Jennifer Soffing, a Doctor of Pharmacy candidate at St. John’s University, was delighted her dream of visiting Switzerland came true through a paid summer internship with Novartis that included a stint at the pharmaceutical company’s global headquarters in the Swiss town of Basel.
“I finally got to check Switzerland off of my list because of this incredible opportunity,” said Jennifer, who expects to graduate in May 2021 from the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, located on the University’s campus in Queens, NY.
Jennifer worked this past summer as a Strategic Development Intern for the Oncology Global Development Unit at Novartis, spending the first half of the internship at Novartis’s US headquarters in East Hanover, NJ, and the second half at its base in Switzerland.
“I wanted to work for Novartis because of its international presence and because it is a star in the field of oncology,” said Jennifer, who grew up in Old Bridge, NJ, and knew she wanted to be a pharmacist since she was eight years old.
“At that time, being a pharmacist sounded really cool to me,” she added, “and when I was ready to go to college, I only applied to six-year Pharm.D. programs—the one at St. John’s and a few at other schools. But I just knew from the moment I arrived for a tour of St. John’s and saw the peace and beauty of the Queens campus and St. Thomas More Church, that this was the right place for me.”
Her interest in oncology stems from witnessing her mother’s successful battle with cancer. “It is really rewarding to work in oncology after knowing firsthand what a beast cancer is and seeing how many lives this disease affects,” said Jennifer.
In her role as Strategic Development Intern, Jennifer helped monitor the progress of an array of prescription drugs, which are designed to thwart cancer, as they made their way through various trials before being submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval for use to treat patients. She managed and updated data contained in drug portfolios, incorporating information she gathered from clinical teams that were developing the drugs.
Jennifer also collaborated with senior leadership at Novartis, including individuals who interacted directly with investors funding the oncology research the company conducts. She provided support in communication to management and partners across the Novartis organization; assisted with the preparation of various presentations for stakeholders; had a role in activities related to digital data applications; and consolidated input from Novartis’s global program teams in response to requests.
While in Switzerland, Jennifer focused on what she described as “everyday drugs,” including medications to treat renal and cardiological diseases.
“This was a very data-oriented internship. I learned about the different platforms that are used to input data and really dug deep into these trials,” Jennifer said.
“I was very lucky; every day I learned something new. I was taught by people who have so much experience in the pharmaceutical industry and who gave me great nuggets of information.”
Jennifer’s work ethic, determination, and the rigorous training she receives in the Pharm.D. program made her ideally suited for the Novartis internship, according to Joseph M. Brocavich, Pharm.D., Senior Associate Dean for Pharmacy, and Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Clinical Health Professions, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
“Jennifer is a stellar student,” he said. “I know every pharmacy student who has come through these doors since we started the Pharm.D. program at St. John’s. Jennifer is one of our top scholars in terms of attitude, commitment, and dedication.”