7 posts tagged “careers at PatientsLikeMe”

A Day in the Life of Health Data and Drug Information Clinical Specialist David Blaser

Posted January 11th, 2013 by

What’s it like to work at PatientsLikeMe?  We are continuing to reveal just that with our ongoing blog series “A Day in the Life,” which features PatientsLikeMe employees from different departments.  Today we’d like to introduce you to David Blaser, PharmD, a registered pharmacist who decided to trade his white lab coat for the more casual dress of the startup world in early 2011.  Find out what drew him to PatientsLikeMe, how his pharmacy background factors into his work and more.

1.  What led you to join PatientsLikeMe?

My journey had a few twists and turns, but now that I’m here, I can’t imagine working anywhere else.  I started studying pharmacy at Northeastern in 2003. Toward the end of my time there, I started to consider the career paths I could take and didn’t find any of the traditional ones particularly compelling. Maybe it was part of being young and naïve, but I continually was disappointed and perplexed by our healthcare system in the US. I felt like there had to be a better way.

David Blaser

Then I took a great class called Pharmacoeconomics and Health Outcomes. During this class, you take a medical question (e.g., Should I take drug A or drug B for this problem?) and develop computer models that take into account how it would affect the overall health of the population. It made perfect sense to me, and I didn’t understand why this wasn’t done in our system.

Fascinated with this area of medicine, I started a two-year research fellowship at UMass Medical School to learn more about it. During this time, I worked on lots of models examining conditions from insomnia to hepatitis C. Toward the end, I was looking at career opportunities in this area and got an alert about a posting on PatientsLikeMe. I was amazed how the system PatientsLikeMe had put together was even better than the models I was working on and how it could revolutionize our healthcare system. So I immediately contacted Paul Wicks, the head of R&D at PatientsLikeMe, and was able to set up an internship to work a few days a month on various projects. This eventually turned into a position on the Health Data Integrity Team with Christine Caligtan, Sally Okun and Shivani Bhargava.

On a more personal note, during this time my family and I went through the death of my brother due to substance abuse. This has had a deep impact on me and made me reflect on how can I help others avoid a similar fate. One of my long-term goals at PatientsLikeMe is to develop a better support community for other patients with substance abuse disorders.

2.  What’s surprised you the most about the health startup world?

The majority of my previous work experience was in pharmacies, which is one of the most heavily regulated professions. The amount of documentation, guidelines and laws you have to follow is staggering. When I started at PatientsLikeMe, I would find myself asking, where are our guidelines or what is the protocol?  I remember asking Co-Founder Jamie Heywood, and his response really changed my way of thinking.

He told me that no one else has ever tried to do what PatientsLikeMe is doing and there is no rule book. When you reflect on it, it is amazing to be part of the first company to try to accomplish our mission and develop a rule book for something that’s never been done.  Besides this, there is nothing better than having a job where you can have a beer in the office at the end of a stressful day and others join in with you.  (This is frowned upon in hospitals!)

3.  How does your doctoral and fellowship training inform your work?

While at Northeastern, I completed a doctor of pharmacy degree (PharmD). This gave me the knowledge needed to maintain our drug database and think about how medications should be added to our user profiles. There is still a lot to be done in this area, but I’m looking forward to improving it as we continue to develop our site.

David Blaser (second from left) at play

While at UMass, I studied the different ways that ‘health’ can be measured. This seems like something that should be straightforward, but I found a whole new way of evaluating medicine and health. In theory, you give one group a drug and give another group a sugar pill and see who lives longer, but many patients don’t have the time for that. We need to get answers now, so how can we measure more intermediate outcomes to give us a clue about which medications work better? And what about medications that don’t make you live longer, but make your life better? It’s a difficult process that will never be perfect, but I think that the surveys and tools PatientsLikeMe has developed do an excellent job of measuring these things.

4.  What are the challenges of overseeing the wealth of drug information on the site?

People love sharing information! I recently talked with a member who entered information related to a hand injury they experienced while cutting some fruit, including every nerve and tendon that was injured and the different surgeries and operations to heal it. We love that people share such detailed information, but it can create some difficulty in designing profiles so that they are not overwhelming.

