How Sarah became a Medical Science Liaison

Dr. Sarah Anne Goffin, Medical Science Liaison at Sanofi

I come from a family of healthcare professionals and have always been passionate about science, so pharmacy seemed to be a perfect fit for me. 

I undertook my undergraduate at the University of East Anglia between 2006 and 2010 and completed my pre-registration year in 2011. As I worked part-time as a counter assistant in community during my degree I wanted to take the opportunity to increase my experience in hospital pharmacy. 

Read more How Sarah became a Medical Science Liaison

Routes to industry roles

By Tarquin Bennett – Coles, Principle Consultant at Carmichael Fisher

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The Life science sector is a vibrant and constantly changing environment that can suit those who like to take educated risks with start-up ventures or those who want a more secure long-term career within a large organisation. Getting into the sector is still people/connection based so establishing a network and reliable advocates will help you make the first step. If you can find a person you can interact with rather than using an online portal then this will improve your chances. 

Deciding on the right role and company for you will require some due diligence on the company values and culture. Most of this can be achieved online. Glassdoor is a useful tool to see what people say about a business, good and bad.

Nevertheless, having someone you can talk to who actually works at the company you are interested in is even more useful. If you can use your network to help you achieve this,  then it will give you a head start.  

To make the right step also requires some realistic self-assessment.  

You can use online tools for this or If you can find someone you work with and ask them how you come across in meetings or day to day you can find out a great deal about how you are perceived. It is also worth thinking about what motivates you, what will drive you to get up for work or travel a long way for a meeting? Do you like to work in a group or independently? Even at an early stage it is well worth thinking about where you would like to land after the role you are applying for. Having this in mind will help you weigh up the potential of the position now and as part of your broader career aspirations even if they change. 

Some individuals choose to join the sector via a service organisation then move across to biophama or MedTech businesses once they have their network in place. This includes joining life science teams in the large consulting houses (PwC, E&Y, McKinsey etc), boutique players (Huron, Cambridge Consultants, Sagentia), outsourcing businesses like a Contract or Clinical Research Organisations (CROs – IQVIA, Paraxel, Covance etc) or biopharma sales companies.  
 
Others, choose to start out in a corporate setting via the City (equity analysis), private equity or venture capital businesses and then transition across.  

In addition, the emerging data and digital space means some technology players (Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung etc) are moving into the healthcare sector and they require experts with an understanding of life sciences sector so this may also offer a way in.  
Hot areas of growth also include diagnostics & biomarker businesses, AI/Machine Learning, data science and digital health companies. 

Once you have gained some experience, or if you want to make the step immediately, then there are some key skills and experiences that companies most value. If you can highlight these when you apply or at interview then they will help differentiate you and increase your chances of an offer. 

  • Demonstrable track record of success. 
  • Examples of persuasion and influence whilst working outside your area of management control 
  • The ability to prioritise between the urgent and important. 
  • Expertise at working to tight deadlines and dealing with a fast paced environment for service delivery & communication (this should suit all pharmacists). 
  • Project management skills & the ability to switch focus/direction due rapid market shifts or new convergent technologies. 

Right now certain functions and disciplines are in particularly high demand. These include, analytics, data science, informatics, medical affairs and information, toxicology, pharmacology, business development, clinical development, regulatory affairs, market access and pricing and reimbursement. 

Another thing to consider before you join the industry is to choose a location where there is a cluster of companies and sector support businesses already located there. This will increase the opportunity for you to progress and find alternative work if the position does not work out or the company goes through a major transformation or acquisition. In 2019 we are seeing some major merger and acquisition activity. Most successful clusters (Cambridge, London, Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester, and Cardiff etc) will also have good transport links, access to funding streams, academic and research hubs, hospitals and service businesses nearby.  

Once you make the step do remember you are likely to be joining a sector where there will be five generations in the workplace (Gen Z – 18yrs old in 2018). Each generation defines success and working habits with a slightly different perspective so it is worth considering that if you are working in a cross-generational team or have a line manager from a different era. 

In terms of what lies ahead you have a myriad of choices once you break into the sector so keep checking in on your own plans. Leadership agility is being highlighted as a future “must have” and so is some international experience so if you can add those to your existing skill set, then you will be in a good place to progress. Similarly, there are now more industry collaborations and partnerships than ever before so involvement in such projects will help you stand out. Good luck, you have an exciting future ahead.  

More information

https://www.rpharms.com/development/how-to-get-a-job-in-the-pharmaceutical-industry

What is a Qualified Person (QP) and how can I become one?

What is a Qualified Person (QP)?

QPs assure the quality of our medicines, so it’s important they’re well trained and fully understand how pharmaceuticals are manufactured.

