Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

pharmaMr. Big Pharma


  • 680 GMAT (projected)
  • 3.64 GPA
  • Doctor of Pharmacy degree from a well-respected university in the industry
  • Work experience includes two years as a clinical services director at a pharmacy benefits management firm, providing clinical direction and leadership to an in-house staff of four pharmacists and 20 customer service reps and technicians; one year as a clinical pharmacist at OptumRx and four years as a staff pharmacist at Rite Aid
  • Extracurricular involvement includes winning a business plan competition in 2009 at a school with a top 14 MBA program vs. other undergrad and graduate students; real estate development from 2008-2011, accumulating over $800K in assets. Ultimately failed due to internal disputes/litigation with partners; member of Rho Chi, the pharmacy honor society, a guitar player and a body builder
  • Goal: To become a leader in the PBM industry
  • “With the new healthcare overhaul and with 50% of the drugs in clinical trials being very expensive specialty medications, the industry is and will continue to look for new ways to manage drug spend while using the change in healthcare laws to its advantage”
  • 30-year-old African American male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30%

Wharton: 40%

Stanford: 20%

Berkeley: 40%+

MIT: 40%+

Chicago: 40%+

Sandy’s Analysis: First, get that 680 GMAT.

Phew, I cannot say I fully understand what you do as a Pharmacy Benefits Manager, although I think understand enough.  This entry from was helpful:

“Currently, in the United States, a majority of the huge managed prescription drug benefit expenditures are conducted by about 60 PBMs. . . . PBMs compete to win business by offering their clients a range of sophisticated administrative and clinically based services, enabling them to manage drug spending by enhancing price competition and increasing the cost-effectiveness of medications. In 2012, the five largest PBMs were: 1. Express Scripts (acquired Medco); 2. CVS Caremark Corp; 3. Prime Therapeutics, a PBM owned by and operated for collection of state Blue Cross Blue Shield plans; 4. OptumRx, the PBM business unit of UnitedHealth Group;5.Catamaran (SXC + Catalyst) maran (SXC + Catalyst).”

From reading your post, especially parts like, “Created a medication therapy management (MTM) program with a revenue model that positions over 200 independent pharmacists in the community setting to aid, what soon will be, a stress healthcare system due to 30 million patients gaining access to coverage in 2014” I assume the company you work for is big, if not one of the five biggest noted in the quote.

The fact that you are intimately aware of the changing health landscape due to Obamacare is a big plus as well.   You were a little cagey about GPA, noting, “3.64 GPA Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). University is well respected in the industry  .  .  . .”

Cynical me reads that as undergrad GPA is lower and Ph.D.  school is solid specialty program but not well known. A 3.64 GPA  in a Ph.D program is actually on the low side, but I assume a pharma Ph.D is not all liberal arts junk courses. In fact, as a geezer who takes a lot of legally prescribed pills, I hope a Ph.D. in pharma is very few liberal arts junk courses. I don’t need the cats dispensing my meds, or ‘formulating them’ (whatever that means, but you seem to do that, too) hopped up on Metaphysical Poetry.

Being a minority is also a plus, and my guess is that most Ph.D’s in PBM are as white as their lab coats.

Soooo, lots to like.

Let me get one thing straight: you are not now a staff pharmacist at Rite Aide? That is something you did for four years before joining Optimum Rx for a year and then started your current job with the un-named PBM? It was a bit unclear from your original post. If you are working at Rite-Aid now, clarify that in comments, and I’ll “reformulate” this analysis.

Dude, get that projected 680 GMAT! If you don’t get a respectable GMAT score, we begin to question the so-so other grades you will be reporting, and the rigor of the program. A 680 with respectable quant and verbal scores would make life easy for someone on the adcom trying to help you, of whom there may a quite a few.

As to winning a business plan competition, which you note you have done, that is fine. As to something else you note, “Real estate development from 2008-2011. Accumulated over 800K in assets. Ultimately failed due to internal disputes/litigation with partners.” Friend, I would soft-peddle this and possibly omit it, if it was not your full-time job. We just get an ugly picture of a guy who can otherwise  present himself as a reformer and BS-destroyer when discussing Obamacare deeply involved instead in some sordid set of real estate deals and fights with other hateful partners.

As to goals, you say. “Become a leader in the PBM industry. With the new healthcare overhaul and with 50% of the drugs in clinical trials being very expensive specialty medications, the industry is and will continue to look for new ways to manage drug spend while using the change in healthcare laws to its advantage.”

Hmnnn, that is a bit choppy and has two elements: 1. you want to do something about drug development, especially about expense (that part is less clear) and 2. you want to help ‘the industry’ (what industry? the makers, the dispensers, the users) find ways to leverage the details of Obamacare to save money. Sort of like a guy who really knows the tax code could help a corporation save on its taxes??

If that was your thought, put it in the shredder. No business school adcom (as opposed to every Fortune-1000 company in the USA) cares about that. The adcoms of the schools you are targeting want someone who can combine his intimate knowledge of pharma with his newly acquired MBA skills to lead the charge for better pharma management, better access to drugs, better blah, blah, blah. Read some op-eds about the need to clean up the way drugs are created, dispensed, and paid for, and make that your goal statement. I found this after a 30-second search,

And I am sure you can do better since you live and breath this. This is from a 2004 book as well, and I am sure you can tailor this jive to Obamacare.

1.   Drug companies produce too many me-too drugs and too few innovative ones. (See Chapters 4 and 5.)

2.   The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is too much in the thrall of the industry it regulates. (Chapter 11)

3.   Drug companies have too much control over clinical re­search on their own products. (Chapters 6 and 9)

4.   Patents and other exclusive marketing rights are undesirably long and too elastic. (Chapter 10)

5.   Drug companies have too much influence over medical edu­cation about their own products. (Chapter 8)

6.  Important information about research and development, marketing, and pricing is kept secret. (Chapters 1,3, and 7)

7.   Prices are too high and too variable. (Chapters 1 and 12)

Prof. Marcia Angell (Harvard) & M.D. Reforming Big Pharma.

Just say that is what you want to do, in general. You get the idea, and find some job either in a progressive side of industry, or as a consultant to government or even a pharma company, that will let you fake it, or if so minded, actually do it.  You should not present yourself as someone who just wants a promotion to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

If you can get that 680 GMAT, and solid recs, and combine it into a convincing story, you have a real chance at HBS and Stanford. Oddly, Wharton, which specializes in Health Care Management, might be harder because they probably see more naive wannabes like you. Ms Kinney over there has been around the block many times.

Nonetheless, you got a lot going and if you can get down the PC-correct goals statement, even she might go for this. MIT might also be more skeptical, but they are always looking for African-American males with serviceable GMATs.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.