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Melody Berg – Infectious Disease Pharmacist, Clinical Content Specialist / Drug Information Pharmacist

What makes your career path unique?

My career path is unique because I’ve worked in a variety of clinical practice areas since completing post-graduate residency training.

While I did most of my post-graduate year two residency training in infectious diseases pharmacotherapy, it was a pharmacotherapy specialty residency. Having that broad exposure to clinical settings and in-depth knowledge of pharmacotherapy management of various disease states has afforded me the opportunity to work in a variety of settings.

Prior to my current position, I worked as a clinical pharmacist on internal medicine floors of a large, academic medical center. Then, I worked as an antimicrobial stewardship pharmacist at a small, community hospital. Following that position, I worked as an infectious diseases pharmacist in an ambulatory care setting where I worked closely with those impacted by HIV, Hepatitis C, and tuberculosis to help each patient successfully meet therapeutic goals.

All of these unique experiences helped me obtain the skills I need to advance to my current position, where I develop and maintain clinical pharmacotherapeutic content for clinical decision support tools used by healthcare providers all over the world.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

At any one time, I am working on various projects and tasks related to my job. Therefore, no two days ever look alike!

While I always have daily tasks that need to be completed, my days are mostly made up of continuing work or initiating work on a variety of projects; attending meetings with fellow team members; and addressing customer concerns or questions as they relate to our content.

Because my workload is fluid, my days are flexible. This affords me the opportunity to pursue other duties outside of the workplace like being a mother, wife, and a community volunteer.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

As part of my role as a clinical pharmacist in an HIV clinic, I spent my time working to get my patients’ access to—and successful outcomes from—Hepatitis C antiviral treatment for those patients who were co-infected. This required the used of very expensive medications that had to be taken daily with no missed doses for optimal success.

One of my patients at the time did not speak any English. When he came to clinic one day, he was due to refill his medications and made us aware that he lost insurance and was no longer able to afford the refill for his Hepatitis C medication (it was going to cost him around $33,000).

For three days, I worked with the clinic’s social workers, the patient’s pharmacy, our interpreter staff, and the drug company to find grant money to pay for this patient’s prescription. Additionally, we worked together to get him enrolled in prescription drug coverage for his next refill.

Because of this effort, the patient was able to get his medicines and we were able to successfully treat his Hepatitis C—even after missing five days of medication.

This was a very rewarding day! I am proud to have been able to research and find resources to help the patient meet his treatment goals while also working with a variety of healthcare providers to make it happen.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

Working closely with a patient population with an incurable disease can be emotionally challenging at times. While HIV is a disease that is manageable, success is dependent on patients taking their medications consistently as prescribed for the remainder of their lives, and there are many challenges that can prevent this from occurring.

I once worked with a female patient who was the same age as me. She refused to take her medications because she was being busy caring for her family as a single mother. Unfortunately, as a result, she passed away suddenly from her comorbid disease state. When I found out about this, I was devastated!

As pharmacists, we always want what is best for your patients. But, sometimes providing the tools necessary just isn’t enough. This is one of the most challenging parts of my job.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I was always attracted to the health care field. As I explored various career options, I liked pharmacy, specifically clinical pharmacy. This is mainly because I saw that this field would provide me with the opportunity to focus on the treatment aspect of patient care while also affording me flexibility to develop other passions and interests.

What steps did you take to enter into this career path?

I completed two years of pre-pharmacy coursework at a liberal arts schools before being accepted into a four-year professional pharmacy school program.

After receiving my Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and my Doctorate in Pharmacy, I completed a post-graduate year one residency program and a post-graduate year two residency program—both in pharmacotherapy.

Later in my career, I also went to school part-time to complete a Master’s in Public Health to better equip myself with necessary skills to execute clinical research projects to advance clinical pharmacy practice.

What advice would you give to a student entering pharmacy school?

My advice to students entering pharmacy school is to work hard and seek out various opportunities to expose you to a variety of practice settings. The harder you work and the more experiences you have, the more opportunities will be available to you.

Also, I’d advise students to keep an open mind as they progress through their schooling, training, and career. Opportunities that they might not expect may turn out to be the most rewarding.