Dhara Bhatt, CFE, CPA, is a manager of compliance and monitoring at Sage Therapeutics, Inc., a mid-sized biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a biotechnology compliance professional, Bhatt strives to create a comprehensive compliance program that can navigate the intricacies of the industry. To do this, Bhatt relies on her love of problem-solving to come up with unique compliance solutions. Always with an eye toward the future, Bhatt looks forward to the work that each new day will bring.
The opinions expressed in this article are Dhara Bhatt’s and are not representative of Sage Therapeutics, Inc.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
I grew up in South Brunswick, New Jersey — a small town located near Princeton. I was a quiet kid, but I was focused and observant. My family always said that I had to know everything about my surroundings before I decided to engage in them. In high school and college, I discovered a passion for problem-solving and taking facts from different data sets and putting them together to create patterns or a story. This manifested in my course work as an accounting student, but also in real-life situations such as when I was a resident assistant in college or served in undergraduate government.
These traits from my childhood stayed with me into adulthood and I am fortunate to have a career that complements them. My interest in this field stemmed from the skills it requires, but once I began client work, I saw how rewarding it was to play a part in protecting businesses and their customers. To me, fighting fraud means doing what is right. There are always the components of investigations and remediation, but my passion lies in preventing fraud in the first place. This entails understanding your landscape, supporting and listening to employees, engaging a positive tone at the top, and creating an environment where people are proud to show up and represent their company.
What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since becoming a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)?
I chose this career path because of its evolving nature. Becoming a CFE has allowed me to learn and access foundational knowledge that has assisted me on a variety of projects. The biggest lesson I have learned since earning this credential is that it’s up to us fraud fighters to keep up with the rest of the world. Technology is advancing every day and people are getting smarter. We always need to be prepared for the next step by reading the news, networking and consulting with experts or understanding new regulations. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) offers many resources to assist members with doing this. It’s important to never stop learning.
What does your current role at Sage Therapeutics entail?
I oversee field monitoring and compliance activities in the Northeast region, in addition to being a compliance business partner to our field teams. I work across diverse systems and data sets to identify real-world intersections of teams and behaviors, which then contributes to the overall risk-based model for our compliance program.
What steps led you to your current position?
I graduated from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management with a degree in accounting and finance. Boston College has an excellent business program with a rigorous core curriculum. The school’s holistic approach to education, guided by its Jesuit values, requires students to take classes in almost every subject, instead of having them be siloed into only one path. With this mindset, I wanted a career that allowed me to fuse all of my learnings and be dynamic. One day, I walked into an information session for EY’s Forensic & Integrity Services group completely by accident. I’m glad I did because this session introduced me to a career that was exactly what I was looking for — fast-paced, complex and unpredictable. I interned with EY Forensics that summer and went on to work there for several years. I had the privilege of conducting investigations, remediations and risk assessments for a variety of industries, and I had the chance to learn from many mentors along the way. I found my passion my last year with EY, when I transitioned to life science clients, specifically pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most complicated when it comes to navigating the vast amount of regulation set forth by federal and state governments, and internationally. It’s also one of the most penalized by the Department of Justice for companies who get it wrong.
My current employer, Sage Therapeutics, was my client during my last year with EY. In 2018, Sage was still a clinical-stage company and was just beginning to put together its commercial organization to prepare for the launch of their first product, which occurred in June 2019. I was engaged to assist the Chief Compliance Officer in building the compliance function from the ground up, with tasks such as drafting Sage’s code of conduct and various policies, creating training content and preparing the company for responsibilities such as transparency reporting and monitoring/auditing. It was a unique opportunity, and every day was filled with new learning opportunities. I enjoyed my time with Sage so much that I pursued a full-time opportunity a year later.