Elisabeth Oehrlein is a current student in the Pharmaceutical Health Services Research (PHSR) PhD Program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

Originally from Clarksville, Md., Elisabeth graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., where she majored in German Language and Literature. She currently serves as a graduate research assistant for Eleanor Perfetto, PhD, MS, where she is working to plan an upcoming conference on patient-focused drug development and assisting with a grant application that aims to train patient advocates for rare disease organizations. Her goal is to conduct comparative effectiveness and patient-centered outcomes research to better understand how current pharmaceutical policies affect the regulatory environment.

What inspired your interest in the field of pharmaceutical health services research?

After graduating from Franklin & Marshall College, I completed a six-month internship at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in safety and regulatory affairs. I often received handwritten notes from patients detailing the adverse events that they had experienced after taking certain medications. These notes were a constant reminder that patients are the pharmaceutical industry’s true customers. One emerging area of interest within PHSR is patient-centered outcomes research. This field of study focuses on involving patients in all phases of research, which is very appealing to me. 

What interested you most about the PHSR PhD Program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy?

The PHSR PhD Program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy piqued my interest because the research was directly relevant to my work collecting and analyzing reports of adverse events at GSK. I was also impressed with the diversity of research interests among faculty and students, as well as the collaborative environment shared between the department and other research programs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). The School is located within close proximity to a number of high caliber research organizations, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health, which creates unique opportunity for collaborative research between faculty, students, and experts at those institutions. 

How would you describe your experience since being admitted to the program?

Since being admitted to the program, I have had the opportunity to take part in many great experiences, both through my coursework and research. I have made many friends and found that the faculty, staff, and students to be incredibly supportive and always available to answer any questions that I might have. The coursework has provided me with a great foundation in a number of fields, including statistics, epidemiology, pharmacoeconomics, and policy. I also appreciate that it is directly applicable to the research that we conduct within the department. In addition, I have been able to not only listen to, but also interact and network with some fantastic speakers through our program’s seminar series.

Are there any unique experiences in which you have been able to participate as a result of coming to the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy?

Since joining the PHSR PhD Program, I have been actively involved with the UMB student chapter of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR). Through my involvement in ISPOR, I had the opportunity to attend the organization’s international conference in Montreal in June 2014. In addition, I competed in the “America’s Got Regulatory Science Talent” competition hosted by the University of Maryland Center for Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (M-CERSI), one of only two competitions of its kind in the United States. My team placed second for our project focusing on ways to redesign the FDA's website in an effort to make patient-relevant drug information more easily accessible.

What is your advice to prospective students who might be considering whether or not to apply to this program?

Completing a doctorate is a huge commitment, so I highly recommend that prospective students gain some related work or research experience in the field of health services research before deciding whether or not to apply. This will help them better assess whether the PHSR PhD Program will be a good fit in helping them achieve their future career goals.