Student Spotlight: Lilia Earnest

Meet PharmD/MBA student Lilia Earnest, who describes her experiences in USC’s dual degree program and offers advice to fellow pharmacy students considering a dual degree: “Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and apply for the program.”

Q: How did you come to the decision to pursue the PharmD/MBA dual degree program at USC School of Pharmacy?

I was always interested in pursuing a career in the sciences ever since I was little. I went to UC San Diego for undergrad and majored in pharmacological chemistry. After graduating, I decided to go into pharmacy mainly because there is so much flexibility associated with a PharmD degree. As a pharmacist, you are prepared to enter literally any field within the healthcare industry, whether it be community, hospital, specialty, managed care, ambulatory care, research, government or consulting. There is so much value added to the healthcare community with a PharmD degree and I was excited to be a part of that!

I decided to pursue a PharmD/MBA dual degree because I’m passionate about impacting health on a population-based scale. With the cost of medication continuing to rise within an increasingly complex healthcare system, business educated health professionals are necessary for improving access and quality of care across the U.S. population. I believe I can best utilize my PharmD/MBA education to find innovative business solutions in a constantly evolving healthcare landscape. USC does a great job of providing valuable resources and opportunities for students who want to make a difference, so I couldn’t pass up the option to pursue a concurrent MBA degree.

Q: How do you balance your time between the PharmD and MBA program at USC?

In the dual degree program, you take one year of pharmacy classes, then you transition to the USC Marshall for one year as a full-time MBA student. Following that, you come back to the USC School of Pharmacy to complete your final three years of the PharmD program but are still expected to complete an additional five MBA classes at your own time. My strategy has been to take one MBA class per semester during the school year and I’m expected to finish both degrees at the same time, in spring of 2019.

Q: How has the dual degree contributed to your long-term goals and plans? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

The dual degree opened my eyes to the vast opportunities available both in the business and healthcare landscape. I learned so much about different industries, functions, and careers both through the USC School of Pharmacy and USC Marshall. USC has an incredible Trojan network that really helped me form strong connections and solidify my long-term goals. After completing an internship at Amgen this past summer, I knew that I wanted to apply my PharmD/MBA degree in the biopharmaceutical industry. In ten years, I see myself within the commercial sector of a biopharmaceutical company, where I plan to eventually work in high-level corporate strategy.

Q: What is one of the best experiences you’ve had at USC so far?

By far my best experience was traveling to Hong Kong with my business classmates for a consulting project last spring. Not only did we have the opportunity to gain global business experience by working with a company based in Southern China, but we also had a blast exploring the city and experiencing the culture. This experience inspired me to continue pursuing international business opportunities and hopefully return to Asia in the near future.

Q: What advice do you have for students who may be interested in following a similar path to yours?

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and apply for the program, even if you don’t know anything about business. I personally had absolutely zero business experience and I was initially terrified when I started my MBA year. Trust me, if you are qualified to be here as a pharmacy student, you are qualified to be in business school. I cannot express enough how valuable the experience was and how much confidence it gave me in my professional development. Pursuing an MBA was by far the best decision I’ve made in my career and I only have positive things to say about the dual degree program!

Interested in learning more about USC’s PharmD/MBA, offered cooperatively by the School of Pharmacy and the Marshall School of Business? Learn more.