Student Spotlight: Helen Bai, BS/MS in Regulatory Sciences

Helen Bai is a BS/MS student in Regulatory Sciences who grew up in the Atlanta area and set off for UGA to major in foods and nutrition and then began to rethink her future.  She decided on a new career in healthcare and entered the BS program in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the College of Pharmacy.

Things soon fell into place along her new career path.  She became a Double Dawg pursuing two degrees—a BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences along with an MS in Regulatory Sciences.  As part of her academic program, Helen worked in Dr. Michael Bartlett’s lab and took advantage of not one but two valuable internship offers.  Helen’s first internship took her to an international pharmaceutical company last summer.  This fall she accepted a second internship at a medical device and diagnostics company, a choice that proved to be right on target.

Helen completed her degree this spring semester and has already accepted a position at the pharmaceutical company where she interned.  She will join their combination products group which brings drugs and devices together in a new approach to Regulatory Sciences.

Helen graduated on the cutting edge in her field.  Her work at UGA, combined with the internships she chose, has uniquely positioned this Double Dawg to enter a new world of Regulatory Sciences.  This May, when new EU regulations go into effect, international pharmaceutical companies such as Helen’s new employer will be faced with the challenge of a completely new regulatory framework for their combination products offered for sale in Europe.  And Helen Bai will be ready for the change.

Dr. Michael Bartlett, Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Pharmacy and Associate Dean for Science Education, Research and Technology, sums up Helen’s experience as an M.S. candidate in Regulatory Sciences, when he says, “Helen has done some amazing research during her time here at UGA.  Her Master’s Thesis evaluated FDA Warning Letters given to over-the-counter (OTC) product manufacturers from 2015-2019.  This was especially meaningful research because this industry has recently come under additional regulatory scrutiny.   The US FDA has dramatically increased the inspection coverage of OTC manufacturers to ensure quality of their products. This has led to a significant increase in number of warning letters being issued to OTC manufacturers and Helen’s research has highlighted the quality issues in the manufacturing and labeling of these products. Her research is an outstanding source of information for this industry as it moves to improve the quality and safety of their products moving forward.”

On April 23, 2020, Helen successfully defended her MS Thesis entitled, “Over-the-Counter Drugs and Prescription Drugs:  Development of a Regulatory Database and Data Analysis of Warning Letters Between Fiscal Years 2015-2019.”  She has already started her job at Merck in Philadelphia.  Congratulations, Helen!

We asked Helen to share her thoughts on being a Double Dawg at UGA:

What led you to a career in healthcare?

Growing up, my dream was to be part of a place where I can contribute to the advancement of human health. I always wanted to help others especially patients fighting sickness and diseases. And through many guidance from my mentors and family, I was able to get an amazing opportunity to work for a company that strives to put the patient first always and where their mission is to discover, develop, and provide products and services that save lives. I believe there is great value in improving human lives and I am grateful to be part of the process through my career.

How did you hear about the Double Dawgs program?

I got to know about the Double Dawgs program through our department website. I was searching for a program where I could do research related to pharmaceutical science and it led me to this program.

What made you chose your particular dual degrees?

As I previously mentioned, I was interested in healthcare. And since UGA is well known for having a prestigious pharmaceutical program, I thought pharmaceutical science and regulatory affairs would be a great program for me to pursue. Also, I wanted to do research related to both pharmaceutical science and regulatory science after taking Dr. Bartlett’s class during my junior year.

What is your advice for students who may hesitate to set off for the unknown, whether it’s a major or career in a new field or an internship in a different part of the country?

I would advise them to just reach out and not hesitate to ask questions. There are so many people that are willing to guide you in every decision you have to make but only you can initiate it. Seeking out help from your peers, professors, and friends is important because it can lead you to great opportunities and you can learn so much from other’s experiences!

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