Media Coverage of the Pharma Industry: Caitlin Smith ’17 and Olivia Capperella ‘18

160621-Sillup Porth Team_Summer Scholars-008Many SJU Summer Scholar projects are born of a single student’s curiosity or a moment of inspiration in the classroom. But others, like the work of pharmaceutical marketing majors Caitlin Smith ’17 and Olivia Capperella ’18, contribute to bodies of academic research years in the making.

Along with rising junior Claudia Barbiero, who serves as the group’s database administrator, Caitlin and Olivia are members of a research team examining the media’s portrayal of the pharmaceutical industry. Led by Associate Dean of the Haub School of Business and Professor of Management Stephen Porth, Ph.D. and Chair and Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing, George Sillup, Ph.D., the scholars analyze articles from the previous year that ran in top national newspapers and included mention of the industry.

The project is in its 13th year.

Caitlin, who has been working alongside Dr. Sillup and Dr. Porth for the past three years, says they examine the articles in batches and determine the slant and key topics. “We note the companies, healthcare systems and drugs mentioned and the ethical issues discussed or implied in the articles,” she says.

“When we look at the top issues in the industry or questions of ethics, we use a legend that has evolved with the study and add new matters as they make headlines,” adds Olivia, who also has a major in business intelligence and analytics.

For example, the group tracked the peak in news coverage of the Ebola crisis (the first US case of which was reported in September 2014) and in issues related to the Zika virus, the news of which broke in early 2015.

Though a longstanding project, the study has evolved over the last decade as both the pharmaceutical and media industries have changed.

“This year, we’ve added social listening to the study, examining Google trend analysis, keywords about the industry and hot topics,” says Dr. Porth.

Results of the study are published annually in Pharma Executive, a major publication for the pharmaceutical industry, according to Dr. Sillup.

“It’s been eye-opening,” says Caitlin. “Even if you watch the news, you probably miss the quantity of these stories or aren’t tracking the conversation the way we are. It’s great insight into the industry we’ll be working for.”

In addition to working on this research, Caitlin and Olivia are also both interns at Aztra Zeneca and members of SJU’s chapter of PILOT (Pharmaceutical Industry Leaders of Tomorrow), of which Olivia is vice president.

“[The Summer Scholars program] offers a different way to review and learn material about the industry outside of the typical classroom setting,” says Olivia. “I feel it has also helped me with my internship because I am able to come in with a better background and in-depth knowledge of the pharmaceutical world.”

— Colleen Sabatino ’11 (M.A.)

Office of University Communications

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Summer Scholars Project Title: Analyzing the Pharmaceutical Industry through Newspaper Coverage and the Media

Mentors: Steve Porth, Ph.D., HSB  associate dean and professor of management; George Sillup, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing

High Schools: Pottsgrove (Caitlin); Gwenydd Mercy (Olivia)

Follow @sjuartssciences @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP