Interview with Dr. Samuel Dyer, Founder and CEO, Medical Science Liaison Society
Dr. Samuel Dyer is the founder and CEO of the Medical Science Liaison Society (MSL Society), the only non-profit organization dedicated to the global Medical Science Liaison profession. He received his PhD in Health Sciences from Touro University and went to Medical School in Chicago after which he worked in Medial Affairs at leading pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Merck, BMS, Genentech, and Valeant.
As described in a previous iJOBS blog post, the role of a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) blends business with technical and scientific acumen to promote disease state awareness, foster communication between clinicians and in-house staff, and conduct educational seminars on behalf of the pharmaceutical company they represent. According to the MSL Society, “MSLs play a vital role in the success of a company and their products in this ever-changing regulatory landscape. They work throughout a product’s lifecycle by educating physicians to ensure that products are utilized effectively, function as scientific peers, and serve as a source of expert knowledge within a therapeutic area. The primary role of an MSL is to establish and maintain peer-peer relationships with leading physicians, referred to as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), at major academic institutions and clinics on behalf of the pharmaceutical company.” Often, they collaborate with clinicians to help guide investigator-initiated clinical trials and at some companies publish papers regarding such trials.
As a Medical Affairs professional with years of experience as an MSL and executive management of MSLs, Dr. Dyer has been a leading proponent of educating the next group of MSLs. He is the author of a first of its kind book, The Medical Science Liaison Career Guide: How to Break Into Your First Role. The book is a step-by-step guide for those interested in the MSL career, which provides an understanding of the role, how it fits into the context of a pharmaceutical company, and how to ultimately obtain your first position. As the CEO of the MSL Society, Dr. Dyer is a global advocate of the MSL profession. He holds a leadership position in the field in identifying the needs of MSLs, the success of MSLs, and providing training to MSLs. As an aspiring MSL myself, I thought it would be best to interview Dr. Dyer to discuss his views of the MSL profession, his leadership in this field, and ultimately the future of MSLs.
Dr. Dyer stressed that leaders in the MSL field need to have impeccable communication skills. The role of an MSL centers on KOL relationship building. MSLs must provide value to KOLs in the field in order for them to listen to what you have to say. The biggest challenge for MSLs in the future, according to Dr. Dyer, will be the increasing regulatory changes and regulatory pressures in maintaining physician and pharmaceutical company relationships. This can have a tendency to inhibit work, but MSLs will need to continue to navigate the changing regulatory environment. Based on a recent global survey conducted by the MSL Society, it is expected that the MSL field will grow 20% over the next two years.
The single piece of advice Dr. Dyer had, besides reading his book (which is a MUST read for aspiring MSLs), is for new MSLs to understand and focus on adding KOL value. A KOL will only engage you (and thus, your company) if you bring value to what they do. According to Dr. Dyer, “This can mean many things to different KOLs, but the goal of an effective MSL is to discover what a particular KOL values and deliver on that.” Aspects of an MSL role that are not clearly defined as of yet, and often differ from company to company, include how an MSL is expected to engage KOLs, what role the MSL plays within the larger organization, and parameters of the MSL team on how they will work cross functionally with other internal teams (sales, marketing, R&D, regulatory, etc.).
As a leader of the MSL society, Dr. Dyer’s driver and focus is creating resources and adding value back to the global MSL community. This is done through the numerous resources they offer to members including live global webinars, live MSL training programs, live global webinars, MSL conferences, and original global surveys and research (ex. Global MSL Salary and MSL Compensation Survey). I asked Dr. Dyer to elaborate on the impact of social media on the MSL society. He said it was HUGE! The MSL Society owns the largest LinkedIn group for MSLs and Medical Affairs with almost 20,000 members. They use it as one of the primary platforms for communication, engagement, and dissemination of information important for Medical Affairs professionals. The MSL Society newsletter also grew organically from 0 to now over 15,000 MSL professionals across 70 countries. This has been the impact of social media on the MSL society. And lastly, Dr. Dyer stated that the one thing a candidate can do to dramatically increase their chances of breaking in is to be able to match their background to the needs of a specific MSL role. Be an expert! If you are an aspiring MSL, you will, at some point in your career, meet and/or be trained Dr. Samuel Dyer.
Below are links to excellent resources (websites, books, twitter) if you are interested in becoming a MSL:
The Medical Science Liaison Society: http://www.themsls.org
The MSL Career Guide: How to Break Into Your First Role: http://www.amazon.com/Medical-Science-Liaison-Career-Guide/dp/0989962601
You can also follow the MSL Society on Twitter @MSLSociety
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