The Medical Science Liaison Society is launching a new Diversity and Inclusion initiative for the MSL community. The mission of the Diversity and Inclusion group is to cultivate a diverse and inclusive platform for Medical Science Liaisons, MSL leaders, and affiliated partners to collaborate and optimize strategies to support inclusion. Our vision is to identify opportunities to enhance diversity and inclusion within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and other healthcare companies and foster an environment for all to excel in their MSL careers and future aspirations.
The Diversity and Inclusion initiative consists of several MSLs and MSL leaders, and there will be multiple activities and programs throughout the year. As a first activity and launch, a few members of the new initiative shared their thoughts on diversity and inclusion.
Why are you getting involved with the diversity and inclusion group through the MSL Society?
Shay Taylor, MD: I feel the diversity and inclusion of the Medical Science Liaison Society is what we should experience in the broader scientific community. I believe that most will agree that diversity, inclusion, and creating a safe space for all is important, however, it is not entirely clear what actions can be taken to foster such an environment. It is my hope that leaders from the Medical Liaison Society can come together to share their experiences and have those vital discussions to provide and share information to help guide the scientific community on this topic.
How does one build a safe and inclusive environment?
Lori Crawford: It’s important to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and ideas. This starts from the top. Having leadership that resembles the diversity it seeks will set the standard for inclusivity throughout the organization. This includes, but is not limited to, in-depth leadership training on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the addition of individuals from diverse backgrounds to positions of leadership, and the value of and commitment to diverse backgrounds and perspectives. These efforts will cultivate a workplace where people can contribute fully to the organization, improving performances and results.
The organization should not only focus on leaders but its employees, as well. One way to engage employees is to provide opportunities for employees to celebrate diversity and share ideas. For example, we can develop subcommittees of diversity and inclusion. This will give employees the opportunity to learn from one another’s varying and unique backgrounds. As a result, the organization creates another avenue towards a safe and inclusive work culture.
What is your approach to understanding the perspectives of colleagues from different backgrounds?
Lori Crawford: I believe people feel more comfortable sharing their ideas in spaces that center open-mindedness and understanding. Thus, I take a personable approach. I focus on cultivating relationships with my colleagues that embody trust, understanding, and authenticity. Moreover, I practice empathy and listening without judgment. Because it is in that space where communication can thrive and bridges can be built.
What does diversity and inclusion in the workplace mean to me?
Dr. Lori Crawford: Diversity and inclusion in the workplace mean working in an environment where every employees’ background and perspective is respected, valued, and celebrated. The organization understands the significance of leveraging different cultural backgrounds and ideas to its advantage — internally and externally — and its employees’ morale and production are a reflection of its commitment to this core value. The organization focuses on bringing abroad various individuals with unique backgrounds and nourishes existing employees’ talent, growth, and advancement. Also, diversity and inclusion in the workplace mean the organization reflecting the consumers and communities it serves. This humanizes the organization, garnering results that are positive both socially and economically.
Harry Andre Michel, Jr., MBA: When I was first asked, “what does diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace mean to you?” My immediate thought was, simple question…more representation of people, within our organization, who look like me. Immediately, I paused and asked myself, is that it, or could there be more than my unilateral perspective? I realized deeper reflection was needed to contextualize workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and its potential benefits. The question was about my willingness to learn more with an open mind. So I started with a plan to research answers to a subject matter, I would later learn, I did not intrinsically understand. The investigation uncovered principles and practices of diversity, equity, and inclusion I hadn’t even begun to consider. At that moment, I realized there were levels to understanding DEI, and if I truly intended to grasp its relevance, and hoped to share that value with others, more would be required. So, I began with the definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion, seeking to delineate their differences and develop my own interpretation of their respective meanings.
Diversity is the presence of difference within a given setting. For example, diversity of animal species within a deciduous forest, diversity of shoe brands in your closet, or diversity of opinion or experiences. In the workplace setting, I am referring to a diversity of identities: like race, culture, gender, and sexual orientation. Diversity can be broadened to include differences in ethnicity, religion, or nationality as well.
Inclusion in any setting can be described as people with different identities being welcomed, valued, and leveraged, within that setting. Some experts describe, “Diversity as being asked to the party, and inclusion as being asked to dance.”
Equity is an approach that ensures everyone has access to the same opportunities. Equity recognizes advantages and barriers exist, and as a result, we all don’t begin from the same place. Equity acknowledges some track races have different starting points, and those unequal starting points affect the outcome of the race. Equity commits to address and correct the imbalance.
The next question I asked myself, once we have a foundational understanding of the unmet need, how do we create and implement sustainable solutions? Acknowledging the challenges we face may be the next best step, followed by an actionable improvement plan. But what does that mean? Perhaps it’s a reversal of traditional norms in the workplace setting, where structured dialogue around “off-limits” topics such as religion, politics, and race relations are encouraged. Maybe it’s having difficult conversations, and having feelings of discomfort which lead us to a better understanding, empathy, and respect for one another. If we have the courage to accept this challenge, I believe we will all be better for our diligence and commitment to growth. So I would ask, what does diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace mean to you?
Why is it important to have a diversity and inclusion group that represents MSLs and MSL leaders from several companies?
Leann Pezdirtz: Each leader will bring experiences of success and challenges unique to their organization. This variety of perspectives will allow us to have the greatest opportunity to affect positive change and bring more talent to the MSL profession.
What would you say is the most important and most difficult part of implementing Diversity and Inclusion?
Leann Pezdirtz: The most important part is having a sense of vulnerability. A willingness to admit what you don’t know, to listen with a humble mindset, and to truly learn.
