Part 1: A Day in the Life of a Medical Science Liaison
Do you love science but don't love working in a laboratory? Do you thrive on analyzing and understanding complex topics and data but are also extroverted, enjoy networking and are excited to build deep and lasting relationships with people? If your answer is an emphatic “yes” to these questions then the job of a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) might just be for you. Ideally, you will also have an advanced degree, e.g. a MD, PhD, PharmD or be a registered nurse with an advanced degree. Let’s say you have got all this and are interested in a career as an MSL, here is an overview of what a day in the life of an MSL might look like.
A Typical Day in the Life of an MSL …
… actually does not exist. But there is a common theme underlying all the activities an MSL undertakes: MSLs are the critical point of connection between the pharmaceutical company and the healthcare system, e.g. physicians, nurses, clinical partners, key opinion leaders (KOLs), members of drug formularies, P&T committees - to name just a few. The role of an MSL is to have all the relevant information about their field of expertise, as well as their company’s and their competitors’ products, and then translate that deep knowledge into meaningful conversations with these stakeholders.
Another common thread follows from this: MSLs communicate a lot. If they aren’t working through the latest data pertaining to a drug, catching up with what is going on in their therapy area or finding out what their competitors are up to, they are probably in meetings, making presentations, networking at a conference, or reaching out to stakeholders via phone. MSLs need to be master communicators and enjoy sharing their knowledge.
With these underlying themes in mind, here are some of the activities MSLs engage in regularly, if not dailys:
· Stay in close touch with key opinion leaders. MSLs share and discuss the latest data related to their company’s pre- and post-commercialization products with KOLs and discuss ongoing clinical research.
· Respond to a question from a healthcare provider (HCP) who seeks technical and detailed answers about a drug.
· Meet with physicians, pharmacists and nurses, esp. those involved in clinical trials to discuss the drugs under development or provide relevant updates on drugs that are already in the market.
· Collect medical information about a drug in the field. Typical questions to explore are; are there any issues with the treatments? Are there treatment gaps? Are there any other problems the physicians observe in patients that are taking the drug?
· Share the real-life information collected from these in-depth discussions with HCPs with the relevant internal groups at their company so that any problems can be addressed.
· Educate and train field-based sales staff.
· Give presentations at conferences or to groups of stakeholders about their portfolio of products.
· Attend medical conferences to network and stay abreast of the latest in clinical research in their field.
An MSL’s job is fast-paced and different every day. MSLs tend to have a lot of flexibility when it comes to creating their own schedule and structuring their work day. Many MSLs work at least part of the time from home and most of them travel a lot: being on the road 75% of the time is no exception. Sitting in a plane or braving a traffic jam – depending on their geographical focus – is therefore also part of a typical day in the life of an MSL.
To be successful, MSLs need an advanced degree and great communications skills. For scientists who enjoy giving presentations and talks, look forward to journal club and won’t miss the bench work, the career of an MSL might be just the thing to do. An MSL stays deeply involved with science, gets the opportunity to discuss the latest developments with the leading minds in the field and share their knowledge and insights with others to ultimately help deliver better treatment to patients.