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Young Leader in Pharmacy Brian Cicali: " does not get into healthcare with personal gain in mind."

Brian Cicali



Ph.D. candidate in Pharmaceutical Sciences (expected 2022)

                -University of Florida

M.S. in Computational Science

                -Stockton University

B.S. in Pharmacology and Toxicology 

                -Philadelphia College of Pharmacy

 Current Role

Ruffolo Graduate Education and Research Fellow

                -University of Florida, College of Pharmacy

What excites you about being a pharmacist?               

What excites me the most is the intersection of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences. I believe the ability to blend cutting-edge science and technology with clinical care for the benefits of patient health and safety around the world is a gift to mankind and I am very excited to be a part of it.

When you graduated, what did you envision for your future? How has your career evolved since your graduation?

My career path has undergone many transformations since graduating from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in 2013, and my vision for the future has also evolved as a result. When I first graduated, I did not have much in terms of an envisioned future besides get a job and be a part of the development of new drugs to help patients. After two years of working in medical chemistry and structure-activity relationship characterizations, I realized that the integration of modern computing powers with clinical pharmacology and pharmacy is the future. Thus, I decided I wanted to pursue that future via a Master’s degree in computational science. Little did I know that this move would lead me down a path that would intersect computer programming, pharmaceutical sciences, and pharmaceutical care optimizations; and I am eternally grateful for finding this path and the mentors who helped me walk it thus far.

After obtaining my Master’s and working for two years at a cutting-edge healthcare technology company specializing in integrating pharmacy technology services with medication and healthcare optimization, my career took its next evolutionary step, i.e. obtaining a PhD focused on further integrating drug development and computational technology with the goal of optimizing patient care. I am now working on mechanistic modelling and real-world evidence analyses for the goal of therapy optimizations, particularly for complex drug interactions, behaviours, and special patient populations. I know the future is ever evolving but my current vision for the future is one where computational modelling and patient care are continually integrated to the point where individualized pharmacy care is the norm, ultimately increasing the effectiveness and safety of treatment for all patients.

How important is mentoring in your career?

I believe mentoring is one of, if not, the most important aspect to starting and maintaining a career. Not only does mentoring help shape what career you want to pursue after graduation, professional mentorship once you are in your career should and will help achieve your career goals and interests. As I mentioned, I have undergone multiple career changes that have brought me to where I am, none of which would have been possible without good mentorship. Finding one or a couple of good mentors will make all the difference in the world for both your career and overall happiness. I am now at the point in my career that I can begin giving back by sharing my experiences with others and I am finding that providing mentorship to others is just as, if not more, rewarding than receiving mentoring. Overall, I can strongly confirm that regardless of where a career path goes mentoring will be an important aspect and I highly advise those reading this to consider this for their career.

Was there an “aha” moment for you, when you realized the impact of the difference you’re making?               

I have been lucky to have a couple “aha” moments in my short career thus far. I believe my biggest one occurred during my second professional position at the healthcare technology company. My work focused more on integrating pharmaceutical science with software development to create technologies that pharmacists could use to optimize patient drug regimens in real time. I recall sitting in a clinical care meeting and seeing one of our clinical pharmacists provide real-world case scenarios that they had encountered and how the technology helped them provide clinical actions, which we could see benefited these patients over time; i.e. fewer doctor/emergency visits, deprescribing, increased cognition, decreased falls, etc. It was during this presentation that I had a huge “aha!” moment where I clearly saw how integrating computer science, pharmaceutical sciences, and clinical care truly impacted patients in our community positively and I am forever grateful for such an experience and hope for many more to come.

If you could accomplish just one thing in your career, what would it be?           

I think I am at the point in my career where I don’t just want to accomplish one thing, so this is quite a difficult question. If I had to just accomplish one thing, I think it would be to help with the integration of mechanistic modelling and patient pharmacy care. In other words, allow for the complex mechanistic models that generally remain in the realm of drug development to be in the hands of community and hospital pharmacists so more complex care scenarios, such as polypharmacy and disease-based interactions, can be better addressed at the point of patient care.

As a dynamic leader in the profession, what continues to drive you?

I believe one does not get into healthcare with personal gain in mind, as the most important aspect/goal of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences is to help others who are sick or suffering. With that in mind, I would say this innate drive to help along with my passion for scientific discovery is what continues to drive me professionally as well as in terms of leadership. Truthfully, I never really considered getting into leadership or being a leader in my profession. The leadership aspects of my career are something that have come about naturally through my drive and focus on improving patient care and drug development while working with peers around the world. 

How are young leaders paving the way for changes in the pharmacy profession?

I think everyone would agree that students, trainees, and early-career professionals are the future of both pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences. An important part of the transition from “futuristic” to the “modern” practices is having young leaders step up and advocate for things they agree and disagree with concerning the pharmacy profession and taking the right steps to improve what has come before. As a more specific answer from my prospective, I see many young leaders paving the way for deeper collaborations among not just pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists, but among other fields such as epidemiologists, mathematicians, engineers, etc. Through these novel collaborations being undertaken by young leaders, we are seeing the opportunities for pharmacy and pharmaceutical science professions expand from beyond the “traditional” route, which I look forward to help/see unfold over the upcoming years.  

What advice would you give to new pharmacy graduates?

1) Keep an open mind for your career and personal life, it can take many twists and turns with countless challenges, but ultimately it is your life and career. Happiness both professionally and personally begins with you being open and honest with yourself.

2) Take advantage of professional societies. They can help with everything from CE maintenance, professional networking, professional development, and even create life-long friends through peer-interactions at various meetings.

3) Find good professional mentors as soon as possible, whether within your position or more generally, such as in a professional society’s mentorship program. Mentors will help provide a perspective of the field that you could not obtain without their influence, which can be invaluable for your own career development and choices.


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