Boehringer Ingelheim
24 November 2017
Sarah Pfeffer

Changing patients’ lives with a career in epidemiology at Boehringer Ingelheim

What does an Epidemiologist do? Doctors work one on one with patients and they try to make them healthier – Epidemiologists try to do that on a population level. In the pharmaceutical industry, they examine patient characteristics, treatment strategies and treatment effects with the aim of defining the best possible treatments for patient groups. Hence, Pharmacoepidemiology is the study of the use of and the effects – adverse and beneficial – of drugs in large numbers of people. Or simply: is about who our patients are and how they respond to treatments. Pharmacoepidemiology is thus one of the most important pillars for the benefit-risk assessments of treatments and plays a central role in all therapeutic areas of Boehringer Ingelheim. So get to know Laura Wallace and find out how a career in the Global Epidemiology Department at Boehringer Ingelheim is both personally rewarding and a great opportunity to impact patients’ lives positively.

Laura is one of 17 members of the Global Epidemiology Team at Boehringer Ingelheim.  The team is split across three continents, with team members typically trained in epidemiology to Master’s or PhD level. 


As an undergraduate, Laura studied psychology and biochemistry.  Unsure what to do next she took a job in a genetics lab, where by sheer chance she worked on a genetic epidemiology study.  She loved it so much she decided to move into public health and has not looked back since.


Following her Master’s degree in Public Health and time studying epidemiology, Laura took a pre-doctoral fellowship with a pharmaceutical company.   She admits this was not something she had considered: “It wasn’t a path I had ever intended, but once I got there, I loved the practicality and cooperative nature of the group.  I have been working in the pharmaceutical industry ever since.”


History of Epidemiology


It is only since the 1940’s that epidemiology, as a discipline, has come into its own.  The beginnings of this type of study can be traced as far back as Hippocrates when he endeavored to explain the occurrence of disease from a rational rather than supernatural standpoint.  With the recent rise of  big data and more sophisticated analysis techniques, the opportunities to use epidemiology to understand population health have grown and changed rapidly.


One thing is certain, however; epidemiology is as vital today as it was in the 1850s, when John Snow, considered by many to be the father of modern-day epidemiology, affected the changes in water and waste systems in London following the outbreak of cholera in Soho, thanks to his investigations and findings.


Epidemiology in the Pharmaceutical Industry


Epidemiology in the pharmaceutical industry encompasses many different activities related to patients’ health and disease treatment, as Laura explains: “I spend my time developing real-world data strategy for our products, creating and reviewing protocols for non-interventional studies to understand diseases and look into the effects of our treatments.”


Studies look into patient characteristics; like demographics, comorbidities, and treatment patterns; and the collected data help teams to make decisions about a wide variety of things from clinical trial designs to physician education material.


“Unlike clinical trials, the studies we conduct look at the experience of patients under usual clinical care conditions.”  Laura continues, “The results of our studies provide data to help physicians make better treatment decisions, assist regulators in ensuring medications are used safely, and allow us to understand patient populations and how they are being treated better so that we can develop better products for them.”


Big data means big change


Epidemiology is both rapidly growing and changing as a result of big data.  As big data becomes more prominent, so analytics improve which can only be of benefit to patients.   However, these changes bring with them greater demands on the team, as Laura explains, “there is a need for epidemiology skills to sort through the increased data we collect and use.  This leads to a lot of demands on our team, so prioritizing can be a challenge, but a good one.”


Boehringer Ingelheim and Epidemiology


The Global Epidemiology Team is a crucial part of Boehringer Ingelheim.   Members of the team hold leadership positions at the International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology, as well as on local and national boards.  Team members have also published high-profile studies and are held in high esteem within the community.


Teamwork and collaboration are vital to the success of studies.  The team draws on diverse skills, partnering with colleagues throughout the organization, in addition to working with global external experts when developing high-quality research projects.


Promoting Epidemiology


In an exciting move, Boehringer Ingelheim has recently partnered with the renowned Canadian university, McGill, to provide a joint Industry-Academic Training Program.  Successful candidates will have the opportunity to pursue their Master’s degree in Pharmacoepidemiology, studying in Montreal, Canada, combined with work placements in Ingelheim, Germany, before beginning a stimulating and challenging career at Boehringer Ingelheim.


Why Epidemiology?


A successful Global Epidemiology team member needs many qualities.  Laura agrees “you need to be flexible in addressing study and company needs.  You also need to be a good communicator, with the ability to talk about technical information with non-epidemiologists and be willing to challenge and be challenged, so our work constantly improves.”


Laura is proud of the impact of her work, “I remember the first time I went in front of the FDA to present research on which I had worked.  My data was used to inform the label of a new drug so that people who needed it would be able to use it as safely as possible.  It was exciting to see research translated so directly into practice.”


Are you considering a career in epidemiology?  Get in contact to see what exciting opportunities exist at Boehringer Ingelheim.

"It is exciting to see research translated so directly into practice, says Laura Wallace. "
Sarah Pfeffer

2 Kommentar(e) für 'Changing patients’ lives with a career in epidemiology at Boehringer Ingelheim'


Thank you for sharing these great achievements within Boehringer Ingelheim. What opportunities would Boehringer have for other epidemiology master students or graduates interested in the work placement withing the global epideiomolgy department but enrolled in universities other than Mcgill?

Dear Godfrey Mudhune,    thank you for your interest in joining our Global Epidemiology Department at Boehringer Ingelheim. At the moment we only offer the joint program with McGill but you can find all of our general vacancies on our Global Job Portal ( It is also possible to create a Job Alert there. More Information on how to do this you can find here: We wish you all the best! 

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