Pharmacy Alum Serving as Advisor to US Government
In a career that has taken him extraordinary places, Chan Harjivan, BSP ’95, finds himself helping guide the nation’s COVID-19 response.
Chan Harjivan, BSP ’95, has quite the office address these days: Health and Human Services Headquarters. Harjivan, lead managing director and partner in Boston Consulting Group’s US Public Sector Health Practice, has been working with the federal government on its pandemic response across administrations on matters such as vaccine development and deployment. While the roles he’s played in the nation’s pandemic response are exceptional, Harjivan says it is precisely the type of impactful work a degree in pharmacy can lead to. In his experience, pharmacists play crucial parts in all facets of healthcare. In addition to his current duties, Harjivan has worked in over 40 countries with the White House, Gates Foundation, World Health Organization, World Bank, Department of Defense, Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health, and many pharma and biotech companies advising on matters such as health investment strategy; women and children’s health issues; chronic and infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV, and polio; and bioterrorism.
But he didn’t set out on this career path on his own, he says. When Harjivan was an MCPHS undergraduate, he signed up for a rotation at a Star Market pharmacy. Shortly before the rotation was set to start, he had lunch with then Director of Institutional Pharmacy Experiences Steve DiPietro. Dr. DiPetro had different plans for Harjivan. “He gave me a talking-to almost,” Harjivan says with a laugh. He says Dr. Pietro told him, “I’m going to put you in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.” And so Harjivan started an internship that changed everything. “He pushed me,” says Harjivan, and “the outcome of that is who I am today.... It changed the course of my life.” That internship gave Harjivan experience working in places ranging from nursing homes to Boston biotechs and completely changed his perspective on the opportunities out there for pharmacists. He adds that Dr. DiPietro continued to check in on him regularly, and that he “became a huge mentor and advocate” who “opened up my whole world of healthcare.” The experience, he says ignited his career path. “The dedication of the faculty to the students is phenomenal.”
Harjivan went on to receive his Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University and his Master of Business Administration from Oxford University. His career has led him to work at powerful companies such as PwC and Boston Consulting Group, where he led public health consulting. He advises companies, NGOs, and governments on crucial issues, including understanding the epidemiology of existing and emerging diseases, the development and delivery of technologies against those diseases—whether new diagnostics, drugs, vaccines, or digital tools—as well as on advising where to make healthcare investments. He has learned about endemic, epidemic, pandemic, bioterrorism threats and continues to find his work fascinating and important. The future of healthcare will evolve rapidly, he believes, as the world’s largest tech companies like Apple and Google increase the prevalence of constant, real-time monitoring of health metrics and behavioral health plays a larger part in not only care but also in training. And he believes that COVID-19 is here to stay. It is likely to become endemic, like the flu, and he says that we need to monitor variants closely.
Harjivan thinks fondly on his time at the MCPHS Boston campus. He worked in the Admission office and lived in the residence halls. He took time to enjoy the city, exploring sailing, nightlife, and restaurants that Boston offers its students. “I just love the school,” he says. “I love Boston.” One of the biggest reasons for that love? MCPHS is where Harjivan met his wife, Dru Harjivan, BPharm ’94. The University has played a defining role for him. “There’s no doubt about the impact the school has had on my life, on my career, and it’s opened up so many doors for me,” he says.
Learn more about the School of Pharmacy at MCPHS.