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Steven Graham, Nu’23

“As Penn Nursing students, we are taught the fundamental skills required to proficiently care for our patients. From learning how to perform a history and physical exam in undergraduate nursing labs, to practicing safe medication administration during our clinicals, we focus on perfecting the skills necessary to be excellent clinicians.”

“From the first time I was in a clinical setting, I was fascinated with the pathophysiology and pharmacology of oncology patients. Cancer does not discriminate; it impacts individuals across all age groups and from all walks of life.

While oncology care has advanced in the last several decades, there is still a great un-met need for high quality oncology care around the world. In the Penn Nursing spirit of innovation, I explored ways to combine my fascination with cancer care and my clinical education and found myself in the pharmaceutical industry.

When I began my first internship in the pharmaceutical industry, the learning curve was steep. While I found my clinical skills extremely useful, it takes an entirely new level of skill to become an expert in one therapeutic area, which for me was advanced lung cancer.

From understanding the therapeutic landscape, to staging the cancer and evaluating its response, a whole new area of clinical skills is necessary. With the fear of being unprepared, came the fear of being the only person from a nursing background. However, I quickly realized I was not going to be the only nurse.

Throughout the pharmaceutical industry, thousands of nurses are found in roles focusing on education, medical affairs, clinical sciences, clinical trials management, pharmacovigilance and much more. Nurses have the ability to utilize their clinical skills in an entirely new area, one focused on innovation and bringing new medicines to patients.

As a second year intern in what is known as clinical sciences, I assist to design, execute, and monitor clinical trials taking place around the world. Effectively, we are the oversight for all the principal investigators around the world.

While I love taking care of patients at the bedside, I am only able to have several patients at a given time.

Through the management of clinical trials, I am able to impact the lives of thousands of patients at a time in dozens of countries; not to mention all the future patients who will be impacted.

It is incredibly rewarding to see patients, many of whom are young with advanced lung cancer, have remarkable outcomes due to the novel therapeutics our team provides them access to.

These are people who have exhausted all other treatment options and are looking for hope. We see mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, all of whom are near death have remarkable responses and achieve what is effectively long term remission for their disease.

I am proud to be part of this great work and am confident that through the work of scientists and researchers in the coming decades, nurses will no longer be seeing their patients into remission, but rather will be curing their patients of their cancer.

I urge more nurses and nursing students to explore using their clinical skills in the pharmaceutical industry. As I regularly discuss with my colleagues who are nurses, no matter your nursing background and experiences, the pharmaceutical industry provides an exceptionally rewarding way to serve patients.

Many of my nurse colleagues come from women’s health, medical-surgical and critical care settings. What unites us as a team is the common goal of caring for patients which is what motivates my work every day

To submit your own story, visit: www.nursing.upenn.edu/humans.