As a QP you’ll be legally responsible for certifying batches of medicinal products before they’re used in clinical trials or available on the market. You’ll also need to understand the factors that can affect the safety of medicines and supply chains.

Read more What is a Qualified Person (QP) and how can I become one?

Social prescribing – linking patients with support

by Hemant Patel FRPharms, English Pharmacy Board member

Today is Social Prescribing Day. So, what is social prescribing?

Social prescribing enables GPs, pharmacists, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services via a link worker.

Social prescribing schemes can involve a variety of activities which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

Link workers give people time and focus on what matters to the person, and as part of their care, connect people to community groups and agencies for practical and emotional support.  With the recent publication of the NHS Long Term Plan and personalised care being marked as a priority, the NHS has promised to support at least 900,000 people to benefit from social prescribing by 2023. Pharmacists have a role to play here. Read more Social prescribing – linking patients with support

Women in early pharmacy

By Matthew Johnston, RPS Museum

“There is an impression that women are something new in pharmacy, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

These were Jean Kennedy Irvine’s words on her election as the first woman President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in 1947.

Medieval monasteries

In her speech, Jean also mentioned the early beginnings of community pharmacy in the medieval monasteries, where residents would grow medicinal plants to treat themselves and local people.

One of the oldest items on display in the RPS Museum is a stone mortar from a Spanish nunnery (AD 410-1500), used for preparing medicines. The Hanbury Collection of the RPS Library also contains a later copy of the ‘Physica’, a work by St Hildegard, Abbess of Bingen. Originally written in the 1100s, it outlines the medicinal properties of various drugs obtained from the natural world. Read more Women in early pharmacy

A brief history of fake medicines: ancient Greeks and ‘trashy elixirs’

By Matthew Johnston, RPS Museum

On 9 February the Falsified Medicines Directive will come into force, making it harder for fake prescription medicines to reach patients. Although this is the latest piece of legislation to tackle counterfeit medicines, the problem is far from a new one.

For as long as branded medicines have been around, authenticity has been important. As early as 500 BC, priestesses on the Greek island of Lemnos supplied tablets of medicinal clay, stamped with a special seal while still wet, in order to guarantee they were the genuine article. Read more A brief history of fake medicines: ancient Greeks and ‘trashy elixirs’

Supporting and managing diabetes among the South Asian diaspora

How the pharmacy profession can play a huge role in providing effective support and care

Diabetes and the population

Type 2 diabetes is a preventable long-term condition which is currently highly prevalent and steadily increasing.

Research has shown that some ethnicities are at higher risk for developing the condition. South Asian people make up the second largest ethnic group in the UK, after the white population, and are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in comparison. With the condition being up to six times more common in this ethnic group, it is a growing problem in the community.

“It is important that culturally appropriate advice is provided to those of South Asian origin”

The average age of onset in this group is 25, as opposed to 40 in the White population. There are a number of health complications related to diabetes, which include cardiovascular risk and mental health. It is therefore important that culturally appropriate advice is provided to those of South Asian origin, including advice about fasting, diet and exercise.

Read more Supporting and managing diabetes among the South Asian diaspora

Making a difference to mental health patients

By Caroline Dada, Lead Pharmacist for Community Services, Gender Identity & Medication Safety Officer

Mental health treatment has been transformed in the last 20 years leading to a significant reduction in the number of inpatient beds. The treatment of mental health is unrecognisable from the asylums of old, thank goodness!

This transformation has led to a major shift in care provision, with many patients with mental health problems being seen by the GP with limited specialist input. GPs have raised concerns about this change, reporting a need for increased knowledge and competence and improved co-operation between primary and secondary care. Patients are also concerned, with 22% reporting they needed more specialist input1. Read more Making a difference to mental health patients

Winter Wellness

Jodie Williamson MRPharmS, Pharmacist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Jodie Williamson MRPharmS

by Jodie Williamson, Pharmacist and Professional Development and Engagement Lead at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales.

We often hear about the pressures facing the NHS during the winter months but did you know that there are steps that we can all take to stay well this Winter that can help to relieve this pressure?

Read more Winter Wellness

Follow Chris’s revalidation tips

I’m Chris John from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) – welcome to my blog. As Head of Workforce Development I look at the standards, guidance, and policies that will develop our profession. Having been involved in the RPS approach to supporting its members with revalidation I decided to write a blog about my own journey with staying on the register.  Each month I will cover different aspects of a new additional way us pharmacists have to keep our knowledge and skills up-to-date – the peer discussion.  The what, who, where and how. I hope you find my blog to be informative as well as an enjoyable read – do let me know.

Who will Chris choose for his peer discussion?

Chris’s peer discussion blog