By Jennifer McEntee
Keira Kim earned her Bachelor's degree in chemistry from Cal Poly Humboldt three decades ago. In the years since, she's worked as a scientific writer and raised four sons, including one with Down syndrome and autism.
She was working as a medical writing manager at a Carlsbad, Calif.-based biosciences firm when she realized it was time to refresh her résumé.
"I saw a gap in my knowledge," Kim said. "I was siloed as a writer. I understood drugs, but I struggled to see the bigger picture."
Her solution: she enrolled in the Master of Science in Drug Development and Product Management program at the University of California, San Diego.
The program helps working professionals further their skillsets and careers in life science industries such as pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. The drug development process is multilayered, requiring a grasp of pre-clinical, clinical, managerial, regulatory and marketing tasks.
"I have learned and grown so much," said Kim, who graduated from the UC San Diego Master's program in June 2022. "The course material provides not only a comprehensive understanding of the discovery, development, and commercialization of new drugs but is dovetailed and presented by academic and industry experts in practical and relevant ways that can be directly applied in the workforce."
Kim said she learned how to think and plan more strategically while gaining better presentation and communication skills.
"It's so important to understand the language of all the teams within a business," she said.
Conferred by the University of California, San Diego graduate division, the MS in Drug Development and Product Management program is a collaboration between the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies. Skaggs faculty creates and teaches the curriculum, while UC San Diego Extended Studies administers the program. Classes are held three evenings a week over three academic quarters for 36 units of study.
Although she couldn't have anticipated it, Kim's enrollment in the Master's program gave her a new focus in uncertain times. A few months into her graduate education, she was laid off by her biosciences employer after a company acquisition. The coronavirus pandemic pushed jobs and academics online.
"I'd been wanting to go back to school for a good five years," she explained. "But I was always up to my eyeballs in work and projects. I just didn't think there was time."
Kim said she hopes she'll be able to leverage her newly gained capabilities into a leadership role at a company involved in drug development. With her medical writing experience and a greater understanding of what happens on the regulatory side, Kim said she could help improve collaboration across departments.
"I believe this synergy will ultimately benefit patients who need new or better treatments," she said.
The MS in Drug Development and Product Management program uses a case-based and project-oriented approach. Kim said she studied, researched and collaborated online with fellow students from around the globe at various stages of their respective professions. Some were just a few years beyond their undergraduate degrees, while others were looking to advance their careers after many years in the workplace.
"I felt like my life experience was very well-respected," she said. "And I appreciated all the different perspectives."
Kim considers herself a lifelong learner. She said that an advanced degree would help her attain professional objectives that were previously out of reach.
"As a San Diego resident for over 25 years, I have observed the growth in our local biotech industry and how UC San Diego has been a unique contributor to this growth," Kim said. "I felt that the expertise of the faculty -- and their relationships with biotech industry leaders -- would be able to help me reach my goals."
Learn more about the Master of Science in Drug Development and Product Management program at https://ddpm.ucsd.edu.