road to Success – 1st Edition
Reflections from recent grads of the PILs Coach Program and their pursuit of postgraduate opportunities, including residency and fellowship training.
Chandler David Schexnayder
Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy
PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency: Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center

Because of my drive and the services provided by the PILs Coach Program, I was fortunate to have matched with my top PGY-1 residency program choice at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas. I believe that knowing early in my pharmacy career that I wanted to pursue residency played a major role in my successful match.
I based my entire pharmacy career on making sure that I remained qualified by advancing my education, reaching out to professors for research opportunities, taking on organizational positions, and challenging myself with unique and rigorous rotations. From my experiences throughout pharmacy school, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in ambulatory care, so I considered residency programs that had an emphasis on this specialty. I eventually came across the Houston VA Medical Center, due to it being the largest VA hospital in the nation and a lot of other great attributes. While searching on their residency website, I found a listing of past residents, which included PILs Founder, Dr. Bryan Sackey and PILs Ambassador, Dr. Lori Gordon, who have both helped me tremendously throughout this process. The PILs Coach Program gave me tons of preparation for Midyear, PhORCAS, CV, letter of intents, and interviews which ultimately gave me the confidence needed to excel during the application and interview process. I was blessed to be granted 10 out of 10 interviews and traveled to them all. During these interviews, I was very observant of the way the entire pharmacy team interacted with each other, RPD and residents especially. I constantly asked myself, “Can I see myself growing here? Can I grow this program?” These questions alone were impactful in deciding how to rank my programs. I made sure to present the best version of myself at each interview. Today, I continue my pursuit of becoming a dynamic leader in pharmacy. ‘Throughout life’s celebrations and tribulations, remember to always Evaluate, Attack, Triumph – E.A.T.’



Abiola O. Ojo
Howard University College of Pharmacy
Fellowship: Oncology Global Medical Affairs at Merck

As you can imagine, the fellowship application process is strenuous because you have to be strategic in terms of the functional areas that you pursue. The best way to make this decision is to ask yourself – what functional area within PhRMA does my academic and non-academic experiences compliment? Is it Medical Affairs, Regulatory Affairs, Commercial Affairs, or Health and Economic Outcomes Research? Once you decide that umbrella of interest, everything else falls into place.

The fellowship mid-year interview process is equally rigorous primarily because you are interviewing with multiple pharmaceutical and bio-pharmaceutical companies. You can have about 16 to 24 interviews over the span of 2 to 3 days if you progress through the process. In addition, based on your interview success you may be afforded the opportunity to attend receptions with company fellows, directors and stakeholders.

The PILs Coach Program definitely helped me in terms of staying on track, providing key advice and reviewing my application materials. Leading up to mid-year during fellowship preparation, the best advice would be as followed:

  1. Determine your functional area of interest
  2. Solidify 3 to 5 Letters of Recommendations
  3. Carefully develop your Letter of Intent
  4. Obtain guidance from mentors and sponsors
  5. Network, Network, Network 

Jacinda Small
University of Saint Joseph School of Pharmacy
PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency: Howard University Hospital

As I reflect back on the six months involved in the preparation for the ASHP Residency Match, I am met with many memories and a myriad of emotions. I immediately think of the nonstop revisions to my curriculum vitae and letters of intent, the constant check-ins with my PILS Coach, and ultimately the financial burden of attending midyear. Due to the fact that I could not acquire the funds to attend the conference, I instead sent emails of interests to the various programs that I had decided that I wanted to apply to and was met with great reception.

On December 23, 2016 I pushed the submit button of PHORCAS and sent my application off to 13 programs. Of the 13 programs that I applied to I received 4 interviews, with the first two interview invites being my top two choices. After receiving each invite I immediately contacted my PILS mentor to inquire about which dates she felt would be best for me to pick. We developed a strategic plan of me picking either the first date offered, or the last to ensure that I would be a memorable candidate for the interviewers. In preparation for the interviews I would make sure to review the information listed on the website about the residency. I would also develop questions to ask the interviewers, as well as, reviewing major disease states to ensure that I was prepared for the clinical aspect of the interviews. When I interviewed with each program I made sure to make my reasons for wanting to complete a residency with the organization explicitly clear, as well as highlighting the contributions that I could make as a resident.  My last interview was on February 22, 2017, and I submitted my program rankings a week later on March 3, 2017.

The two week waiting game until the release of match results was absolute TORTURE, however my mom and I planned a weekend getaway so that we could celebrate the results despite the way they may had panned out. On Match day I was met with great news, I had matched to my top choice program. Through proper planning, adequate preparation, and an amazing PILS mentor I was able to meet my goal of matching to a PGY-1 residency. I look forward to the new experience, and to beginning my career in pharmacy.

Emmanuel Njigha
Texas Southern University
PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency: Oregon Health & Science University

I can proudly say that I’ve achieved a goal I had sought out for since my first year in pharmacy school which was to become a pharmacy practice resident. I was extremely fortunate to match with Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon! The road to residency has been a long and strenuous process, but every bit of it was worth it to receive the email that morning congratulating me on matching for residency.

Through this process, I realized that what helped me to achieve my dream of matching consisted of both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. The extrinsic factors was the guidance I received from mentors, preceptors, current and past residents, co-workers, family members, classmates, etc. The intrinsic factors consisted of the desire within myself to pursue the goal that I sought out 3 years ago. I believe that half the battle is won once you truly understand within yourself what it is you want to pursue and what it is you need to do it.

So many students struggle with what area of pharmacy they want to work in post-graduation. Utilizing your resources is key. Having SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based) goals truly improves your chances of obtaining the endeavors you choose to seek in pharmacy. The road to residency is not easy, however once you decide to that you are willing to go above and beyond those who far surpass the norm, you’ve already won. I cannot thank the PILs program enough for the support that I received throughout the process and in helping me to harness and present what I have to offer to the field of pharmacy in a remarkable way.


by: Bryan Sackey, PharmD, BCPS, AAHIVP. Dr. Sackey is the founder of PILs and a staff writer for The Package Insert. 

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