The S2BN Virtual Career Cafe Blog - In Focus: Medical Information
Science 2 Business network (S2BN) held a virtual event on April 29th, 2020 to spotlight careers in medical information as part of its Virtual Career Café series. Two speakers – Pari Shahrezaei and Alexander Lang – shared their insights about medical information as a career and how students can prepare themselves for a role in medical information.
About the speakers and their career paths
Pari completed her BSc from McGill University, followed by a PharmD from the University of Waterloo. She then enrolled in University of Toronto’s Industrial Pharmacy Residency Program, which led to a Medical Information Resident role at Eli Lilly. She has very recently transitioned into a full-time role as a Medical Information Associate at Elli Lilly.
Alex completed his BSc and PhD from Queen’s University. He has since held many positions in medical information, pharmacovigilance, medical affairs, and marketing at various pharmaceutical companies. Currently, Alex is a Medical Information Manager at Janssen and pursuing an MBA.
What is medical information?
Medical information (or med info) is part of the medical team at a pharmaceutical company. Its main function is to provide reactive medical information about pharmaceutical products to healthcare providers, patients, caregivers, and other stakeholders who may seek such information. For example, if a physician or a pharmacist has a question regarding the ingredients of a drug or a question around drug-interactions, they will reach out to medical information where an associate will answer their question. Medical information also liaises with internal commercial and medical partners, and act as a source of literature search, information, and training for internal and external stakeholders. Medical information associates may also be involved in the review of promotional and educational materials for healthcare providers and patients.
A day-to-day experience of a medical information associate
Although a typical day of a medical information associate can vary, the following are some key responsibilities of a medical information associate:
Providing evidence-based answers to inquiries regarding a pharmaceutical product that the pharmaceutical company produces
Development and review of medical content for healthcare professionals and patients
Medical review of marketing and promotional materials
Team meetings and cross-functional collaborations
Training internal teams (such as sales reps and marketing associates)
Literature research to stay up to date in your therapeutic area
How to get there?
There is no strict requirement of a degree or certification to attain a medical information associate role. Although not a requirement, a graduate degree can help you set apart from others and can be beneficial for future opportunities. Most medical information associates have an MSc, PhD, or PharmD. Students who are interested in residency or internship placements can look at programs such as those offered by Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto at Mississauga, and Queen’s University. Students and recent graduates should engage in networking and focus on developing skills that are important for a medical information associate role.
1. Skills required for a medical information role: Any medical information role requires exceptional literature search skills. You should be able to stay up to date with scientific and medical research within your therapeutic area. Furthermore, a medical information associate will need to have expert knowledge about the drug or therapeutic area that they are responsible for. Students should also work on their presentation and inter-personal skills as a core component of a medical information role is to be able to communicate (verbal and written) with internal and external stakeholders. Although not required for all roles, bilingualism is a great asset for a medical information role.
2. Develop your career plan: Alex advised students to develop a career plan by asking three questions: (i) where am I now?, (ii) where do I want to be?, and (iii) what do I need to learn to get there? Students should think about what skills, education, or credentials they will need 2-5 years down the road and start working on them now. A career plan will keep you motivated and help you stay on top of the future job market. It can be a great tool for job security and avoiding any pitfalls along the way.
3. Job applications: Before applying for any role, read the job description in detail and note all the keywords and skills that are mentioned in the description, with a special attention to those that are mentioned multiple times. Your resume should contain these keywords and should highlight how your experience aligns with the skills required for the job. For cover letters, Alex said to “let your personality shine through your cover letter”. Your cover letter should show your enthusiasm and interest for the role.
4. What do hiring managers look for in potential medical information associate candidates? Alex highlighted the following attributes and skills that he looks for in candidates:
(a) A well-written resume and cover letter, and a polished LinkedIn profile
(c) Strong literature searching skills
(d) Strong MS Office technical skills
(e) Excellent verbal communication skills
(f) A desire to learn and passion for improving the lives of patients
(g) Customer service skills – enthusiastic, energetic, and engaging