Our number one goal for our students has always been to provide them with the knowledge, skills, and experiences that will allow them to sustain a fabulous career in their particular field of interest. Graduate studies is one area where our strategy for achieving this is changing rapidly and requires constant re-evaluation. For some of our graduate students, a career as a university scientist is the end goal. However, we have seen this landscape shift dramatically over the last decade, and as a faculty, there is a recognition of the importance of exposing all of our students to engaging careers in science beyond the borders of campus.
Recently, our faculty’s Industry Engagement Strategy has highlighted a number of opportunities for our graduate students that we want to capitalize on. The strategy focuses on building and intensifying public-private partnerships with Canada’s large multinational pharmaceutical and medical device companies, all of which are seeking out early-career scientists with specialized knowledge of how industry functions.
Over the last four years, we have initiated conversations with over 40 companies, 30 of which have sent delegations to Queen’s to explore collaborative research opportunities with our junior and senior investigators. These discussions have undoubtedly served to catalyze new areas of investigation and other forms of collaborative work. And, they have helped us to identify how we can prepare our students for fulfilling careers in the pharmaceutical industry.
The strategy is maturing and becoming quite foundational in our thinking, especially as funding agencies such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) become more explicit about the need for partners who could support knowledge translation activities. There are other important trends to note such as an increased desire by provincial and federal governments to focus on life sciences as a key driver of economic growth through innovative procurement and their changing view of healthcare as a cost driver to an economic opportunity. Strengthening our national capacity in life sciences will ultimately provide greater opportunities for academic institutions to partner with the private sector. To capitalize on the promise of life sciences to deliver new wealth and improved healthcare for Canadians, we must ensure, as an academic institution, that our students and trainees have the necessary experience and skill set to contribute to building this sector over the long-term.
Over the last year, we have worked diligently to create a new program that addresses these realities. On May 11, we are hosting our first Career Pathways in the Healthcare Industry event, to kick off our new Certificate in Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Management Innovation and strengthen our connections with industry. This event will be oriented towards our student communities who may be interested in understanding more about health science related careers in industry.
We are thrilled to have some of Canada’s leading life science executive join us for this interactive symposium, including Vratislav Hadrava, Vice-President & Medical Director at Pfizer Canada, Dion Neame, Head of Scientific and Medical Affairs Canada at Sanofi Pasteur, and Michael Duong, Director of Medical Affairs (Evidence Generation) at Hoffmann-La Roche. Our guests will highlight unique career opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry and speak to how the different functional areas in research, medical, and scientific affairs intersect in contributing to Canada’s healthcare system. And of course we could not have brought this event together without the generous support of our sponsors: Sanofi Pasteur, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca.
I have no doubt that this will be an engaging and informative event for all attendees, whether or not a career in industry is on the radar. As such, I warmly encourage all students – from Queen’s and beyond – to attend this event either in person or via webcast to learn about emerging trends in the Canadian health sciences.