Combining the Liberal Arts,
Medicine and Business
By Barbara Spector
Can an English major find
happiness and success at a pharmaceutical company?
Absolutely. Just ask Cathryn
M. Clary 75, senior medical director and
leader of the worldwide depression and anxiety
disease management team at Pfizer Inc. in New
York City. "The grounding I received in English
at Bryn Mawr was the best training I could have
gotten," says Clary, reflecting on her multifaceted
position at the global firm.
There may not appear to be
a connection between Romantic poetry and a prescription
package insert. But Clary, who heads the medical
group responsible for the widely prescribed antidepressant
Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride), says her years
spent writing papers about the former and
revising them in response to professors
critiques have aided her analysis and editing
of the latter. In essence, she explains, "What
I do is a mixture of science and communication."
at Pfizer require a wide-ranging skill set. She
helps ensure the companys compliance with
regulations in more than 90 countries, answers
questions about drug safety, collaborates with
Pfizers marketing department to develop
and review promotional materials, works with investigative
sites to set up and conduct clinical studies,
gives presentations at international meetings
and participates in media interviews.
Clary says her Bryn Mawr education
has helped her in other ways, as well. "The
preparation in literature and culture that I received
at Bryn Mawr has helped me to more effectively
work in a multinational environment," she
explains. "I work across the globe with people
from many cultures and from diverse backgrounds.
The training in liberal humanism that I received
provided a perfect background for working in this
environment, as well as handling the multiple
ethical and business challenges that I face on
a weekly basis."
Degrees of Confidence
Clarys academic background
is as varied as her job description. In addition
to her Bryn Mawr degree, Clary has an M.D. from
the University of Missouri, Columbia (1979). She
did a combined internship in psychiatry and medicine
at the University of Pennsylvania (1979-89) and
a residency in psychiatry at the Hospital of the
University of Pennsylvania (1980-83). She also
earned an executive MBA from the University of
"I always wanted to go to medical school," says
Clary, who took college courses in chemistry,
biology and physics along with courses in English
literature. "What Bryn Mawr taught me was
that I, as a woman, can do anything I want to
Clary, who grew up in Missouri,
recalls that "When I first came to Bryn Mawr,
I met a lot of girls from New York, and they all
seemed so confident to me." After spending
four years in a rigorous academic environment,
she realized that she, too, had become self-assured.
"When I went back to Missouri to go to medical
school, I remember feeling so much more sophisticated
than when I had left."
Spurred by this confidence,
Clary had no qualms about balancing family life
with an active career. "I have three wonderful
kids in addition to a vibrant marriage,"
she says. While at Penn, she met her husband of
22 years, Edward Schweizer, now a medical and
scientific consultant. She had her first child
now 19 during the last year of her
residency; her two younger children are now 17
and 14. "I went on maternity leave for five
weeks, then came back and started seeing patients
again," she recalls.
Upon completing her residency,
she joined a psychiatric practice in Wilmington,
Del. After several years, she started a practice
of her own, which eventually blossomed into the
largest psychiatric practice in Delaware, with
a medical staff of 14. "I liked the entrepreneurial
aspects of medicine," she says.
While running her practice,
she maintained her affiliation with the University
of Pennsylvania and ran a clinical trials site
in Delaware, where she conducted placebo-controlled
studies of antidepressants and anxiolytics. She
served as the principal or co-principal investigator
on clinical trials for depression, panic disorder,
obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety
disorder and social phobia.
In addition to her duties
as head of a practice and as clinical assistant
professor at Penn, Clary held administrative appointments
at several Delaware hospitals, including director
for psychiatric inpatient services at the Medical
Center of Delaware (1987-89) and vice chairman
and director of clinical services in the department
of psychiatry at the Medical Center of Delaware
In 1993, Clary became the
medical director at Meadow Wood Hospital, a psychiatric
hospital in Wilmington, where she managed clinical
services at a time when changing insurance reimbursement
policies forced a drop in the average stay from
30 days to five days. "Clinical decisions
were being driven, frankly, by finances,"
she says. The challenging economic climate inspired
her to pursue an executive MBA in a weekend program.
the end of two years, when Id finished my
MBA," Clary says, "I realized the pharmaceutical
industry is really where I wanted to be."
She came to Pfizer in 1996 as medical director,
depression and anxiety team, and assumed her current
position in 2000.
Clary, who moved her family
to Manhattan when she joined Pfizer, says she
doesnt regret giving up her psychiatric
practice. "I occasionally miss it, but not
as much as I thought I would, because the activities
here are so diverse," she says. "But
when I meet with physicians, Im always very
hungry for news about patients."
At Pfizer, Clary has designed
and run multi-center clinical trials for treatment
of geriatric depression and social phobia, and
has supervised a staff doing a range of other
studies. She notes that while there are abundant
studies on the effectiveness of antidepressant
medications and on the value of psychotherapy,
"empirical data on the combination lag behind
the data on either one alone."
In keeping with Pfizers
mission to educate global communities about a
variety of disorders, Clary participated in a
roundtable discussion on violence as a public
health challenge in Prague in 2001. "We want
to partner with physicians, patients, communities
and the media to discover, develop and market
pharmaceuticals that target unmet medical needs,"
Although international travel
is a routine part of her job, "I try to keep
the nights Im away from the family down
to a minimum," Clary says. She and her husband
have always shared child-rearing duties, she notes.
"Its really a partnership."
Clary advises liberal arts
students to give serious consideration to the
corporate world when weighing career options.
"At a college like Bryn Mawr, you get this
wonderful grounding in liberal arts and the sciences,"
she says. "But students should also think
about going into business. Working at a large
corporation is really very interesting. Ive
been here for six years, and I love it."
About the Author
Barbara Spector writes on
science and technology as well as business topics.
She is the executive editor of Family Business
magazine and former editor of The Scientist.