The 2023 MSL of the Year Awards took place during the 11th annual MSL Society Conference in Miami (August 29th-31). The purpose of the annual awards is to recognize excellence within the MSL Profession and are open to any MSL and MSL Manager worldwide.
During the Awards Night Celebration, the MSL Society recognized 33 finalists from 11 countries. Among these finalists, a winner was announced in each of the 8 award categories, which included MSL of the Year (both USA and outside the USA), MSL Rookie of the Year (both USA and outside the USA), MSL Manager of the Year (both USA and outside the USA), and MSL Rookie Manager of the Year (both USA and outside the USA).
A distinguished panel of 9 highly experienced global MSL leaders from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical devices industries evaluated all the submissions. Each award category requires four letters of recommendation from a KOL or Direct Report, a Manager, a Peer, and a Cross-Functional Team member.
During a month-long evaluation and review period, each judge independently evaluated the four letters of recommendation and introspective questions on a scale from 1 to 10. An awards system platform was utilized to determine the winners based on the total scores from each of the judges. The highest-scoring application in each award category was determined to be the winner. Importantly, all individual judging results were blinded, which means none of the judges knew how their fellow judges had scored an application. As a result, none of the judges knew who had won in any category until the winners were announced during the Awards Night Celebration.
We interviewed several of the 2023 award winners immediately after they won and asked them to share their thoughts on winning the award, the significance of receiving the award, and their advice to others in the profession.
What were your first thoughts after you heard you won the award?
George Limen: Hearing my name pronounced as the winner of the 2023 MSL Rookie of the Year was one of the greatest surprises of my entire life. When I was walking to the session, someone asked me if I had prepared an acceptance speech and just laughed. So, I am still waiting with a lot of curiosity to watch a video of my acceptance speech – I was so surprised to the point that I have no recollection of what I said. I came to the room ready to celebrate the winner – whoever it turned out to be. Not like I thought I was less deserving, but more because I knew the twelve (12) finalists for the MSL Rookie of the Year award were equally deserving and have individually achieved a lot in their respective roles/companies. So, I still believe that all the finalists won and I was called on stage to receive the award on behalf of the finalists in my category.
Peter Schofield: My initial reaction was one of surprise and disbelief, due to the quality of the other finalists! This gave way to sheer joy (and relief)! I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity to be nominated and take part in the competition, and receive support from my local KOLs and the Novartis team.
Andrew Boyle: My initial reaction was just shock and surprise. By the time I had completed my submission on 16th July, I really hoped I would win, but when I knew there were 5 finalists, I knew the odds were not in my favor so I tried to persuade myself I wouldn’t win. So when the announcement was made, the first thought was “Oh no, now I’m going to have to say a few words… what on earth am I going to say?!”
What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally?
George Limen: Personally, I would say this award made me feel like the work I do actually matters. The MSL job can be a little fluid sometimes and the fact that I was able to win this award tells me that I am able to explain to someone what my job is. Professionally, this award enhanced my visibility within the medical affairs community as well as with the HCP/KOL community. For instance, on LinkedIn, I received a lot of support from clinicians and KOLs within and outside of my territory. Also, I have had a lot of support and words of encouragement from my company and from my direct leadership and I am grateful for their support.
Peter Schofield: I am extremely excited and proud of this achievement – it has made me feel like all of my hard work this last 18 months has been validated. It is challenging to make a major career change (in my recent case from over 12 years of medical research), it is quite natural to feel a touch of imposter syndrome while you find your feet. This award gives me confidence that I am on the right track as I develop my skills in Medical Affairs. It has given me optimism that my next exciting steps in career development and chances to make an impact are closer than I previously thought!
Andrew Boyle: I know I mentioned on stage that my life has been a real rollercoaster over the last 7/8 years. I won’t go into all the details (impossible in 3-5 sentences!), but a key factor is that I’ve had a long Covid for 35 months now and I have to manage the fatigue and brain fog/memory lapses on a day-by-day basis. As I had been on sabbatical for over 4 years when I took this job, I had no idea how rusty I would be, or how manageable full-time work would be, especially as I had been told by an experienced recruiter that I probably couldn’t do a full-time or MSL-type job anymore. Every day, I notice how my brain doesn’t work the way it used to, but I have had extremely understanding managers who allow me to manage my condition and workload as I see fit, so this award is vindication for them taking a risk on hiring me, for the experience I brought to the table, despite the challenges I face. It’s also a huge confidence boost for me, to know that I can still do the job and have a really important impact, and it vindicates my approach to the role when a couple of really poor managers have attempted to undermine that in the past.
Do you have any advice for your colleagues/peers?
