Where Are They Now: Checking In With Former NPC Intern Dan Danielson

Dan Danielson

As NPC opens applications for its Postdoctoral Health Policy Fellowship, a post-doctoral, two-year research position that seeks to bridge the gap between health research and policy analysis, we're checking in with previous NPC fellows and interns to learn more about their experiences and careers in the years following their NPC fellowship. Dan Danielson, MS, currently a senior clinical manager at Premera Blue Cross, participated in NPC’s pharmaceutical internship program in 1993. Mr. Danielson chatted with us to answer a few questions about how his time at NPC impacted his work and career.

What did you do as an NPC intern?

When I was an NPC intern in 1993, the internship focused on exploring the drug development process. I had a chance to work with Hoechst-Roussel to talk with lead scientists who were working in drug discovery and finding new targets for therapies. The internship also offered me a chance to look at clinical development programs, looking at Phase 1, 2 and 3 trials leading up to the submission of a new drug application. It was a really good – very fast – but good all-encompassing view of what a manufacturer had to do to get a medication approved, created, marketed and sold in the United States.

Being able to shadow people who worked in different phases of drug development was really very informative and introduced me to some things I hadn’t thought about before, such as good manufacturing practice (GMP). I’ve been able to use that information when speaking with different folks at the companies I’ve worked at, and it’s been helpful to have those experiences to lean on to effectively explain complicated issues.

What are you doing now?

I’m a senior clinical manager at Premera Blue Cross working on drug management strategy. I’m looking at what’s being developed in the pipeline all the way through product approval, launch, and utilization. I’m also involved with some of our pharmaceutical contracting, doing impact analyses and occasionally some cost-effectiveness analyses.

At the beginning of my career, I started off working at a long-term care community pharmacy. Then I got my master’s degree in health economics and policy analysis at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and I’ve been on the administrative side since then. My first job out of graduate school was running the network pharmacy benefit for Kaiser Permanente in Colorado. Then I moved to working at a PBM, Medco, until they were purchased by Express Scripts, when I moved back to the payer side with my current position with Premera Blue Cross, where I’ve been for the last six years. The only job I haven’t actually had has been with a manufacturer, so I think I’ve had almost every job in pharmacy.

How did your time at NPC inform your career?

For me, the internship highlighted the complexities and a lot of the issues that come with bringing a drug to market, as well as an understanding of how to better work with manufacturers. I found that has been really helpful, especially in my current job. Just having the background to say to people on the manufacturing side, “Okay, I remember what it was like back then,” it just helps me frame issues more concisely and more clearly.

What advice do you have for a prospective post-doc fellow?

The real conundrum that’s facing us right now in this country is: 1) how to discuss value in a way that lay people can understand and accept. We need to bring it to a level where it doesn’t seem scary or like it’s just an academic exercise. And 2) how to balance value versus affordability of the health care benefits. If we can answer the question of value and affordability, and how communicate this with consumers, I think we’ll be in a much better position. My advice is that’s where the biggest need is right now, and where there is a need, there are business opportunities.

My advice to all graduates is: 1) Find the most interesting job that you can, 2) work at a place where folks treat you like an adult, where you’re not being micromanaged; 3) Always remember that you have a special database and skill set, and can find a position wherever you really want, with a good company or on your own. Be open to opportunities that come up. Your default answer when presented with an opportunity early in your career should always be “yes.”