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Why PhDs Took Over The Medical Science Liaison Industry (Interview w/Top MSL)

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“Medical Science Liaison” is a highly respected role with tons of autonomy for PhDs who want to build professional relationships with thought leaders around the world.


But the best news is that more PhDs are being hired into MSL positions than even PharmDs.


Here’s your quick guide to this week’s episode…

-First: What is the MSL role all about? What do MSLs do?

-Then: PhD skills that can get you into this incredible industry role.

-Finally: Is an MSL career right for you?


From This Week’s Show…

What Is A Medical Science Liaison? Yuri Klyachkin, PhD, MSL, Weighs In…

Yuri: We [MSLs] always struggle with a short answer for this question. But the best way to describe an MSL career… It’s like a Venn diagram where social skills, soft skills, and scientific acumen meet. That’s kind of what we do. We are the extension of a company’s Medical Affairs and Clinical Research departments who go out into the field. 


And by the “field” I mean the professional environment where you will find thought leaders in a particular therapeutic area. For example, in my case, I primarily interact with thought leaders in the fields of Dermatology and Rheumatology. 


My job is to build relationships and get feedback from these leaders. In turn, this feedback goes back to the company, which essentially creates a strategy around our clinical trials. That’s the easiest way I can explain it.

How To Begin Pursuit Of An MSL Role

Isaiah: Let’s say someone has been listening and thinks, You know, this might be a good path for me. Can you break down any limits for those PhDs who are listening right now? As PhDs, we tend to put up for ourselves first. Like, I can’t do this because my background is XYZ.  I have no clinical experience.  Break down those limits and  tell me the first thing that you would do after realizing you CAN get into this role. What’s the first thing that you would do to start pursuing it?

Yuri: Great question. I was guilty of this… I had limiting beliefs when I was beginning my transition out of academia. In the fifth of sixth year of my postdoc, I was like, I don’t know if I can do this [become an MSL]. I have no real clinical background. 

A lot of my research was maybe translational at best. But here’s the thing: I really did not have the tools that you all have to pursue this role. True, I had Cheeky Scientist in 2014, and that kind of gave me the confidence to pursue this role. But I didn’t have a lot of the strategies that are now available to today’s listeners.

The first thing I learned from Cheeky Scientist (and from Isaiah) was to network, and it’s the first thing I started doing – I talked to other MSLs. My primary goal was to just learn more about the role. You read the job description, and there’s just so much in it – it’s so vague—there’s a lot of  jargon—and you don’t really know what it means. 

But when you talk to a bunch of different MSLs, you start to realize, Oh my god – this is really cool! This is something I would really like to do. And it also gives you confidence that you could totally do this…

** for the full podcast, check out the audio player above.

To get advanced access to the full length versions of these podcasts, as well as access to our live training webinars, exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the waitlist for the Cheeky Scientist Association now.

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Isaiah Hankel


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