By Toh Tai Chong
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
07 November 2009 – An important date that has been marked on my calendar for the past 5 months. Travelling 18 hours across the globe (first to Tokyo, then Seattle and finally San Diego) was the experience of my life. With all the documents and checklist that Tracy and Marti have carefully and meticulously prepared for me, I was heading over to sunny San Diego for my first ever international seminar.
Breaking away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore, San Diego presented a striking contrast against the urban backdrop that we are familiar with. This sunny city, tucked nicely in the corner of California, redefined my perception of an urban city: lush greenery, smooth traffic, gorgeous beach and well‐preserved architecture flanked the streets of San Diego. Strategically located in the heart of the city was downtown San Diego; a place I spent 3 unforgettable days, and most importantly, where ISPE Annual Meeting 2009 was held.
Grand Hyatt Hotel was the ideal location for this meeting; it had grand ballrooms, exhibition halls and seminar rooms that were big enough to accommodate over 10,000 people and the capacity to hold the entire list of events lined up for this meeting. Calling this event a “meeting” was definitely an understatement; this was more like an Exposition. There was a trade exhibition in the grand ballroom of the hotel where exhibitors from all over the globe showcased their products and concurrently, over 40 different seminars and talks lined up every single day at different venues within the hotel, leaving all the participants spoilt for choice.
The highlight of my trip was definitely the ISPE Student Poster Competition; after all, that was what I was here for. Students were greeted with a warm welcome lunch where we got to network with representatives from different industry players like FDA and other pharmaceutical companies. This was also a great opportunity to know more about fellow student representatives and how other Student Chapters operate. One common problem faced by all student chapters was the challenge in retaining their members and the high turnover rate that resulted. While different chapters exercised different solutions, I guess the most effective solution was to provide continual education to the students even after graduation, such as the “interview skills” training that was held after the welcome lunch. Trainings like these benefit both students and working professionals alike.
It felt really comforting to see familiar faces in a foreign land, and I could not appreciate it more when Tracy and Rhonda came to help me set up my poster and carefully position it in the most prominent
location – right at the entrance of the exhibition hall. A total of 25 student posters were put up and I was really impressed at the level of research the students were involved in. Motivated, I spent the entire night working on my presentation, determined to give my best for the judging session the following day ‐ not forgetting a sumptuous meal of grilled seafood prior to that of course.
The following day began with an insightful series of keynote seminars presented by various acclaimed speakers; Dr Samuel Bogoch from Harvard Medical School, Dr Lembit Rago from WHO and Dr Antonio Ricco from NASA. I was so inspired by Dr Bogoch’s work that I had a good chat with him for a good half an hour after the session!
Lined up together with the rest of the students, I had the privilege to network with various industry professionals who were very intrigued with our projects. I felt very confident of my presentation amidst the tough competition, and I was all pumped up for what was to come. The judging session went really well and I spent the rest of the afternoon strolling along the streets of San Diego; a luxurious and rare opportunity back in Singapore.
My final day in San Diego commenced with the ISPE membership luncheon with Tracy where I got to know her more on a personal level. Being her usual amicable and thoughtful self, she really helped me to ease the nervousness and apprehension that resided in me, while I was waiting for the results of the Student Poster Competition to be announced. The top prize in my category went to a student from the New Jersey Chapter and his project was really exceptional. As before, I spent the rest of the afternoon snapping pictures and enjoying the tranquility of this beautiful city before making my way back to Singapore.
This has been a very fruitful trip for me and I will never forget this wonderful experience but I could not have achieved it if not for ISPE (Singapore Affiliate), Tracy, Rhonda, Marti and Joanne. Thank you everyone for making this happen!