As for the drug information on the site, there are many ways that medications are formulated and taken that are difficult to show in the system. Medications can have different dosages, different formulations (e.g., creams, syrups, pills, injections), different schedules (e.g., take one daily, take one every six weeks, etc.), and they can come in a variety of combinations with other drugs. Not to mention the same medications may be available as a prescription drug, over-the-counter drug and supplement all at the same time. The medication databases that are available don’t always meet the needs of our users, but I do my best to put the right information and options in front of them.

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Interested in making a difference in patients’ lives?  Check out our Careers page to see our current job openings.  Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, PatientsLikeMe is looking for a Senior Visual Designer, Client Services Program Director, HEOR Research Scientist and more at the moment.


A Day in the Life of Health Data and Patient Safety Clinical Specialist Christine Caligtan

Posted December 5th, 2012 by

What’s it like to work at PatientsLikeMe?  We are continuing to reveal just that with our monthly blog series “A Day in the Life,” which features PatientsLikeMe employees from different departments.  Today we’d like to introduce you to Christine Caligtan, RN, MSN, a registered nurse who has served as our Health Data and Patient Safety Clinical Specialist since May 2011.  Find out what that involves, why she made the switch to the health startup world and much more in our interview.

PatientsLikeMe Health Data and Patient Safety Clinical Specialist Christine Caligtan, RN, MSN

1.  What’s it like to be a registered nurse at a health startup?

I could not be happier as a registered nurse at PatientsLikeMe. It’s the best of both worlds: I get to interact with patients online, and I am satisfying the informatics side of my interests by working the patients’ data and fostering their ability to track and maintain their health with online tools.

When I started working as a nurse I never thought my career path would lead me to a health startup. As I encountered different clinical settings and patient experiences, I knew that technology was the key to advancing healthcare.  From that point, I decided I wanted to work in the field of nursing informatics. The first step in that direction was when I was asked to join a multi-disciplinary team to help build and design an electronic health record (EHR) for a hospital in New York City.  Linking the patients and the healthcare team to the power of technology is extremely satisfying.

I first learned about PatientsLikeMe when I was in grad school.  I was taking a course called Consumers and Interactive Healthcare, and my professor and advisor Lena Sorenson shared with us some of the innovative health companies for consumers, and PatientsLikeMe was one of them! In fact, Lena encouraged me to apply to PatientsLikeMe since I was looking for a shift in my career.  It has turned out to be a perfect fit.

2.  What kind of projects are you working on right now?

We have been working on some improvements for our epilepsy community, making existing tools easier to use and investigating how to better connect doctors and patients. Then, on a daily basis, David Blaser, our Health Data and Drug Information Clinical Specialist, and I curate the data that our users submit to us. Any time there is a condition, treatment or symptom that our users cannot find in our database, we review it and add it to our growing database of patient-reported data. Our job is to ensure we maintain structure and organization with all of the data.

3.  You lead weekly yoga classes for PatientsLikeMe staff.  Tell us about that.

One of the definite highlights of my job! Every Wednesday I have the privilege of leading a small group of staff in a 90-minute Hatha/Vinyasa yoga class. I completed my teacher training during the summer of 2011 at South Boston Yoga. When I came back from training, there was a lot of interest and support in having me teach at work. It’s been a lot of fun and has helped me grow my practice in so many ways.

Christine Leading a Yoga Class at PatientsLikeMe Headquarters

Every week we roll out our mats and practice yoga together. All of my office mates know that Wednesdays at 5pm in Siberia (our back office space) is yoga time.  To counter the frenetic energy in the office, I like to begin class with meditation and some grounding poses and then slowly turn up the heat with the more challenging poses. We practice together to honor the time and space that we create for ourselves so that we can be our best selves.

4.  What are your three favorite things about working at PatientsLikeMe?

I am in constant amazement of the dedication to creating a meaningful experience for our patients and clients. I like our office camaraderie and commitment to creating change within healthcare. And of course, I love our weekly Wednesday yoga days. We rock out, sweat and play, and that’s my ideal end to a work day.

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Interested in making a difference in patients’ lives?  Check out our Careers page to see our current job openings.  Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, PatientsLikeMe is looking to hire an Analytics Strategist / Data Scientist, Chief Technology Officer, Data Visualization Engineer / Chart Developer and more at the moment.