I reached another significant milestone this year. No not a 20th wedding or work anniversary; I actually achieved both of those many years ago. No this year, 2017, marked the twentieth year that I have been teaching a professional development course in the pharmaceutical industry on Analytical Method Validation. This 3-day course covers the development process drug manufacturers must complete in order to prove that their methods of analysis for testing drugs are acceptable to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Several years ago, I wrote a series of blog posts about how I got started teaching as a part-time endeavor. At that time, our course—I teach it with another pharmaceutical professional—had reached a 15-year milestone. Just this past October, we actually presented the course for the 100th time, another significant achievement. Over those 20 years and 100 presentations, we have taught over 2,600 participants in what has turned out to be a very popular topic due in no large part to the lack of specific guidance from FDA.
This particular topic is one that I have always enjoyed and one I started out doing as a part of my job function over three and a half decades ago. Over the years, I have developed an approach to perform this function that mirrored the one developed by the person I teach with and so laid the groundwork for our co-development of this course.
One of the things that I have discovered about myself in presenting this course is that I really enjoy teaching. To me, it does not seem like work but rather more like play and given it is a topic I am very interested in, one I thoroughly enjoy talking about as well. Also, given the number of times we have presented it, I know the course material so well that there is no preparation time required; I just show up, load my PowerPoint slides, and start talking. We do occasionally make updates to the course to keep current with changing requirements in the industry but this is never an onerous task.
Because my employer does not pay me to teach this course, I have to take vacation time from work in order to participate. Given that I am “on vacation” when teaching, I share this concept with course participants by including vacation slides interspersed among my technical slides. These vacation slides are typically from locations where we teach and coincidently where I try to add in some non-teaching vacation time as well. And my opening vacation slide is from my favorite place in the world—Montreat—where I vacationed for many years growing up.
As I mentioned in that previous blog post, this course has allowed me to see the world. In addition to the designated US locations where we teach (San Francisco, Chicago, and New Brunswick, NJ), I have been to Amsterdam 29 times and Europe a total of 44 times. So while I have used much of my vacation time over the years to teach, it has been in some very interesting locales where I experienced some unique sites.
In that post, I also predicted that by the time I retired, I should be a million-miler frequent flyer with all the travel associated with teaching. Well I haven’t quite reached that level yet with just 728,517 miles so far. But that just means one more milestone to achieve in retirement.
When I wrote those posts several years ago, I also indicated that I wanted to develop a second course to teach. I have since done that, developing a course on Stability requirements in the pharmaceutical industry, another technical development activity drug manufacturers must complete in order to satisfy FDA requirements for establishing the expiration of a product. I have now taught that course six times since launching it in 2015.
And just this year, my brother developed a course that he began teaching for the same organization on another pharmaceutical topic. Next year, we have been able to schedule our respective courses back-to-back so in addition to our teaching, we will get to see each other, something that doesn’t happen that often given the many miles between our homes.
So as we near the end of this year and prepare to ring in a new year, I take pause to celebrate this teaching milestone. And if you happen to work in the pharmaceutical industry and need this type of training in the future, then maybe our paths will cross and you will join me in our vacation time together talking about one of these two exciting topics, at least exciting to me. Hopefully my enthusiasm for the subject will spill over and infect you as well.