She applied those lessons to become a successful biopharmaceutical industry professional – and a reserve police officer, for seven years, with the San Francisco Police Department. 

“I was very proud to serve,” she says. “It could be scary, but I fulfilled one of my lifelong passions.” Tam, who first became interested in pharmacy in sixth grade, earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and immunology from UC Berkeley and was determined to get her PharmD at UCSF. “UCSF was the only school I applied to,” she says. 

Changing course 

She completed clinical and pharmacy administration residencies that prepared her for a position at Seton Medical Center and then was recruited to join PacifiCare, a managed care organization. 

Everyone has something inside them, a sense of wanting to help, an ability to make a leap. That’s what I’ve listened to.


“That was a turning point for me,” Tam says. “The opportunity to go in a different direction and learn something new opened my eyes to an aspect of health care I wasn’t aware of.” Next, she landed unexpected roles in medical affairs, first at Genentech and now at Otonomy, Inc., a startup that specializes in ear medications. 

“If you had asked me as a student, I wouldn’t have dreamed of working for a drug company,” she says. “But now I appreciate the value of researching and developing new therapies for patients.” Her current role includes conducting health economics and outcomes research and communicating with payers and managed care entities. 

“The recent move has reinvigorated me professionally,” she says. “I love to work hard and create, and Otonomy is giving me those opportunities.”

Courage to leap

In addition to a busy professional life, she is raising two sons, ages 18 and 16; has taught pharmacy students from UCSF; is an aspiring life coach through her business, Create My Journey Consulting; and is a volunteer pharmacist with a federal disaster medical assistance team, a role that took her to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, among other missions. 

Some of her undertakings have required great courage, but Tam is humble about her accomplishments. “Everyone has something inside them, a sense of wanting to help, an ability to make a leap,” she says. “That’s what I’ve listened to.” 

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