Science to Business Edmonton tracked down former University of Alberta Ph.D. student, Sarah Miyata Kane for an interview about her current position in the health economics industry. We learned a lot about her transition from Science to Business, and we found her tips are helpful to keep in mind moving forward in a graduate degree.
What is your job title and a brief description of what you do:
I am a Research Associate for a Health Economics and consulting company. In my job, I assist with a wide variety of projects to identify, demonstrate, and communicate the clinical and economic value for medical devices and pharmaceuticals. In short, this involves reading a wide range of published articles to extract data and create summaries pertaining to the value of products and then effectively communicating this value in the form of Powerpoint slide decks, sales aids, or economic models.
How did your Ph.D. from the U of A help you achieve this?
I had an interesting series of events that eventually led me to this career. Immediately following my Ph.D. at the U of A I worked for a local biotechnology company and stayed in this sector for 4+ years (with two different companies). During my Ph.D., I was fortunate to publish several primary research and review articles, which gave me a competitive edge while applying for jobs. My publication record has been commented on by all three of my post-Ph.D. employers, and it helped me secure my first job because it made me a strong candidate for Research Fellowship applications. I was fortunate to have a supervisor at the U of A who was not only supportive of my publication goals but also challenged me to think critically and taught me the art of scientific writing. Strong analytical and writing skills are crucial in my current position.
What is your number one strategy for getting a job in the health sector?
Getting a job in the health sector is not an easy feat! I think it's most important to find something that differentiates you from the masses. And then ensure that you effectively communicate your assets via your cover letter and resume. Having a professional critique both your cover letter and resume will also help you stand out amongst other applicants.
What do you like the best about your role as a research associate in Health Economics consulting?
I'm involved in a wide variety of projects that involve different human diseases, drugs, or medical devices. I'm always learning about new topics and get to put my research skills to use, just not in a lab-based environment. The process of my work is also very methodical and organized. I spend a lot of time sorting and organizing data, which is something I've always enjoyed. I also find it rewarding to work on projects with relatively short time-frames where you get to see a finished product at the end. I get a sense of accomplishment seeing my work in final form and then being able to move on to the next project.
What are some challenges that you face in your role?
Working on multiple projects at a time, I need to read and retain results from many studies on one topic and then be able to switch on a dime to another topic with different data sets. This type of job won't be for everyone as it involves sitting at a desk all day in a quiet office environment. Maintaining focus for a full day sitting at a desk can be a challenge at times.
What kind of skills, designations, or opportunities should students seek if they wish to pursue a career in Health Economics Consulting?
My coworkers have a wide range of educational backgrounds. Some have PhDs; some have MScs (research or course-based), some have BScs. The most important qualifications for this type of job are to be able to analyze data critically, have a solid foundation in writing and math, and to have an understanding of scientific terminology and human physiology. There aren't any specific designations that make a person overly-qualified for my position. Most new hires with my company don't necessarily have a background in Health Economics - we learn as we go. That said, experience in Excel VBA would be an asset for someone starting out in this field.
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