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Navigating the Pharmaceutical Realm: Insights from a Gilead Global Medical Affairs Internship

Transcribed and edited by: Angel Posadas, Fola Arowora


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the individual(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the company.

Hello pharmacy students! I’m Angel and I am the current content developer for Pharmacy Student Council. I had the opportunity to speak with Fola, an upcoming P3, about his Global Medical Affairs internship at Gilead in California. Read more to hear about his cool experiences in the pharmaceutical industry!


Angel: Can you tell us about your role and responsibilities during your internship at Gilead? What projects or tasks were you involved in?


Fola: “I worked in the medical affairs team and worked closely with the director of Global Medical Affairs at Gilead. I was tasked with working on projects for the entire 12 weeks. One of the projects I worked on was creating a slide deck for MSLs (medical science liaisons) in the field for a new medication, lenacapavir or brand name Sunlenca; it’s the new two dose regimen for HIV prevention and treatment. My task was to condense a 107-slide deck provided by the company into a more streamlined presentation. Because the original slide deck had so many slides, my goal was to condense it to ensure providers could easily grasp the information it contained.


It was really challenging. I basically had to create a whole new slide deck but had to find a way to fit all the necessary information in it. It was definitely a challenge to condense a 100+ slide to a 45 slide presentation, but I was able to do that with the help of the clinical scientists team at Gilead. I communicated with them to make sure I had accurate statements on the phase 3 trial data and also had to make sure I included the most up to date information. Taking all this scientific jargon, I had to communicate it in layman’s terms on the condensed slide deck. I also sent out a survey to MSLs both globally and in the U.S. to get feedback on what they would like changed, what they liked about the slide deck, and what they would like to keep. Integrating their insights and feedback, I made those changes to the slide deck before submitting it for approval. Ultimately, it was approved for use by MSLs at Gilead."


Angel: “Follow up question: when MSLs get this slide deck, what do they use it for?”


Fola: “There are two different ways: branded and unbranded strategy. Branded is pretty much pushing the product of Gilead, which is something like a webinar to providers that prescribe lenacapavir to infectious disease doctors. There is also an unbranded side, which is pretty much educating the providers as to who is eligible for higher risk individuals for these kinds of medications like HIV treatment individuals. So it's up to MSLs, out of the 40-some slides, they can hide slides and tailor it to each pertinent provider as to what they want to talk about. So rather than trying to hide like 50 or 60 slides, they get to really highlight 10. Those 10 usually either you're hiding the branded slide or the unbranded slide to relate it to your specific provider in that case.”


Angel: “Wow. That's awesome that MSLs at Gilead now use your slide deck for lenacapavir. The next question is what was the most valuable lesson or skill you gained from your internship experience at Gilead?”


Fola: “Time management. The executive director was my boss, so she was in every senior leadership meeting and I had the opportunity to sit in every senior leadership meeting with VPs in the company. Being able to manage those meetings as well as your tasks was challenging. You have to know when to say no because you still have these projects you have to work on. There's deadlines, but the meetings are also insightful because you want to meet and network with these high-end professionals. But you also want to make sure the project that you're working on is done efficiently and on time.


So I think time management was the biggest thing, trying to balance all projects and knowing when to say yes and no. I was always required to be in the office three times a week: Tuesday through Thursday. But there were some times I came in on a Monday or more days just to get some stuff done. It depended on the workload. 


Angel: “So in these meetings with the VPs, did you ever say anything or contribute something? 


Fola: “ I didn't really say much during the first couple meetings. I was just listening. I was a sponge. It was hard because I didn’t know a lot of industry abbreviations and stuff like that yet. So every time during those first couple meetings, I had an Excel list of  different abbreviations that were being used. I would be scrambling, looking through an Excel sheet. If I didn't understand something, I would chat with my boss: ‘what did they say or what does this mean?’ 


After the first couple of weeks, I better understood the verbiage. Something came up about public policy, which I was well versed in, so I gave my opinion. That's what catapulted them asking me to speak more. I waited for my time; it is a waiting game to know when to contribute. I listened, asked questions, pitched ideas to my boss and my other team members, and was just trying to get a feel of how the meetings and how everything flows. After that, they asked for my opinions even more during meetings. It was really cool, I was super blessed to have that opportunity.”


Angel: “ That’s awesome that you were able to sit in on those meetings. It sounds like you learned a lot of the terms and verbiage that the industry uses. That gives you a leg up over other candidates who want to apply in the industry. My next question is regarding company culture. What was the company culture like at Gilead? How did it impact your internship experience?”


Fola: “The first thing I noticed was the lack of diversity in the beginning. I was a bit puzzled about where everyone who looked like me was located within the office. I was able to meet a few, but it required a little more searching. As I walked around, I could feel everyone’s eyes on me, perhaps wondering who I was. Overall, everyone was friendly.


I can speak more about my team. My team was exceptional, both the remote and on-site members. They were fantastic, and I genuinely only have positive things to say about them. They were truly amazing people, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. My boss was very accepting and very easy to talk to. She made it a point for me to never feel like I asked a stupid question and always wanted me to feel comfortable asking for help. My team members also had the same open attitude, which was nice to have.”


Angel: “I think diversity in the industry has always been a challenge. While many companies are striving to enhance diversity, it is still a relatively recent initiative that requires ongoing dedication and effort from everyone in the industry. I am happy to hear that your team was kind and open to you. My last question is how does your internship in Gilead influence your career goals moving forward in the industry?”


Fola: “It's allowed me to see things differently and I realized that I truly want to be in this industry. It's about doing the right things and connecting with the right people. Many think success depends solely on meeting the right people, but it's also crucial to know what to say when you do. When you're in those spaces, what unique value are you offering? Authenticity is key; you have to be yourself because people can tell when you're not genuine. You don’t want to pretend to be someone that you are not.”


Angel: “It sounds like you do a lot of networking at your internship. Is there any advice you would give to students who want to network with  professionals in industry or in general?”


Fola: “Connect with individuals whom you believe can positively influence you. Don't hesitate to ask questions and to be authentic. Embrace interactions, even a simple hello, because often those individuals are willing to assist you more than you realize. And remember, fear of failure is natural, but it shouldn't hold you back.”

Angel: “That is really great advice. Like that Wayne Gretszky quote that too many people say, but I am going to say it:‘ You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’.  Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and advice with us, Fola. I think many students can benefit from this.”

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