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Playing the Field
For chemistry major Beatrice Keller ’19, an “I’ll just go and see” opportunity turned into a day of unexpected learning.
The premed student and aspiring doctor originally planned to participate in a one-day externship at a public health institution. When that didn’t pan out Andrea Lange, interim associate provost of academic services, convinced her to spend a day at a pharmaceutical company instead.
Keller visited AmerisourceBergen’s corporate offices in Valley Forge, where she was hosted by Leslie Lighton-Humphreys ’82, a quality assurance analyst for the company. She spent the day touring each department. Lighton-Humphreys reported, “During her visit, Beatrice received a brief overview of AmerisourceBergen business operations, before learning how a cross-section of EITS employees perform their individual roles and responsibilities in order to produce the company’s computerized business supply chain solutions that ensure patients receive accurate and on-time deliveries of their healthcare products.”
Keller learned that companies like AmerisourceBergen act as the middleman between pharmaceutical manufacturers and the hospitals and pharmacies that request these products.
“It’s a very important aspect of the medical field,” she says. It was also one she knew very little about before her externship.
She was surprised, for example, by the amount of computer work involved. “That was interesting. I didn’t know there was much IT in pharmaceutical companies, but they develop software to order drugs, and if that’s not working, nothing works with the pharmaceutical industry.”
One aspect she found particularly thrilling was the company’s research on marketing innovation. “They’re trying to do something like the Amazon Dash Button but it’s more geared toward pharmacies and suppliers,” Keller explains. “When you have a medication in the hospital and it’s about finished, you just click a button and it will fill that prescription.” They also work with augmented reality, which Keller said was “really cool.”
Another surprise source of learning was her lunch break. “Apart from learning about the pharmaceutical company, I kind of learned a lot about the history of America.” She ate at the Black Powder Tavern in nearby Valley Forge, a spot frequented by George Washington.
After school, Keller plans to work in public health. “I was born in Liberia, so I want to do a lot of work between America and Liberia to help improve my healthcare system back home. The global health aspect of it is something I’m really interested in,” she says.
Her externship at AmerisourceBergen gave her a fuller perspective on the organizational structure of the medical field. “I was not really interested in pharmacies or medical carriers,” she says, “but by not limiting yourself to what you think you have an interest in, you can actually learn things that you didn’t know about before.”
Lighton-Humphreys admired Keller’s gumption. “Everyone was impressed with Beatrice’s dedication and how she was able to remain fresh and engaged, given her long journey to suburban Philadelphia from Gaithersburg, Maryland via AMTRAK and SEPTA Regional Rail.”