The healthcare industry is one of the largest employers in the state of New Jersey and includes pharmaceutical, bio-tech, hospitals, consulting firms, and a wide variety of other careers and support industries.

It is often difficult, however, for people working in one branch of the healthcare industry to meet and network with people in another area. Elina Nalibotski and Rishika Samant are seeking to change that with a new organization, Young Professionals in Healthcare.

The group meets several times a month in locations throughout the area. The next meeting will be a networking happy hour event on Thursday, May 17, at the Tre Bar in Forrestal Village, from 6 to 8 p.m. Cost: free. To make reservations E-mail elina@yphprinceton.com.

“The mission of Young Professionals in Healthcare is to provide career, networking, and educational opportunities to professionals in a variety of healthcare-related fields,” explains Nalibotski.

Nalibotski and Samant formed the organization in 2010 after meeting at another networking group. Nalibotski is an associate consultant at ZS, based at 212 Carnegie Center, the largest global consulting firm focused on sales and marketing effectiveness. At ZS, she works to improve sales force effectiveness and deliver marketing solutions to top pharmaceutical clients.

Prior to joining ZS, she held an internship at BioEnterprise, an agency designed to grow and attract investors for bioscience technologies in the Cleveland area. She received her BS in molecular biology from Yale University in 2009.

While there, she helped discover an interaction between two proteins involved in cell signaling pathways. She was an active member of Yale Model Congress and the Leadership Institute, bringing speakers and business leaders on campus to conduct leadership development workshops.

Samant is a supply optimization analyst and demand planner at Bristol Myers-Squibb. At BMS, she works with marketing and financial representatives to determine unit forecast projections for growth and key products in the North American market.

Prior to joining BMS, she worked at Genentech Inc. She holds a B.A in biological sciences from Columbia University. As an undergraduate in 2009 she served on the University Senate and the Columbia College Student Council, where she worked with faculty to promote educational initiatives and to foster community relations.

Networking With Related Industries. Meeting, connecting, and learning from people in every area of healthcare is an important focus for the organization.

“When Elina and I first met we began talking about how difficult it often is to meet people in related fields,” Samant explains. Often, she says, professional organizations are aimed at only a specific segment of the healthcare industry, such as biotech, medical doctors, or nurse practitioners. As they discussed the problem, Samant and Nalibotski decided the best way to solve the problem was to start their own networking group and open it to all professions.

Young Professionals in Healthcare has quickly grown and now has a mailing list of about 700 people. The organization charges no dues or membership fees, though there is often a fee for specific events. They hold between two and four events a month, ranging from mixers and networking events to educational speakers and benefits for charity.

Attendance ranges from 40 to 90 people at any given event, according to Nalibotski, with mixers and networking events usually attracting the largest crowds. They are particularly proud of the wide variety of professions the group has attracted.

“Our members come from many industries, including biotech/pharma, diagnostics, medicine, research, consulting, public health, advertising, finance, and healthcare law,” says Nalibotski.

“We don’t want to restrict anyone. We want to be as open as possible. We think that is the greatest advantage for people who attend our meetings,” she adds. While originally based in central New Jersey, the organization is now attracting members from Philadelphia to New York City.

Working With Charities. Samant and Nalibotski felt that as an organization made up of professionals in the healthcare industry, it was important to support health-related charities.

They have hosted a fundraiser to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, participated in a joint fundraiser with other organizations to benefit the Child Life Program at the BMS Children’s Hospital at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, and plan to assist other health-related non-profit organizations in the future.

Educational Opportunities. The group also hosts a series of educational events, featuring leaders from academe and other sectors of the healthcare industry.

The “fireside chats,” as they describe them, provide an intimate atmosphere for speakers and members to discuss topics such as the future of pharma/biotech, innovations in healthcare delivery, and healthcare reform and its impact on consumers, payers, and drug manufacturers. Sessions are held at Infini-T Cafe at 4 Hulfish Street, Princeton. The next event will be Thursday, May 24, at 7 p.m.

Samant and Nalibotski have been pleasantly surprised by the success of their young organization. “Not only have we grown in size, we’ve grown in the diversity of the backgrounds of our members and where they are from,” says Samant. “When we started we weren’t sure how the group would be received, but in the past two years it has become more successful than we ever thought it could be.”

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