Given an “opportunity to impact a much larger group,” he moved to a nonclinical role. Here, he offers advice for physician leaders considering a different path in health care.
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Michael DePietro, MD, a member of the association since 2009, is a longtime pulmonary and critical care physician now in the pharmaceutical industry. He recently started with Teva Pharmaceuticals as senior director/mechanical and digital inhaler platform global medical affairs, where he is leading the development of the digital and connected inhaler program.
In 2014, he made the decision to move away from a clinical role, joining AstraZeneca as senior medical director for U.S. medical affairs/respiratory. It was a big jump. He had spent about 15 years as a pulmonary and critical care physician as a partner at Pulmonary Associates of Christiana Care Health Services, a teaching hospital in Delaware, and a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania.
DePietro graduated from Hahnemann (now Drexel) University School of Medicine in Pennsylvania, and did post-graduate medical training in internal medicine, neurology, critical care and pulmonary disease at several institutions, including Georgetown University Hospital, the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the National Institutes of Health.
When not at work, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Lisa, and their three sons, Thomas, 22, Matthew, 20, and Patrick, 18. Thomas is in medical school, and the other two are in college. They are avid baseball fans who hope one day to complete their goal of seeing at least one game in all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums.
During National Pharmacy Week, DePietro shares how his medical experience helped him transition to a nonclinical role and offers advice for physician leaders considering a different path in health care?
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
What inspired you to become a physician?
I was interested in science from a very young age — mostly science fiction, but that was an introduction to real science. This got channeled into the practical idea of becoming a physician by my parents, in different ways. My mother was a nurse and my father thought very highly of physicians, so I was exposed to medical things early. My father really pushed the idea that this was a practical way of using science to do some good and make a very nice living. He was right on both counts.
What did you find particularly attractive about physician leadership in the pharmaceutical industry versus what you were doing before? Why did you make the transition?
I really enjoyed practicing medicine. I was a pulmonary critical care physician in a large tertiary-care community hospital. In addition to seeing patients, I was involved in teaching medical residents, students and critical care physician assistants. I never tired of it and, in many ways, I miss it. The biggest reason to move on, however, was the desire to focus on impacting the overall management of disease on a population level. I had the opportunity to do some clinical research, but, in the practice setting, I was not able to really focus on it. So, while I miss the day-to-day patient contact, I now have the opportunity to impact a much larger group of patients and physicians.
What makes physician leadership unique or important in the pharmaceutical industry? What’s your role in that environment?
I think what makes it unique is the sheer volume of stakeholders you engage with and different kinds of activities one needs to do effectively in order to bring a new treatment to the market and therefore to patients. And, of course, in a way that helps your business be successful.
Do you have any advice for physician leaders that are looking to take a different path in health care?
I would say to those early in their careers or relatively young physicians, the most important thing you can bring to the table within the industry is clinical and scientific knowledge — the experience one can only develop as a practicing clinician. I am concerned that, at times, I see younger physicians wondering early about how to get management experience or a business degree, etc. These things have value, but not the unique value a physician brings.
How has becoming a member of the association helped you and your career?
It is an opportunity to take advantage of the educational resources. For example, I have found many of the courses very useful, especially when I was starting out learning about many of the economic issues in medicine. It is also an opportunity to network with others who have moved to nonclinical roles. I have been a member for many years and have learned a great deal from the association.