Student Spotlight: Bijan Motamedi

Meet second-year pharmacy student Bijan Motamedi, whose inspiration to pursue pharmacy school began while working at Amgen, after graduating from UC Riverside. In this spotlight, he talks about his experiences at the school and how his collaboration with faculty members in the USC Regulatory Science program led to the opportunity to present at national and global conferences, and to a summer writing internship at Merck.

What attracted you to the field of pharmacy?

I was hired at Amgen fresh out of my undergrad degree at UC Riverside where I majored in biology. During my time there I worked in an ecology research lab that analyzed the formation of micro-ecosystems involving omnivorous protists and bacterial communities, as well as the dynamics by which food webs assemble.

Amgen provided a lot of exposure to the industry side of pharmacy where I worked in the downstream purification of biopharmaceuticals. Before biologic drugs can be used by patients they need to be cleared of any impurities such as viruses, bacteria, or improperly formed proteins. We utilized massive liquid chromatography skids and filters to separate molecules based on properties like size and charge. I had the opportunity to work on biologics that were revolutionizing the way we treat a plethora of disease states. I really fell in love with the idea of impacting medicine and healthcare on a global scale by helping bring novel therapeutics to market. There is really something inspiring about providing patients with new hope in treating a disease or providing a better quality of life.

Why did you choose USC School of Pharmacy?

I started pharmacy school knowing I would be aiming myself at a very small target. While the role of a PharmD is ever-expanding, the pharmaceutical industry only makes up about 5-10% of the available jobs. I knew USC Mann offered opportunities and exposure that no other school could. The proximity to some of the nation’s best teaching hospitals would ensure I would have a solid clinical pharmacy background while the alumni network and brand-name recognition could ensure I could take my newly acquired skills to any part of the country. Lastly, growing up I watched Troy Polamalu and Reggie Bush dominate on the football field and I was excited to finally go to a school with a football team.

How have the resources and faculty members at USC helped you with your studies, learning, and growth? 

Last summer I received the wonderful opportunity to participate in USC Mann Dean’s Summer Fellowship, and frankly, when I first received the news I couldn’t have anticipated where it would take me. I worked with Dr. Eunjoo Pacifici and Dr. Nancy Smerkanich in the USC Regulatory Science program, and together we developed a research project analyzing regulatory dissonance between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA). We examined labeling language and regulatory pathway usage in drugs approved by both organizations from 2015-2016 to look for similarities and disharmony between the two organizations. A better understanding of this dissonance will assist pharmaceutical companies in navigating global regulatory strategy and streamline access to novel medications for patients around the world.

The research yielded two abstracts. The first, “Global Regulatory Dissonance: Examining How FDA and EMA Approach Product Labeling of New Drugs,” I presented at APhA’s 2018 National Conference in Nashville, TN in March, and the second titled, “Disparities Between FDA and EMA Regulatory Review Processes,” will be presented this June at DIA’s Global Annual Meeting in Boston. Furthermore, I think this experience assisted me in obtaining my incoming position as a medical writing intern at Merck this summer.

What are your career aspirations?

While I’m still elucidating my path into the pharmaceutical industry, I’m certain that is where my future goals lie. I’d like to play a role in drug development or increasing patient access to novel and groundbreaking therapeutics.

Why should prospective students consider USC School of Pharmacy?

Honestly, there are too many reasons to list, a simple Google search could give you a plethora of answers, but I’ll try to touch on some of the reasons you won’t find in a search engine. First and foremost is the caliber of people you meet in your time at USC. Every single person has aspirations for the stars but isn’t so consumed with their own goals that they won’t take a second to offer a helping hand. Secondly, I’ve already touched on some of the amazing hospital rotations and education they afford, but there’s also the opportunity to learn from pharmacists who are pioneering the field of pharmacy and redefining the context a pharmacist has in the healthcare field. Pharmacists like Dr. Richard Dang, Dr. Steven Chen, and Dr. Eunjoo Pacifici are truly reshaping the healthcare landscape. Lastly, it is very rare to find educators who genuinely have their student’s best interest and learning at heart, but I can honestly say this has been the case with every rotation preceptor I’ve had during my time here. Preceptors like Dr. Kil Yi of California Hospital Medical Center and Dr. Emily Han at Keck Medicine exhibit an uncommon passion for ensuring their students learn and thrive.