My New Career as a Medical Writer
Phew! What a busy few weeks! I’m sorry for not being very on the ball with blogging lately but if you’ve read my latest post you’ll know that there’s been a lot going on here at Scientific Beauty HQ! Those of you who have followed my PhD journey will know that for a long time I have aspired to be a Medical Writer. After 3.5 years of seemingly never-ending torture and side-hustle I am proud to report that I have made it through my PhD viva alive (just about!) and am loving life in my new career as a medical writer. I’m in my 4th week now and it’s everything I hoped it would be and more!
Many of you have been asking what medical writing is, and how you can get into it, so I thought I’d put together this post about my experience of applying and what the job has entailed so far. It couldn’t be more different to laboratory life but I’ve already learnt so much new and exciting science without a lab coat in sight! (And yes, in my highest heels, of course 😉 )
A medical communications agency, such as the one where I work, provides writing and content creation services to the pharmaceutical industry. Basically, when pharmaceutical companies run their big clinical trials on their new drugs, the doctors involved in running the trial are far too busy saving lives to write papers, posters and slides for their big conferences, so we are paid to do it for them. The work is hugely varied and can range from formal publication work to getting involved in app development and symposium organisation.
Generally a writer is assigned to an account in their agency, for example, I have been assigned to work on an exciting new lung cancer drug for a particular pharmaceutical client. It’s not an area that I am familiar with through my PhD, but the skills that I’ve picked up such as being able to read papers and critically evaluate data mean that I’m well-equipped for the job; very few writers write about what they researched in their PhD, it’s all about those acquired skills! Over the years though, you pick up your own expertise in that therapy area and can go on to advise clients about their data and how best to present it. As a newbie writer I’ve already written a poster for a physician to present at the huge ASCO cancer conference in Chicago in June; I’ve gone from being hidden in a tiny lab, going from failure to failure, to using my skills to help one of the top oncologists in his field present his latest clinical research to up to 40,000 delegates! Not bad, hey? One day I’ll probably get to go along myself too!
So far I’m really enjoying myself; I’ve found there is much more of a team feel to agency life than PhD life. Everyone helps each other out because everyone wants our agency to produce top work to help spread the word about these exciting new lung cancer drugs. There is no ‘figure it out yourself’ or ‘publish or perish’; we’re all in it together. There is also a lovely social side too, with Biscuit Wednesdays and Donut-eating Competitions a regular feature. Although the work can be stressful in the run-up to a conference, my feelings of isolation and Imposter Syndrome are completely gone. Life is good and the struggle was worth it!
A few of you have been asking about how you get into medical communications, or MedComms as it’s known. Having a PhD definitely helps, though sometimes only a Masters degree is required, depending on the agency. Publications aren’t essential (I don’t have any!) and even extra experience (such as blogging) doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a job (though it gave me a lot to talk about in interviews!). If you apply for a job as a writer you will most certainly have to complete a writing test – your interviewer doesn’t expect you to to be perfect but they like to check your actual writing skills and see your potential. Often this is writing an abstract for a manuscript they provide, so nothing you haven’t already done in your PhD; don’t be phased by not knowing the subject area, just use your judgement to pick out the key bits of information!
I’m always happy to answer any questions so feel free to comment below if you want to know anything else 🙂 an invaluable resource for me when applying and learning about medcomms was medcommsnetworking.com and firstmedcommsjob.com. They run regular careers events (UK only, I’m afraid) which are amazing as many agencies are there for you to talk to and find out about (take your CV!) and their websites above are full of useful information on applying and finding a job!
Let me know if you found this post useful and if there’s anything else you would like to know about in the future!
Coat & jeans: Zara
Lipstick shirt: Joanie Clothing
Boots: River Island
Marble notebook: Paperchase
Red planner: Filofax