When I imagine myself in industry I often see myself wearing a suit performing a task, but the details of those tasks are unclear. After speaking to other trainees about what tasks they envision performing in industry, they describe job definitions, but not specific tasks. This becomes problematic because while you may think that you are a good fit for a profession, performing those unknown duties might make you feel differently. I am surely not the first PhD student to ask the question: what job duties would I do in industry, more specifically Medical Affairs?
The Medical Affairs field came about as a reaction to government regulators’ desires to separate commercial and medical functions from industry. As the scientific knowledge required to run the commercial pharma business has increased, so has the demand for professionals who can communicate that science to consumers and medical leaders. A Medical Affairs professional’s job is mainly at the commercial end of pharma from which they utilize their research knowledge to successfully communicate the company’s product. They manage crucial relationships between their companies’ products and the individuals who advise their use, such as doctors and those who are called “key thought-leaders” –individuals who control whether your product is introduced into a market. In order to accomplish this, Medical Affairs professionals also publish data from corporate-sponsored trials in order to support their product. Preparation and presentation of this information is also a key skill set within the Medical Affairs field. Because they are qualified and knowledgeable, Medical Affairs professionals also respond to questions from healthcare professionals about information that is not included on the product insert or label.
In late November, iJOBS hosted an interactive event that involved exploring careers related to Medical Affairs. iJOBS had the privilege to host Dr. Paul Weber, MD who discussed his extensive and accomplished career in Medical Affairs, spanning both industry and academia. His current position, Associate Dean for the Continuing Medical Education at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson, is intimately linked to introducing Rutgers students to professionalism in healthcare and bringing Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences to the forefront of healthcare innovation.
In contrast to other iJOBS seminars, this seminar was especially interactive. Dr. Weber first spoke about Medical Affairs and briefly discussed his experiences in the field. Then he talked about internal communication between the Medical Affairs team and other departments, as well as external communication with key thought leaders, customers, and doctors. After his talk, Dr. Weber introduced an activity where attendees, divided into small groups, could participate in launching a newly-developed, commercialized product. Each person within the group was given a specific job title within the Medical Affairs field and tasked with understanding what their job expectations were as well as their role within the group. Each group member was given some time to organize and discover these roles before the team leader gave a presentation to the whole group. Listed below are the 6 roles and their job descriptions:
Medical Director: Medical Directors tend to be the most senior members of the Medical Affairs team and lead teams of Medical Affairs professionals during new product launches. They approve the distribution of new product medical information to other members of the Medical Affairs team. They ensure that each person in the team is accomplishing their respective tasks. Medical Directors also review critiques of their own company products’ medical claims as well as challenge those of the competitors.
Medical/Drug Information: The role of Medical Information is to provide expert technical and scientific information to the Medical Affairs team. They make sure that the other members of the Medical Affairs team are well-equipped with the information that they need.
Scientific Liaison: Some positions in the Medical Affairs field will act as liaisons between internal company stakeholders and external regulatory and medical point-of-care professionals. In previous blog posts, Dharm Patel, a Rutgers and iJOBS alumnus, has written about Medical Science Liaisons, a career that falls within Medical Affairs. He also interviewed the founder of the Medical Liaisons Society.
Scientific Communications: The Scientific Communications role plans and submits all drug-related publications such as abstracts, posters, and manuscripts to scientific conferences. Such communications are essential for product commercialization. This position is also responsible for developing a strategic plan that aligns the timing of clinical trial data with the release of key product information, such as efficacy results, drug toxicity, and patient population studies at scientific meetings.
Scientific Education: This role makes sure that the proper certifications are in place for each member of the team and is responsible for overseeing the training of internal teams. A person in this position also ensures that the planning and grant support for medical education is available to healthcare providers.
Digital Health/Innovation: Customers are constantly asking new questions and doctors are developing new ways to use existing medications. Medical Affairs professionals in digital health respond to the new questions customers ask and must expand ways of spreading accurate information about their products. This may include health databases, answering patient questions online, or designing health apps for smart phones.
Overall, I found the Medical Affairs Simulation very helpful and informative, because in our small groups we were able to engage and discuss the roles we were performing, by putting ourselves within the Medical Affairs field. We all helped our Medical Director present each of our group member’s job-specific tasks. Although the activity was challenging, it was almost like an immediate quiz following the seminar, as it “tested” me and solidified what I had just learned via a hands-on experience. Following this seminar, I had a much better idea of what the Medical Affairs field is and how I could leverage my skills and talents within the field. For example, through the activity, I realized that I have a talent for coordinating many different professionals and identifying people who have the skills to perform a particular task. The Medical Affairs field is an area where I could use this talent to have a significant impact. After the seminar, I researched Medical Affairs further, and it seems to be an up-and-coming field with many new positions and challenges! If you have previously overlooked Medical Affairs, I highly encourage you to perform your own research about this exciting and rewarding field.