By: Samantha Avina
iJOBS events cover a wide array of non-academic careers, but one career that always eluded my understanding was Medical Affairs. What does “Medical Affairs” involve? Does it include regulatory affair writers working with science communicators, or M.D. and clinician crosstalk? On September 30th, 2021, the Rutgers iJOBS Simulation Event: Medical Affairs aimed to discuss with attendees what work comes under the definition of medical affairs and simulate what a working case in medical affairs looks like. The simulation aspect of this iJOBS event meant participants could get a hands-on learning opportunity of what working in this field involves.
First off, what is Medical Affairs and what does it involve? In simple terms, Medical Affairs is the field that serves as the bridge between the scientific community and the healthcare industry. Broader than fields like Medical Scientific Liaisons (MSLs) or science communicators, Medical Affairs personnel are the intersection for these other positions because they coordinate the communication between them all. “This is a rapidly growing area in the pharmaceutical and device industry…focused on research, knowledge, and education to provide scientific and medical support for a company’s marketed products and development pipelines”, said iJOBS event presenter Dr. Paul Weber.
Dr. Weber is the Associate Dean for continuing medical education at RWJMS and the director of many programs in the Rutgers education community. Prior to joining Rutgers, he served as medical affairs executive director for multiple pharmaceutical companies including Celgene, PTC therapeutics, Enzon, and Roche. He led this stimulating workshop and broke it down into 3 major segments: overview into the various positions within medical affairs, an interactive workshop for participants to work in teams on a medical affairs-based practice case, and final group discussion on each team’s role on the project. Dr. Weber brought an exciting energy to the workshop by noting how modern medical advances have allowed multiple generations to live alongside and learn from each other, in part thanks to people in Medical Affairs. He highlighted that Medical Affairs is fast growing and becoming a more PhD holder-oriented field. While background experience with business and public health is not necessary to enter this field, Dr. Weber noted it is very helpful in linking the scientific and medical communities to aid understanding newly available products. Check out the list below of the growing medical affairs credentials and job positions discussed in Dr. Weber’s talk.
Credentials for Medical Affairs personnel:
- Scientific background
- Knowledge and experience in business, public health, and health policy
- Master’s degree, but more often now PhD/MD/PharmD holders
- New Board certification in medical affairs
Job positions within the Medical Affairs career:
- Medical Affairs Officer: Working on the frontline to facilitate proper communication between medical professionals and pharmaceutical industries under the direction of senior medical editors
- Medical Affairs Manager: Tasked with managing and coordinating clinical trials and administrating product information as needed to those handling and participating in the trials
- Medical Director: Responsible for overseeing medical and administrative processes necessary for proper medical operations
- Medical Writer: Responsible for clearly and effectively communicating research results; processes tailored to different scientific and medical professionals within the company and abroad
Dr. Weber emphasized the importance of different positions within industry working together with Medical Affairs Directors to bring a product to market. Everyone has a role to play. From making sure information is digestible for medical professionals (Scientific Communicators), to making important product information accessible (Innovation and Digital Health), Chief Medical Officers play a part on making that information clear and concise.
For the workshop, the audience was assigned the objective of bringing a launched or FDA-approved drug to market. Everyone was split into teams representing each of the different specialties to achieve their objective. Different groups included MSLs, science communicators, digital creators, science educators, and medical directors.
I was a part of the science communicator group, where our goal was to identify how we would prepare an informational slide deck targeting a physician-based audience about our team’s newest product. We would then bring the slide deck to the Medical Affairs Director and they would be able to share our content with other departments. At that point the product could receive translational support for the greater medical community and potentially marketing department. Once our group finished discussing the content for our slide deck, we brought our ideas to Dr. Weber who then discussed how our content would be handled by the Medical Affairs officer and shared with the relevant departments. In essence, the purpose of the Medical Affairs department is serving as the bridge between the medical and pharmaceutical fields while being the point of contact within the company for all these different departments.
Overall, it is clear the Medical Affairs world is a growing field that is here to stay, and its constantly looking for PhD holders to fill these positions. Like many other careers covered in the iJOBS program, Medical Affairs personnel need to be able to digest dense research findings quicky and make complex ideas easier to understand and approachable. To me, one of the most important skills someone will need in this position is the soft skill of interacting with people to facilitate clear communication between interdepartmental quarrels, and crosstalk between industries. If a job with a lot of scientific communication and bringing different industries to work together excites you, Medical Affairs may be a great fit!
This article was edited by Junior Editor Gina Sanchez and Senior Editor Natalie Losada.
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