January 2003

The Science of Conserving Culture

The Gateway Hypothesis of Substance Abuse

Combining the Liberal Arts, Medicine and Business

Confronting Famine Abroad and Obesity at Home

Integrating Teaching and Research in Mathematics

Challenging a Prominent Hypothesis

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© 2003


Bryn Mawr College
A newsletter on research, teaching, management, policy making and leadership in Science and Technology

Combining the Liberal Arts, Medicine and Business
By Barbara Spector

Can an English major find happiness and success at a pharmaceutical company?

Cathryn Clary ’75

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."

Clary’s responsibilities at Pfizer require a wide-ranging skill set. She helps ensure the company’s compliance with regulations in more than 90 countries, answers questions about drug safety, collaborates with Pfizer’s 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

Clary’s 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 Delaware (1996).

"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 do."

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.

Medical Entrepreneur

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 (1989-92).

Corporate Executive

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.

"By the end of two years, when I’d 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 doesn’t 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, I’m 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 Pfizer’s 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," she says.

Although international travel is a routine part of her job, "I try to keep the nights I’m away from the family down to a minimum," Clary says. She and her husband have always shared child-rearing duties, she notes. "It’s 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. I’ve 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.

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