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Friday, July 22, 2011

Lowest and Highest Point in My Professional Career

Mt McKinley-the highest point in the United States

I have often been asked by friends and relatives, what were the lowest and highest point in my professional career as a Chemist here in US. Without hesitation and doubt, my most unhappiest moment or the lowest point in my career was when I was laid off with only one day notice (fired/restructuring) from my job as a Principal Research Chemist for Stauffer Chemical Company in Richmond, California.

Also without hesitation, I can state without doubt that the happiest moment or the highest point in my professional career was my promotion to Chemistry Team Leader in FDA including the award I received for expediting the manufacture of a burn ointment needed by the terrorist victims of the 9/11/01 bombing in New York and Washington, D.C.

The following are excerpts from my autobiography, on the two unforgettable events(low and high) in my professional life.(http://theintellectualmigrant.blogspot.com)

Lowest Point in My Professional Career:The Death Valley of My Life

In 1974, I had a choice of working for a private company or the Federal government. I chose to work for Stauffer Chemicals in Richmond, California because I needed the money (higher salary than what the Federal Government was offering me at that time). I started as a Research Chemist and after 10 years (1984) reached the position of Principal Research Chemist. This is the highest technical position ( without supervisory duties) attainable in the company at that time. In 1986, a mass of layoffs occurred at Stauffer Chemicals. The company was getting out of the pesticide business. I was one of 60 employees relieve of our duties after just one day of notice. I just can not described the feeling of being laid off after 12 years of service and good performance. You feel betrayed and unappreciated, and envious of the other employees not fired. How I wish I took the Federal job offered to me at the time. With this experience, I vowed I will never work for a private company*.

Death Valley-the lowest point in the United States

Highest Point in My Professional Career-The Mt McKinley of My Life

I was hired by FDA as a Research Chemist in 1990. In 1994, I was promoted as Expert Research Chemist( GS-14). In 1997, I was again promoted to Chemistry Team Leader, supervising the work of six reviewers ( five with doctorate degrees). As far as I know, I was the first Filipino-American who has achieved this position in FDA. As team leader, I was responsible for prioritizing, assigning, and assuring the technical accuracy of all chemistry, manufacturing and control issues for all new drug applications submitted to the Division of Anti-Infective Drug Products. As team leader, I also give advice, instruct and promote high morale and teamwork in my group. In 1998, I won the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Award. The citation reads, “For outstanding accomplishments in fostering the objectives of the EEO Program by hiring minorities and encouraging their professional growth while providing excellent leadership.”

I have received numerous certificates of appreciation, awards in leadership and communications, commendation for teamwork and excellence in the accomplishment of the FDA mission. I have also received several letters of appreciation from private industry for my review work.

In 1995, I was elected to the United States Pharmacopeia, (USP), Committee of Revision(CR), Standards Division. As an elected member, I was responsible for establishing standards of identity, safety, quality, purity of drug substances and drug products as well as in-vitro and diagnostics products, dietary supplements and related articles used in health care. Election to this body is a very selected process. It is held every five years. In 1995, there were more than 700 scientists nation-wide from academia, government, and industry who volunteered to serve. USP narrowed it down to 256 final nominees. Of the 256, only 128 were elected. Election to the USP Committee of Revision confirms that the person is both the national and international expert in the field of election. In my case, it was in the field of antibiotics, natural products and botanicals.

The University of the Philippines Alumni Newsletter congratulated me with this statement, “ We join with your colleagues and your family in congratulating you for this singular honor, which brings prestige to the Philippines as well”. In March, 2000 I was reelected for another 5 year term.

My career in FDA would not be complete if I do not mentioned the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. I remember clearly what I was doing and how I felt afterward. That morning in September 11, 2001, The office of New Drug Chemistry had a joint meeting with representatives of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PHARMA) at the Hilton Hotel in Gaithersburg, MD. At about 9:20 AM, we received an announcement that the meeting is canceled and we can go home, since the World Trade Center in New York was burning. All of the attendees went to the hotel lobby and the TV was announcing the news. I felt sick, depressed but helpless to see the burning WTC building. Later, I learned that the Pentagon in Washington DC was also bombed and another plane crashed in the field somewhere in Southern Pennsylvania. I also found out that this United Airline plane was intended for the White House. Had it not been for the courageous heroics of several passengers, the White House would have suffered the same fate as the WTC and the Pentagon.

The most heinous crime of the century produced thousands of burnt victims. Two drugs in my Division, Sulfamylon and Silvadene, approved for the treatment of burns were out of supply. A chemistry manufacturing supplement has to be approved as soon as possible to manufacture more of these ointments in a new facility. This required a review by the chemist, an inspection of the facility by a field inspector, my approval as the chemistry team leader plus the paper work by the project manager. The drugs are needed immediately, so we have to do an expedited review of the manufacturing supplement. It took us only 12 hours to approve the new facility and the review of the chemistry supplement and its manufacturing and control procedures. This review normally will take at least one month to three months depending on the availability of the field inspector and the schedule of the review chemist.

In December, 2001, the four members of my review team received a special cash award and recognition award from FDA management for our work on expediting review of two drugs, Sulfamylon and Silvadene. Of my more than a dozen awards I had, this one is the most appreciated. I felt that I have done my job as a public servant and had helped the victims of the terrorist attack in a timely manner. In January, 2002 I received another award for my work on Doxycycline, an antibiotic needed to treat anthrax victims due to bio terrorism activities from unknown terrorists.

*Afterthought: I should really thank Stauffer Chemical Company management for firing me even after 12 years of excellent performance. This experience gave me an incentive to work for the Federal Government, otherwise, I would probably be working in the laboratory all my life. FDA had challenged me to my utmost ability. I learned not only to be a "work" oriented but also a "people" oriented human being. My 12 years in FDA had been the most productive and satisfying years of my professional career.



Note: For continuation of my FDA employment experiences, read http://lifeinus1960present.blogspot.com or my autobiography above.

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