Myka Ababon graduated from Rutgers University with a PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology in 2017. Her PhD thesis focused on neural stem cells and their response to traumatic brain injury. Outside of the lab, she was a founding member of the iJOBS Blog and a staff writer for Bitesize Bio. She currently works in New York City as a Medical Writer at Caudex, a medical communications agency that’s part of the larger McCann Health network.
1) Tell us a bit about your career path in medical communications. What have you been doing since graduating with your PhD?
I started working as a Trainee Medical Writer at Caudex a month and a half after my thesis dissertation, and I’ve been working there since 2017, almost two years now.
2) What are the types of tasks, projects, and responsibilities that fall under your position?
As a medical writer, my primary role is to develop scientific content for a wide array of scientific communication materials. I am currently aligned to several different accounts with different therapeutic areas, some more focused on medical affairs, some on publications. Projects in my publication-focused accounts typically involve writing abstracts, posters, and manuscripts, and this is the type of writing that’s closest to what I was exposed to in grad school. Examples of med affairs projects include MSL training materials, advisory boards, and congress booth materials, to name a few.
3) How did you first hear about this career path and what got you interested in it?
In grad school, I worked in the lab of Dr. James Millonig. Jim was one of the directors of iJOBS, which was a blessing for his grad students, because he was extremely supportive of us participating in iJOBS. He wanted to ensure we had access to as much information as we could about all the different career options after grad school so we could make informed decisions about our career paths. I attended a lot of iJOBS events, and that’s where I first heard about medical writing. As mentioned above, a bunch of us trainees decided to start the iJOBS blog because we wanted to have a platform to share our learnings and experiences.
4) What do you like most about this career path?
I have always been interested in both science and writing, and this career is a great combination of the two! Looking back, I realized I have always struggled a bit about choosing one over the other, and with my current career, I don’t have to choose, I get to do both.
5) Which skills that you acquired during the PhD process are most valuable to you today?
Well, certainly not pipetting, although I must admit I miss that sometimes! Definitely the ability to acquire a high level of scientific understanding. As a medical writer, you will be thrown into different accounts, and will be expected to quickly learn and understand multiple therapeutic areas. It’s a fast-paced job, and you’re constantly learning and studying and keeping abreast of the current researches. It’s a lot like what you do in grad school outside of performing experiments. And it goes without saying: writing skills. I was fortunate enough to have had a lot of opportunities during my PhD to improve my writing, from writing grants, abstracts, papers, talks, blogs, etc.
6) Do you have any advice to current PhD students and post docs who are interested in working in this field?
If you’re interested in medical writing, definitely try to do as much writing/editing as you can while still in grad school. Is your labmate writing a paper? Offer to help them with their draft! Reach out to your advisor to find out if you can help him with his grant. Or, join the iJOBS blog! Another option is to seek out internship opportunities in medical communications to try it out. However you go about it, the bottom line is to get as much writing experience as you can. This will help you to not only improve your writing, but also to show that you are truly interested in medical writing as a career.
Other advice that I have is to take full advantage of your network! Attend iJOBS events. Reach out to graduates who are in the field, and do informational interviews. In my experience, people are always happy to tell you about their career paths and give advice.
Thank you, Myka, for sharing your experiences as a Medical Writer! iJOBS participants recently had the opportunity to visit Myka at McCann Health in New York City for a site visit. Look out for a future post covering the event!
This interview was led by Paulina Krzyszczyk. Additional edits were made by Emily Kelly Castro.