My UMSOP Story: Michelle Cho, PharmD ’06, senior director of medical affairs, Janssen

Written By: Randolph Fillmore

After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in 1994, and with a desire to work in health care and to help patients live better lives, Michelle Cho, PharmD ’06, started her career at a pharmacy in her home state of Maryland.

After a few years, she sought to have a greater impact and be at the forefront of science.

“I wanted to immerse myself in a specialty therapeutic area with a large unmet need, where the science of the disease was not well understood and pharmaceutical products would have a significant impact on patient lives,” Cho says.

At the time, that area was HIV. Cho wanted to be part of the quest to save lives.

“I wanted to know all the research programs, nuances, and insights about the science of HIV and to be a conduit to communicate so clinicians could have the most up-to-date science to best manage their HIV patients,” says Cho.

In 2002, with a vision of working in industry, she enrolled in the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP) to pursue her PharmD. She spent several years commuting up and down I-95 for her classes, which she fit between her job at the pharmacy and caring for her family.

While pursuing her PharmD, Cho worked in GlaxoSmithKline’s HIV division, training with scientists who were making medication discoveries. In 2007, a year after graduating from UMSOP, she made a career move.

“I discovered that Janssen, the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson, was developing a protease inhibitor, which was to be effective against resistant strains of HIV, along with additional innovations in pharmaceutical products for patients,” she recalls.

Still at Janssen today, Cho has been fortunate to be given the opportunity to navigate her career within the company through a variety of roles.

“Currently, I work in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, a rare disease, and am at the forefront of developing research projects and publications beyond the randomized controlled clinical trial, which is an evolution of evidence generation with real-world data,” she says.

She often reflects on her career path.

“I’m forever grateful to the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy for giving me a world-class education,” says Cho.

She also credits her mentors, Robert Kerr, PharmD, professor emeritus, and former faculty member Deborah Sturpe, PharmD, MA, BCPS, for understanding her industry-oriented goals and for their encouragement.

“They were both clear on what my goals were and gave me the clinical content I needed to pursue a career in industry,” recalls Cho.

This year she was promoted to senior director of medical affairs in Janssen Pulmonary Hypertension. “I drive innovations in the U.S. research strategy to publish needed data in this rare disease,” says Cho.

Her promotion comes after many years leading Janssen teams responsible for gathering evidence to support company products as well as launching new products. Previously she served as Pulmonary Hypertension director of medical affairs and as Janssen’s national director involved in real-world value and real-world evidence, as well as being involved in health economics and outcomes research.

As her career goals are being realized, she also is giving back to both of her alma maters, to the pharmacy profession, and to students as a mentor.

Cho loves to spend time with her husband Kevin and their three daughters Grace, Kate, and Julia at home, on the pool deck, and at their favorite vacation destinations. The girls, all serious swimmers, have competed in swim meets around the country and traveling to them has been a family affair.

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