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Physician-Industry Relationships: Roles for Physicians: Part 1 of 2

Part 1 of 2

For physicians looking for opportunities in the ever-evolving landscape of medicine, working with or within industry can be an exciting and rewarding career path. Unfortunately, during our medical training, we are seldom exposed to industry; moreover, the thought of leaving medicine and entering unfamiliar territory can seem scary and daunting. Knowing how or where to start can seem even more difficult.

In the first part of this article, I will discuss what roles you can take as a physician in industry and offer advice on how to start exploring these options.

Roles for Physicians in Industry

In a pharmaceutical company, physicians often take on the role of medical expert. Within research and development, the medical expert is typically responsible for assisting in the development of drugs. In the early stages, this can include background research and expertise in deciding the best fit or indication for a new drug or molecule and then designing, executing and analyzing a proof-of-concept study. In the later stages, medical experts are involved in clinical trial design and implementation. In marketing and business development, medical experts typically work within the medical affairs department where they serve as liaisons between the company and outside physicians to support the marketing functions of the company.

Outside the pharmaceutical industry, physicians may find opportunities within finance, consulting, healthcare management, and increasingly, entrepreneurship. Within these disciplines, physicians are able to uniquely lend their expertise and knowledge of the medical world to help shape important financial, management, and business decisions.

For those not looking for full-time industry work, opportunities include running clinical trials or serving as a key opinion leader or consultant whom companies turn to for expert advice regarding the development of products–typically, this requires expertise within a certain field or disease.

When and Where to Start

Knowing when and where to start is often the most difficult step, and the key is that it is never too early to start! As a resident or young physician interested in industry, gathering and processing information is the most important first step. Learn about industry by keeping up with the medical literature, reading business articles about the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, and knowing who the players are. Keep tabs on who sponsors studies and what new technologies and products are being studied and developed. If you have a specific area of interest, get involved by working on relevant research projects or finding mentors in that field. While attending conferences, make a point to walk around and become familiar with the different companies, products and technologies. Use these opportunities to network and forge relationships with companies that you are interested in learning more about. At the same time, you can reach out to local pharmaceutical reps and medical science liaisons to discuss your interests—they are a tremendous resource for learning about companies and possible job opportunities. Finally, be sure to look out for fellowships and other opportunities that fit your interests. These are typically advertised on derm society webpages and they can give you just the experience you need to take the next step in your career.