My guest today is CDR Stephen Chang. He’s a pharmacist and an Officer in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He’s an advocate for public health, and during our interview, we discuss how he got from pharmacy school to working for the FDA, settings he’s worked in, roles he’s served, deployments he has been on, what he thought he would be doing upon graduation when he was just a pharmacy student, and advice for students and pharmacists who are considering their career options. If you’re interested in a career in public health, you need to listen to our conversation!
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BIO (August 2023)
CDR Stephen Chang, PharmD, MPH, currently is a Senior Clinical Policy Advisor at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), Office of Product Evaluation and Quality (OPEQ), Immediate Office, Post Market Programs and works from San Francisco, CA. He earned his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, University of the Sciences in 2008, and his Master of Public Health from the University of Washington in Seattle in 2015. He also completed a PRESCIENT Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.
CDR Chang has a broad range of professional certifications and training in the areas of executive management and leadership, pharmacy-based immunization delivery, and emergency preparedness, epidemiology, biostatistics, translational/precision health, data science. He has numerous research publications and speaker engagements as well as professional honors and awards.
As a Senior Clinical Policy Advisor, CDR Chang serves as an expert and resource for Office and Center staff and Management within the Centers for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). This support includes providing expertise, direction, and feedback on policies, procedures, and program support on all aspects of regulatory and scientific policy to the seven Offices of Health Technology, Office of Regulatory Programs and Office of Clinical Evidence pertaining to the collection and use of Post Market data related to medical device use and performance.
Of his 15-year career in federal service and in the United States Public Health Service, he most recently served as an Associate Director in the Division of Hepatology and Nutrition, Office of New Drugs (OND), Centers for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and as a Senior Medicaid Enterprise Systems State Officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Previously, he also served as an outpatient pharmacist in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
Highlights from our conversation
I love interviewing Public Health Service Commissioned Corps pharmacists! They have such interesting careers!
When he was in pharmacy school, CDR Chang envisioned himself working in a hospital setting upon graduation. An internship at Johns Hopkins early in pharmacy school planted the thought. However, when he was still a pharmacy student, CDR Chang heard about the Public Health Service from other students and his mentor at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. He got curious out working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, explored his options, and started a career PHSCC right after pharmacy school.
Pharmacy students who want to work for the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) [as a student] should research the JRCOSTEP and SRCOSTEP programs. To learn more, visit https://www.usphs.gov/students/. Postdoctoral Fellowship and residency opportunities are available too.
CDR Chang’s first PHSCC job was located in a Federal Prison on an army base in New Jersey – a unique setting! His patients were inmates in the prison. He found the job rewarding, and he enjoyed using his clinical skills there.
His next job was at the FDA. Supporting the approval process for medications was a new challenge for him. No patient interaction; it was more of a data-management role.
There are a lot of pharmacists in the US who are looking for roles outside of traditional practice (hospital and retail). CDR Chang recommends a career with the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Pharmacists can really apply their skill sets in the Commissioned Corps.
CDR Chang enjoys discussing his Public Health Service Commissioned Corps role with students. He has spoken to pharmacy students at The University of California San Francisco and pharmacy students on rotations at his FDA site. He If you’re interested in the Public Health Service, reach out to an Officer (like CDR Chang), and find out what a day in their work life is like! (Great advice!)
Deployments are an exciting challenge and make a huge impact. For example, CDR Chang was deployed to Detroit, MI for one and the US Gulf Coast (Houston, TX) for another. Unlike deployments with the US Dept of Defense, PHSCC Officers have advanced notice so that they and their families can plan for their absence.
The deployment to Detroit, Michigan was during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was the Officer in Charge at a vaccination center. From working with various emergency management agencies to local pharmacies and US Air Force Airmen, his center vaccinated about 250,000 people in 6 weeks.
The deployment to the US Gulf Coast was related to the BP Oil spill. His work focused on communicating accurate information about injured workers to the CDC. (Many workers were exposed to oil or were burned in fires.)
Public Health Service Pharmacists hear the call to serve and believe in the mission of the PHSCC. The mission of the US Public Health Service is to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of our Nation.
At one point in his career, CDR Chang worked for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the Medicaid area. When the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid, CDR Chang helped with different initiatives that were part of that push for enrollment. He did not have a direct patient care role. However, during his time at CMS, CDR Chang and his colleagues were part of outreach efforts for Medicare beneficiaries. CDR Chang enjoys talking to elderly patients.
After CMS, CDR Chang returned to the FDA. Instead of helping patients or focusing on medication-related issues, his work focuses on medical devices.
PHSCC pharmacists can retire at the 20-year mark, but CDR Chang has no plans to retire yet. He’s happy where he is.
PHSCC pharmacists can relocate and/or change agencies. If you look at a map of the US, CDR Chang’s career path from pharmacy school to his current role touches several states, including PA, NJ, and CA. Some PHSCC Officers enjoy relocating; others prefer to stay in one spot.
CDR Chang is a classically trained violinist. He even took a violin master class with a famous fiddler named Mark O’Connor.
Fun fact! Robin Williams (American actor) and CDR Chang shared an airplane ride once. CDR Chang spotted him on the plane and in baggage claim!
Links from this episode
LinkedIn Stephen Chang, PharmD, MPH
Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, now located within Saint Joseph’s University
Ford Field – Detroit, Michigan (Home of the Detroit Lions NFL Team)
4 Other podcast episodes featuring PHSCC pharmacists:
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Thank you for listening to episode 239 of The Pharmacist’s Voice ® Podcast!