Saturday, January 28, 2012

Interview: Medical Science Liason

This week, I had a phone call with a Medical Science Liason (MSL).  I met with someone who was previously in this position, and it sounded like so much fun!  Travel and shmooze with docs! Learn about cutting edge technology in your field, and you don't have to sell anything.  Heck, you are forbidden from selling anything!  She suggested I talk to some others first before I jumped in (I think I am just primed for jumping in to things these days).

I called up a colleagues of hers, who also had great things to say about the job.  It is well paid (Glassdoor suggests 6 figures and up), and there are great perks, like a company car.  You get to be the recognized expert to the people you work with, and the position is far from routine.  And, he says, "there is no one at the home office that I don't get along with."  That's right, the MSL works from home when they aren't traveling. 

So what does the job really look like?  A big drug company wants to release a new product.  They will unleash some of the team of MSLs (and this large drug company has about 100 nationally), to meet with "thought leaders" like physicians to drum up interest in the drug.  The MSL is not allowed to promote the product, they are in a support role.  I imagine them bringing by copies of journal articles and preliminary results to share with curious docs.  Then the drug comes out, and all these docs have questions about how the product works, when it should be used, and what else it might be used for.  The sales team is not equipped to handle that, so enter the MSL again.  He made it very clear that an MSL really needs to develop deep expertise on the product, and broad expertise in the field (his field being rhuematology).  He does get to attend professional conferences (at least one in Europe every year) for training and reconnaissance purposes.

In addition, he spends a lot of time in contact with other MSLs in his field (via conference call), talking with the researchers that developed the product, and training the sales team.  He suggested that different companies utilize their MSLs for different amounts of these roles.  And he loved this job!  I've heard that with the heavy travel demands (30-70%) over wide territories (AK, WA, OR, ID, and Northern CA, for example) people often burn out of this role and transition to something more stable after a few years, but he has been at the job for 9 years.  But he said his working interactions are not like a normal job, he doesn't have coworkers he interacts with regularly.  His "regular" contacts he sees quarterly, and most he sees less often. 

He suggested I look at the MSL Quarterly Newsletter for job postings and ideas about skills to perform the job better.  He also suggested, with a chuckle, cafepharma for trending news and occasional industry gossip.

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