Medical Communication and Science Writing Virtual Career Panel

  • April 14, 2020
iJOBS Blog

By: Gina Sanchez On March 31st, the iJobs program hosted a career panel in Medical Writing and Science Communication. In this program, we were able to hear from three Rutgers Ph.D. graduates and one more individual at various stages of their careers. Attendees were able to get the points of view of the panelists regarding how they learned about Medical Writing, what Chateau Gonflable their job activities include, the application process, and their favorite aspects of the field. A common thread between the panelists was that they had “enjoyed the benchwork, but enjoyed writing it up and communicating it to others more,” as stated by Dr. Ina Nikolaeva, Scientific Director at ProEd Communications. Benchwork is the crux of research for many of us, but it is still critical that any findings are communicated in a way that others who may not be in our field can understand. On another note, Dr. Brendon Fussnecker, Senior Director of Flywheel Partners, had a bit of a unique take on the question of “why Medical Communications?”. For him, he had mentioned that he values the business side of things. He echoed some sentiments from the “SciPh.D.” workshop (which you can learn more about here and here), such as being able to target your pitch to different people within departments, namely talking to Human Resources versus talking to Account Management. The ability to know and understand your audience is vital. So, what is Medical Writing? The specific day-to-day activities of each panelist varied, but they focused on a common thread: taking datasets and interpreting them to present to a broader audience. Dr. Apoorva Halikere, Associate Medical Director from P-value Communications, gave a brief overview of her general day. In essence, she receives datasets from clients and determines the best way to compile the data for presentation purposes, makes slide decks, and makes promotional pieces for her clients. These materials can be for primary care physicians, specialty physicians, or sometimes for patients. Being able to communicate across diverse audiences is a significant skill to have in this field. Some other responsibilities that she mentioned included assisting in the organization of advisory board meetings, which brings together specialists for their thoughts on the compound that they are working on with a client. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Typical breakdown of time in Medcomms.[/caption] The work-life balances for each panelist were a bit different, but all seemed to agree that it was manageable. Dr. Nikolaeva mentioned that it is a learning process and could depend on the work culture of each company. Therefore, Dr. Fussnecker stated that it can be a tricky question, but it is valid to ask what is the company’s work culture while you are in the application process. Everyone has a different preference and works better under different environments, so it is important to factor this into your decision as an applicant.  Dr. Halikere also mentioned that it is possible to work remotely. This may not be an everyday thing (unless during a pandemic). Still, if you show that you are capable of being productive at home and you also have a good relationship with your boss, it is something that can be negotiated. The major benefit of having such a diverse panel is that we were able to learn about the application process from many different angles, anywhere from someone newly-hired to someone at late career stage. Dr. Lorenz Loyola, Rutgers alumnus of 2019 currently working as a Medical Writer for Wedgewood Communications, was able to give us insight into what we likely will experience in a few short months or years. He mentioned that it can be tricky to apply for an entry-level position as it is competitive and that there are times of the year that it will be “easier” to apply for a job as cycles clients are off-loaded. He attended iJobs events and ultimately used LinkedIn to help him find his current job. The process included meeting with many people within the company, then performing a writing test. He said that their “goal is to check your potential to be trained to become a good medical writer for their company.” Dr. Fussnecker felt that being in a program like iJobs would look very good on an application because it shows that you have had exposure to many different career options and likely have established a network that could assist you in this career path. Furthermore, experience in all types of writing is recommended by him. Medical Writing is a unique field, and experience writing primary research articles, review articles, a blog, or even your cover letter shows him that you are flexible in your writing skills, which is a major perk in this field. He also noted that it is important to show that you can work on a team. Many companies divide their employees into smaller groups that each tackle a different client project, so being able to work in a team is essential. Dr. Nikolaeva described the diverse types of writing tests that she has heard of or personally experienced. You may have one week to write a lengthy piece, one day to write an abstract, or summarize data in 2-3 hours. What they are looking for is potential, not perfection. You are expected to produce a detail-oriented, polished piece with proper grammar, flow, and structure that tells a story. She also went on to note that there is “not a lot of room for ego in this field,” as this is a client-based field. You are commonly put in the acknowledgments section of any papers produced, but not a primary author. That being said, you have some room to argue your points with clients, but it is ultimately not your piece. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="571"] Helpful skills to have.[/caption] One of the final topics discussed at this panel was the panelists’ favorite aspects of being a Medical Writer. Dr. Fussnecker enjoys what many people outside of the field would dislike. He loves how dynamic the job is. As a Medical Writer, you are constantly changing fields and expanding your knowledge base. He also really enjoys the problem-solving aspect of the writing process. Dr. Nikolaeva personally enjoys communicating with the clinicians, as they are the ones on the front lines battling the disease that you are working with and producing materials for. This panel was very insightful and allowed us an up-close view of an emerging field that had seemed so elusive in the past. MedComm is an expanding field that Ph.D.s are highly-qualified for. In this career, you work with the skills you learned while earning your doctoral degree in order to produce pieces that will ultimately help to communicate the findings of one group to a broader audience. This career path will always challenge you to learn new subjects, and I feel that that is one of the most valuable outcomes of being a scientist.   Junior Editor: Janaina Pereira Senior Editor: Helena Mello