George Limen: The MSL role is a team sport – the easiest way to succeed is through collaboration. The most impactful outcome you will accomplish as an MSL is most likely going to be through cross-functional collaboration. Collaboration is key. Secondly, I describe the MSL role as relationship-building/management through science communication. As an MSL, you need to balance these three arms – relationship building/management skills, scientific acumen, and communication skills. Thirdly, as an MSL you need to stay hungry for knowledge. If you are not ready to be a lifelong learner, then the MSL role may not be the best career for you. Importantly, you need to be a good listener, you need to be coachable/teachable and you also need to be a coach/teacher. Stay motivated, stay happy, and celebrate the micro-victories.
Peter Schofield: Attitude is everything, it trumps all existing skills. In medical affairs, always meditate on putting yourself in the shoes of both your customers and also their patients, and keep this perspective to satisfy your curiosity. Tackle each challenge in an earnest and humble way, never being afraid to ask for help, and always being appreciative when it is given to you. Be excited about the potential input you could have in a team problem or challenge – be vocal and constructive, but always open to learning something. Every person you interact with in your professional and personal life is an opportunity to learn something new. More often than not, the effort you put into helping other people will be worth 10-fold to them the effort you have expended, so get involved!
Andrew Boyle: If you have high standards, enjoy building relationships and sharing knowledge, and are motivated by making a difference for patients, you won’t go far wrong. Knowledge is power, but that takes many forms – yes, you need to know the product(s), the studies, and the disease itself, but you also need to know who your customers are, what makes them tick generally and on any given day, who/what can prevent or facilitate them using the product, and sometimes, the little things, like whether their sports team just won/lost… And know yourself – be self-aware, don’t take too much of their time, but also don’t undervalue your time. The phrase ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’ has been more relevant than expected, and will certainly help in your career, but there’s always some luck involved, too. Having the right knowledge, experience, skill set, and attitude, is important, but to truly flourish, you need the right boss and the right job at the right time, so patience and rolling with the punches are essential traits, too!
About the author:
Dr. Samuel Dyer
CEO and Chairman of the Board
Dr. Samuel Dyer is the CEO of the Medical Science Liaison Society and has over 23 years of international MSL experience. During his career, he has managed MSL teams and operations in over sixty countries across the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand. He has facilitated the successful launch of pharmaceutical and medical device products for both Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies and small biotechnology companies.
Dr. Dyer has coached, interviewed, and reviewed the CVs of countless aspiring MSLs. His insights and guidance have resulted in hundreds of aspiring MSLs successfully breaking into their first roles.
While leading the MSL Society, he has conducted MSL training programs for over 50 pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies in more than 15 countries. Dr. Dyer has also written extensively on the Medical Science Liaison profession, including numerous published articles, benchmark studies, and reports. He has been the keynote speaker and moderated numerous international conferences on various MSL–related topics, including creating teams, management, MSL training, proper utilization of MSLs, global trends, and the KPIs and metrics used to measure MSL performance. Dr. Dyer has also served as a resource and consultant on a number of MSL–related projects for several organizations, including McKinsey & Company and Bain & Company.
Dr. Dyer has a PhD in Health Sciences from Touro University and attended medical school at Washington University (Health & Science) School of Medicine. He has a master’s degree in Tropical Biology (where he studied in the Amazon) from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of the State of New York. Dr. Dyer also completed a certificate program for Executive Leadership and Strategy in Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology at the Harvard Business School.
Director of Online Resources
Jeff has multiple years of experience in the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industries and has worked for Eli Lilly and Co., Roche Diagnostics Corp., among others. He began his career as a Molecular Biologist at Washington University School of Medicine where he was one of the
contributing scientists on the Human Genome Project. He then served as a Molecular Biologist in the Pharmaceutical Industry researching genetic variations in a number of diseases and has worked with numerous researchers investigating the latest in DNA science.
For the last several years, Jeff has been very involved within the MSL community. He is a founding board member and was an advisor for the creation and launch of the MSL Society. In
addition to this role as a board member, as the Director of Online Resources for the MSL Society, he manages the live webinar training programs and he has been involved in the creation of numerous educational materials for the Medical Science Liaison role. Jeff has also been heavily involved in the creation of the new MSL Society Presentation & Communications Skills Program offered by the MSL Society and has helped facilitate live MSL Presentation and Communication Training programs offered by the MSL Society in multiple countries. He has recently attended several MSL conferences as an advisor and facilitator. He also recently co-authored an article on MSL training that was published in PM360.
He has given presentations at scientific meetings and in addition to his role with the MSL Society; Jeff has also served as a college adjunct professor and has extensive experience in
teaching and developing training materials/programs.
Jeff has a M.S. (Master of Science) in Molecular Biology from Southern Illinois University. He also has a B.S. (Bachelor of Science) in Biology from Eastern Illinois University.