From General Medicine to a career in pharma

5 min | Medical Careers
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Claire Ponsford

November 29, 2019

One doctor’s journey from General Medicine to the pharmaceutical industry

Today’s global pharmaceutical industry offers some fascinating options for Doctors looking to pursue a non-medical career. For many, it’s often hard to know where to start when it comes to taking that daunting first step.

As part of our Creative Careers in Medicine blog series, Wavelength founding director Claire Ponsford talks to Dr Sammy Mohandas about her interesting transition from medicine into Medical Science Liaison within the pharmaceutical industry, both in India and here in Australia.

General Medicine to a career in Pharma-WavelengthMedicalRecruitmentDr Sammy Mohandas transitioned from medicine into a Medical Science Liaison role within the pharmaceutical industry.

Firstly, what sparked your interest in pursuing medicine as a career?

In India, I had always been interested in science and wanted to study medicine from a very early age. When I finally graduated from medical school, I rotated through Paediatrics and General Medicine, ranging from cardiovascular to oncology. I loved my time as a Medical Officer as I found it so interesting working in each different therapeutic area.

Why did you start to consider career options outside of medicine?

Most of my colleagues had mapped out their careers in hospital medicine and were very happy with their chosen paths. But I was becoming more and more interested in pharmacovigilance which was a hot topic in India at the time. After a considerable amount of my own research, I decided to undertake an MD in Clinical Pharmacology, looking closely at how drugs are used in trials. During this time I was offered a fascinating internship with a pharmaceutical company. I then secured my first corporate position with Quintiles (now Iqvia) as a Pharmacovigilance Physician. I really liked the job options Medical Affairs offered, including roles such as Medical Science Liaison and Medical Advisor.

What happened to your new career path when you then moved to Australia?

I decided to go back to my roots and embarked on a traditional pathway to becoming a GP. I sat the Australian Medical Council exams and passed, but then found as an IMG there were too many restrictions on where I could practice. So, I started to look again at my corporate options. Medical Affairs is a bit different here in Australia compared to India, so I networked to try and gain a better understanding of the local market.

What resources did you find to be the most helpful?

I was working as a Medical Officer at the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Canberra when I discovered the From Science to Pharma website and coaching course for Doctors looking for a new challenge. I realised there are good career opportunities for Doctors as Medical Science Liaison (MSL) within the pharmaceutical industry. The podcasts, webcasts, interview training and skills transfer coaching were invaluable. As an example, a coach looked at my CV to identify which skills would be useful in a Medical Affairs role such as scientific knowledge, understanding medications and the treatment landscape and working with medical teams. This really assisted with my job application process.

You then went on to secure your first Medical Science Liaison role with Novartis Pharmaceuticals and then with Bristol-Myers Squibb. What do you enjoy most about working as an MSL?

I love interacting with key opinion leaders and specialists to discuss scientific data. The travel opportunities are amazing, and I really enjoy meeting all different kinds of people. Every day is different with new challenges.

What advice would you give someone considering a move into the pharmaceutical industry?

If you’re an RMO, explore all of the possibilities as there are so many options in the corporate world. Really try and figure out what types of roles align with your skillset. Do some networking and understand the challenges of the job as each role in Medical Affairs is different. Finally, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend joining the From Science to Pharma training program.

Thank you so much Sammy for your time and valuable career transition insights.

If you’re keen to explore medical career options outside of traditional clinical pathways, including the pharmaceutical industry, we can connect you with a wide range of innovative healthcare companies.

Wavelength is also able to offer you a 10% discount on the cost of From Science to Pharma courses and share details about some free webinars running in December. Contact our team to find out more and benefit from this exclusive offer.  

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