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Member Spotlight: Deborah Geyman

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Deborah Geyman became interested in pharma while still in high school; today, after working in the industry for three decades, she is the incoming ISPE North America South America Affiliate Council (NASAAC) Chair! We asked Deborah to share some of her experiences during her sixteen years with ISPE and her career in the industry she identified as her chosen vocation so early in life.

You joined ISPE in 2004, so you’ve been a member for a long time! Can you share some of your experiences with ISPE, and what has kept you engaged and active for the past 16 years?

ISPE is a wonderful organization! I have always seen my participation in ISPE as important for professional and interpersonal growth. I am a firm believer that to keep my career relevant during these fast-moving times, it is important to partner and network with the many wonderful individuals that make up the ISPE community. For a majority of years during my career, I have been in Corporate Audit/Global Quality Systems functions, and the depth of knowledge and overall openness of the ISPE community through the Communities of Practice, as well as the friendships I’ve formed over the years, is what has kept me coming back year after year. I cannot even begin to count the number of times these contacts have helped me make not only a good compliance interpretation of a regulation but have shared with me the importance of the science and technical expertise behind industry expectations. ISPE membership is a wonderful collection of talent and industry leaders!

Congratulations on being named the incoming ISPE North America South America Affiliate Council Chair! That’s wonderful news! What do you think was most instrumental in being voted into this very notable position?

I have been very fortunate -- the networking opportunities in the ISPE community have definitely resulted in many wonderful friendships. It has been through these friendships and our common interests to further the ISPE and pharmaceutical industry initiatives that resulted in people contacting me to gauge my interest in becoming involved at the local Great Lakes Chapter level, and now as the North America South America Affiliate Council Chair.

Your first job was with Eli Lilly, correct? Do you have an interesting story behind that story?

When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to take a tour of Eli Lilly & Company. At that time, the pharmaceutical industry was starting to implement the anti-tampering packaging in response to the Tylenol cyanide tampering. In fact, the tour included the gelatin capsule manufacturing area and the question came up if Lilly made gelatin capsules for Johnson & Johnson Tylenol. Our tour guide immediately talked about how Lilly engaged with Johnson & Johnson, as well the FBI, as part of the overall industry investigation.

It was at that moment I was hooked!!!! I knew I had found the industry I so much wanted to be part of for my career. As the tour concluded, I went up to my tour guide and told him that I will be back as an employee upon my graduation from college! Years later, a month after I graduated from University of Kentucky with a BS in Chemical Engineering I started as a Technical Services Engineer at the Lilly site in Lafayette, Indiana. When I attended my first major meeting in Indianapolis, I ran into my tour guide in the company cafeteria. I went up to him and thanked him for the great tour that inspired my career and reminded him that I told him that I would return. I'm back!

Wow – that IS a great story! You became interested in pharma while still in high school. How did you parlay that interest into a highly successful career?

I began my career as an engineer supporting manufacturing, product launches, and capital project installations at Lilly and Pfizer (formerly Searle and Pharmacia). It was this plant experience that formed a solid basis for much of my career. My interest in quality resulted in moving into regulatory compliance improvement projects. It was during those years that the industry was implementing validation programs, deviation/OOS investigations, change management, and computer validation.

As a young engineer, there were many opportunities to jump in and get involved rolling out these GMP programs. Before I knew it, I was in a site level validation program, which grew into supporting Corporate Quality System functions. During the turbulence of the 2008 stock market crash, with so much of the industry downsizing, I decided it was time to diversify my skillset, and I moved to the medical device industry. At that time, many of the device firms were dealing with GMP program compliance issues and starting to address global quality system integration across siloed divisions that were a result of inorganic growth. It was very much similar to the challenges that I faced in the pharma industry, so I was able to quickly transition my quality system experience to the medical device industry.

As a long-time member of ISPE, what would you tell people from industry, students, women, young professionals, etc. – anyone thinking about becoming an ISPE member – about the ISPE community and the benefits to membership?

I have not found a better industry trade organization than ISPE! The availability of industry leaders to help keep me abreast of the latest industry initiatives and challenges is phenomenal. The ability to network and form lasting professional and personal contacts has been so rewarding. We all are busy, but ISPE is a great resource to efficiently stay on top of what is facing our industry!!!! It was through these ISPE relationships that I have been able to stay relevant and navigate my career through the turbulent times. A mentor once told me that companies may invest in an employee to help with their success, but as an industry professional, I recognize that it is important to invest in myself to stay fresh and to assure longevity as a member of the industry! ISPE has been a very beneficial experience in supporting my professional longevity in the industry!