Executive, Pharmaceutical Biotech Industry
What is developing/changing in this field? Where do you see the greatest needs?
The greatest needs are in medical writing, biostatistics, clinical development, patient interaction, medical affairs and liaisons where scientists educate physicians on the science of what is evolving, bench research scientists, and clinical pharmacology, in reference to characterizing the drug. There are opportunities for people with bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees. The degree and degrees that you obtain are simply tools that you use in your tool belt. The more tools you have, the greater your career will be.
What advice would you give someone entering this field?
Think about where you want to make your contribution. Everyone is put here for a reason. Think about how to make your contribution something that is fulfilling to you. Build a network and drive towards that goal.
The best way to help yourself is to network. I know this is extremely hard, but you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. There’s no crime in asking for help. Most people are kind and are willing to help, but you have to ask for help, even if it’s for guidance. People are willing to share their experiences and you can learn passively from that. That’s the beauty of Illinois and how we have such a strong alumni network. Whatever you think you want to do, there’s someone out there doing it and you can learn from the experiences.
Students should know there are ways to contribute in science without practicing medicine. Everyone wants a high score on the MCAT and to be an MD. Going into medicine is not the same now as it used to be. You need a Plan B, and you need to have other options and venues to look at. Do not limit yourself to a life being dictated by an MCAT score. Medicine is different because of the change of dynamics in the economic market. Doctors are driven by what the payers will pay for. The way you practice medicine is highly regulated by the payers. For example, if I have a patient that presents in the hospital with a headache and nystagmus, you have to go through hurdles with the insurance company to get an MRI because they won’t pay for it if there’s nothing there. It limits your ability to practice medicine because of cost containment. Medicine is a business, but they don’t teach that in med school.