Pharmacy alumna pivots to career in medical writing

Tiffany Riley ’16, PharmD

Through medical writing, Tiffany Riley ’16, PharmD combines her passion for impacting the lives of patients with her deep desire for creative expression. In a moment of introspection, she recalled a blog post authored by a fellow pharmacist about careers in medical writing. Within days, she had enrolled in a medical writing certificate program at University of California, San Diego.

When conducting research for her medical writing assignments she draws on her training as a pharmacist to decode complex scientific information and explain medications in a way that is easy to understand. Topics she has written about range from over-the-counter medications to nanotechnology.

“I love the opportunity to learn something new,” said Dr. Riley.

She is a freelance medical writer for several publishers and a highlight of her foray into freelancing was seeing her byline on a U.S. News & World Report article.

One of the projects she is proud to have contributed to is a guide on oncology, written specifically for patients, to be placed in doctors’ offices. Starting from a blank outline, she helped develop the 20-page book which presents in-depth information on treatment plans in simplified terms. She later learned that what she wrote was translated into several languages, including Spanish, Mandarin and Vietnamese. Dr. Riley felt the weight of the impact of the project when she received a printed copy.

In May 2022, she launched her own business, Skala Medical Communications. She chose the name Skala, the Greek word for staircase or ladder, for the symbolism of building upon a foundation of knowledge and having forward momentum.

“I'm really excited for the trajectory of Skala Medical Communications, and to continue to educate people on health, medicine and science,” she said. “The lessons I learned at Pacific set a strong foundation to deal with the ups and downs of paving a new way in medical communications.”

Additionally, her time as a pharmacy manager in a retail setting sharpened her business acumen. One of her goals is to broaden the scope of her company to include medical illustration. 

Artist and pharmacist Dr. Tiffany Riley

“Before I was a writer or a pharmacist, I was an artist,” she said.

Whether starting a new oil painting or launching a business, Dr. Riley emphasizes the importance of establishing an environment where one can feel safe to experiment and take risks. She expressed her gratitude for her time at Pacific.

“At Pacific I felt inclined to take risks, knowing I had a safety net of experienced, knowledgeable and kind mentors to guide me along the way,” Dr. Riley said. “There are opportunities to take on leadership positions and align your passions with service. These pillars at Pacific, community service and purpose, continue to act as a compass for me as I navigate through this journey and build out Skala. I will be forever grateful for my time at Pacific and how it continues to be a support system.”

She encourages students and fellow alumni to intentionally take time to be creative or cultivate their passions, which has the power to unlock the potential for exciting opportunities.

Alumna Dr. Tiffany Riley hiking