Do you have a passion for teaching and enjoy finding new ways to effectively communicate scientific ideas to the public? If so, a career as a Medical Science Liason (MSL) may be perfect for you. This past month, Beyond the PhD had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Amanda Rendall, an MSL affiliated with AbbVie pharmaceuticals who specializes in therapeutics designed to treat migraines. One of her primary responsibilities is meeting with headache specialists to discuss the latest therapies and drugs available on the market. Prior to entering the field, she contemplated the idea of becoming a professor after obtaining her Bachelors from Stony Brook University. However, she soon realized there were other avenues she wished to pursue instead. Following graduation, she obtained a position as a postdoc in Data Science, but once again discovered that this was not her true passion. Being newly married and looking to start a family, she was interested in a career that would be both exciting and challenging, but also provide her with some flexibility in terms of scheduling. As luck would have it, a quick google search for “What to do with my PhD” resulted in her discovery of the MSL field. It checked off every box in terms of her desire to teach and communicate science to others as well as be involved with the dissemination of information that would help clinicians decide on appropriate therapies for treating diseases. According to Amanda, MSLs act as a bridge between healthcare companies and the physicians responsible for treating a particular disease. They can be found in biotech companies as well as pharmaceutical and medical device organizations. Some of Amanda’s main responsibilities as an MSL entail delivering scientific presentations, identifying and training speakers, supporting advisory boards and participating in investigator-led research. She also assists with the coordination of company sponsored research and trials. The thing she loves most about being an MSL is that she is at the forefront of clinical research, where she truly gets to make a difference in the lives of patients.
For individuals interested in pursuing a career as an MSL, a Postdoc position is not required, however it definitely gives you more credibility in the field. Previous experiences that helped leverage her current position involved participation in outreach and community activities as well as teaching undergraduate and graduate students during her academic career. She also stressed that it is a necessity to have a strong scientific background so that you are able to explain how certain drug therapies affect the body. Amanda also gave some insightful information on what the Interview Process for an MSL looks like. The first stage involves a series of phone screens/video calls with the recruiter/talent acquisition, hiring manager and sometimes other MSLs who serve as directors. The second stage consists of an in person interview, followed by a series of one on ones and the delivery of a presentation. Finally, if offered a position, her best piece of advice is to know your worth. Salary negotiation is key and Glassdoor/MSL surveys can be used as resources to determine how much MSLs within the area are being paid.
One of the difficulties associated with becoming an MSL is that it is a highly competitive field, however, the compensation and benefits are excellent and there are plenty of opportunities to work from home where you can set your own schedule. Although it can be unpredictable at times in terms of when you need to be available for clients and some travel is expected, the work is rewarding and allows you to have a positive impact on treatment selection by clinicians. Some of the helpful tips Amanda provided for breaking into the field include participating in network-informational interview/conferences as well as making sure to keep your resume updated. She also stated that it’s an excellent idea to connect with recruiters on Linkedin that assist with the placement of MSLs in companies such as SEM Bio, TMAC, Syneos, Trinet pharma etc. If you are interested to know more about obtaining a career as an MSL you can contact Amanda at (need her email address).