Category: Life Sciences
One of my all time favorite social activists, Bono, said the following, "As a rock star, I have two instincts, I want to have fun, and I want to change the world. I have a chance to do both." I personally feel the exact same way about life sciences.
In each and every one of us lies the ability to be a rock star, especially if one is a lab scientist, a nurse, a pharmacist, a physician, or any and all other kinds of allied healthcare professional. Life scientists have the opportunity each and every day to improve life, have fun, and change the world for the better. This is the belief that I am trying to instill in my students.
Although at first glance math and science may not appear exciting, edgy, or sexy, both are some of the coolest areas of education to study. What other courses look at the big unanswered questions--such as why are we here? How can we make others live longer/healthier/happier lives? Furthermore, with the current economic downturn in the economy, coupled with global competition and brain drain, what can Indiana do to fuel the life sciences initiative and keep it growing exponentially greater in the future? As both a professor and an entrepreneur, here are a few ideas on how we can create more life science intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial rock stars of the future:
First, provide forgiveness of loans for college life science students based upon merit and scholarship. Governor Daniels wants to provide tuition discounts to college students, and I think many are totally for the idea, as long as we as a state can figure out how to pay for it and if it is based upon scholarship. What if we as a state could send the top 1000 academic high school students, regardless of income or background, to the in-state school of their choice, as long as they applied for the scholarship, earned it based upon their academic status (and for that matter, social service learning experience) to study life sciences? Furthermore, it should be granted with strings attached, i.e., if you take this scholarship, you would stay in state for the first 5 years of your career. Asking for in-state service in return for scholarship is not unreasonable.
Second, budding college life scientists must be exposed to as many opportunities as possible. For example, I recently learned that there are 140 companies at Purdue Research Park alone. I had no idea there were that many opportunities for life scientists to get involved in Indiana business! This was discovered during a couple of presentations in the Entrepreneurship in Life Sciences course at Butler University. Biocrossroads has an amazing presentation on the life sciences industry in Indiana and I think each and every college should take advantage of knowing more about the panoply of opportunities available in Indiana.
The exposure to the variety of opportunities can also be manifested by smaller life science companies employing summer interns. Many life science students must do unpaid externships for advanced professional practice as well. What if a student could be exposed to a start up pharmaceutical company or a medical device company early on in his career and decided he was passionate about a specific area? Tools are already in place for life science companies to link up to students, such as Indiana INTERNnet. It may be a potential opportunity for start up companies to hire some great talent right out of college as well. (Some of the biggest and best employers nationally in healthcare and life sciences will only hire talent right out of college.)
Third, all students need to have a business basics course, if not a follow up course on intra- and entrepreneurship. The life science industry, like anything else at the end of the day, runs on a business model. Basic business acumen is a must for college students today in order to remain globally competitive. A good handshake, proper networking skills, leadership, how to build a proposal or plan, and teamwork are essential skills that can be taught easily but may be initially taken for granted and assumed that all students possess. Whether or not a life science student goes on to work for herself, she can still provide leadership and creativity to her organization and be a successful intrapreneur with business basics as outlined above.
Author Marci Alboher in her new book, "One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success" discusses how the new knowledge based economy employee will actually be a slash, or have many distinct career paths going simultaneously. She argues that not only is it beneficial to the individual not to have all their career eggs in one basket, but also having multiple careers simultaneously makes employees well-rounded and bigger thinkers. (Google, by the way--a top employer of great minds currently--agrees with her and encourages their employees to have multiple interests.) A slash for a life scientist with a day job could also mean being an entrepreneur part time. Four in ten households in Indiana now have multiple streams of income. Small businesses are hiring the employees and growing the US economy now as well. We must encourage our next generation to get out of the box, throw it away, and get creative in order to stay ahead in a third wave, or knowledge-based economy.
Fourth, students should be exposed to real-world problems and learn how to seek real-world solutions. What if life science schools could pair up with business schools and work in teams to solve real-world life science company problems? Also, it is critical to study who in the world is doing great work in life science arenas, learn their best practices, and reapply them to our own systems and companies. For example, eight pharmacy students at Butler University are currently researching and writing a book on the best practices of pharmacy in the top 20 healthcare systems in the world, according to the World Health Organization. (The US system is 37th on this list.) The students will not only gain an appreciation for other cultures and ideas, but more importantly, will learn how to look at best practices and figure out how to apply them to their own work situations, and share these best practices they uncover. Finally, I sincerely hope that they will not only have fun along the way, but also have the opportunity to feel that their actions truly can change the world!
Dr. Erin Albert has over 14 years' experience in the pharmaceutical industry. She has worked in several pharmaceutical industry capacities, and currently is an assistant professor of pharmacy practice and the Director of The Ribordy Center for Community Practice at Butler University. A native of South Bend, she is a pharmacist and obtained a BS in pharmacy from Butler University, MBA in Marketing from Concordia University Wisconsin, Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) from Shenandoah University, and will begin studying law at Indiana University School of Law Indianapolis in the fall of 2008. Dr. Albert also founded two companies (Pharm, LLC (a life science consulting firm) and Yuspie, LLC (a social networking firm)) and has written/edited several books.
To search the archive of Perspectives articles, go to the Search page