Description: Medical science liaisons (MSLs) are individuals with advanced scientific training and academic credentials who work for pharmaceuticals, biotechs, medical device companies, CROs, and other health-care industries as scientific peers and resources within the medical community. MLSs work throughout a product’s lifecycle, i.e. that of a drug or device, to ensure the product is used effectively. The primary purpose of the MSL role is to establish and maintain peer-peer relationships with leading physicians, referred to as Key Opinion Leaders, at major academic institutions and clinics. MSLs work closely with researchers, medical product teams, and medical professionals. An MSL is not part of the sales force for a company, but rather employed usually through a division analogous to medical affairs. A key attraction of being an MSL as a career is the requirement to integrate basic and clinical research at a very high level and in a way that can be communicated in any setting of professionals. Other features include a high level of independence and travel.
Advantages of an advanced degree: A PhD or MD has become a requisite for entry into this profession, owing to the sophistication and scope of the relevant basic and clinical disciplines and the development of peer-peer relationships.
Key competencies: A high degree of scientific and medical acumen is required, especially at the level of knitting basic research with clinical studies, having complete facility with a product’s development and testing, and understanding relevant clinical issues completely. The ability to communicate clearly and precisely to diverse audiences, and to adjust the message depending on time and reading of the audience, is also essential. An ability to maintain extensive networks and to manage time effectively is required as well. Many cite the advantages of an outgoing, optimistic personality, which speaks to the high degree of ‘people’ skills required.
On-campus student organizations: There are no student organizations that especially fit this career, but several can be helpful, the Penn Graduate Consulting Group in particular.
First steps: Understanding translational concepts in medicine and clinical trials, and specifically determining one’s affinity for them, is important. Toward this end, exploring some of the programs offered through the Clinical and Translational Science Award administered through the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics can be an excellent first step. Also of high relevance are various aspects of the Graduate Training in Medical Science program.
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