The most difficult part…is the same. As leaders, we want to have the answer and demonstrate that we know exactly what to do. Implementing Diversity and Inclusion requires us to recognize we need others and that positive change and growth will only occur through the effort of everyone across the organization.
Please share what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you and why they’re important.
Douglas Yau, Ph.D., MBA: To me, inclusion means how we as a team/company work together, diversity is the team makeup and the richness of the differing backgrounds of each team member, and the combination of the two results in engagement of the employee as they feel a great sense of belonging to the team and the company. We need to develop conscious inclusion to prevent unconscious bias so that we can create greater gender balance in leadership positions, enable multiple generations to work together and learn from one another, promote equality on the teams and leverage from their diverse backgrounds and provide opportunities for growth, and train ourselves to challenge unconscious bias.
Our D&I efforts will lead to our companies attracting and retaining the top talent, strengthening our company’s reputation, and overall allow us to develop strategic partnerships with investigators, hospitals, medical societies, and co-operative groups and better serve the communities in need. From a medical perspective, the more diverse, engaged, and efficient our field medical team is, the better we are at asking the right questions, addressing the critical problems that our health care providers and their patients face, and develop innovative medicine.
Shay Taylor, MD: Diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the forefront of quality comprehensive medical care. My personal view of diversity is recognizing and embracing the unique qualities and experiences within each person. Having diversity within the healthcare industry is critical as it offers varying perspectives, insights, and values which combined, lead to improved quality of care for the diverse patient populations that we serve.
Equity and inclusion are action items that can be used to recognize and incorporate diversity into the workplace. Equity is being fair and impartial as we interact with one another and in the hiring process. As a society, we have progressed remarkably in this regard, but more work can be done to improve equity and inclusion and eliminate disparities that continue to exist. It is important to reassess ourselves and bring awareness to appreciating the positive impact of diversity through providing equity and inclusion in our field.
Can you give me an example of how to make direct reports or colleagues feel a sense of inclusion, belonging, and equity on a daily basis?
Douglas Yau, Ph.D., MBA: Making direct reports feel a sense of inclusion, belonging and equity is an important job for a field director. Our 1:1’s provide an opportunity for us to actively listen to their concerns, gather feedback and current needs and also understand their dreams and career aspirations so that we can provide them with opportunities for development. One way that I have achieved this is to mix up my team members for different roles and projects throughout the year so that they have equal opportunity to lead, have visibility, and grow from the experience. For some roles, these MSLs are chosen based on their expressed interest or areas where they already excel, which makes them feel validated that I have listened and am actively helping them direct their career; while for others I base the selection on their gaps in experience and areas for necessary growth, and by assigning them for a particular role, they are forced “to grow” and learn by working alongside others who already have this competency.
With either decision, I explain to the MSL my reasoning for their assignment and also explain that these roles rotate each year so that their diverse talent, tenure, and experience can spur innovation and new ways of problem-solving. In the end, this inclusive culture only solidifies the bond of each team member and makes the overall team stronger and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities to come.
Dr. Samuel Dyer
CEO and Chairman of the Board
Dr. Samuel Dyer has over 21 years of experience within the International MSL community while working for a number of top global companies. During his career, he has led MSL / Medical Teams in multiple TA’s in over 60 countries throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa, Middle East, Australia and Asia.
His management experience includes small (2+) to large (240+) MSL teams across multiple TA’s. Throughout his career, Dr. Dyer has worked on MSL and Medical Affairs strategy and has extensive experience in creating strategic MSL utilization and medical communication plans. He has designed, and created global MSL training programs that have included: on-boarding programs, KOL Medical communication plans, strategic assessments, planning, and execution in geographical locations with diverse cultures /languages. Dr. Dyer has successfully launched both pharmaceutical and medical device MSL teams both in the U.S. and internationally.
Dr. Dyer has also written extensively on the Medical Science Liaison role, including numerous published articles, benchmark studies, and reports. Dr. Dyer is well recognized within the global MSL community and has developed an extensive international network within the Pharmaceutical, CRO, Medical Device, and Biotechnology industries. He is the owner of the largest group on LinkedIn for MSLs and Medical Affairs with over 25,000 members. He has spoken and moderated several international conferences on various MSL topics including KOL management, creating MSL teams, MSL training, international MSL teams, and the value of the MSL role and Medical Affairs. Dr. Dyer is consistently sought out as a resource and consultant for MSL projects that have included diverse companies such as McKinsey Consulting, Bain and Co., and Philips Healthcare.
Dr. Dyer has a Ph.D. in Health Sciences and did medical training in Chicago. He has a Master’s Degree in Tropical Biology (where he studied in the Amazon) and has a B.S. in Biology. Dr. Dyer also completed a certificate program for Executive Leadership and Strategy in Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology at the Harvard Business School.
Dr. Dyer is the author of the Amazon #1 Best Seller “The Medical Science Liaison Career Guide: How to Break into Your First Role” (www.themslbook.com) which is the first book published on how to break into the MSL role.
Dr. Lori Crawford
Dr. Lori Crawford is a Medical Science Liaison in the Cardiometabolic Division of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Dr. Crawford earned her Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the Xavier University of Louisiana. She completed an American Society of Health-System Pharmacists-accredited Pharmacy Practice residency at Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. After completing a residency, Dr. Crawford worked as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Division of Clinical Administrative Sciences at the Xavier University of Louisiana.
Harry Andre’ Michel, Jr., MBA
Harry currently is an Associate Director, Medical Science Liaison at Boehringer Ingelheim
Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He, earned his Bachelor of Science in Finance from Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH, continued graduate training in the Medical Sciences at St. Louis University School of Medicine, and later completed his Masters of Business Administration at the Olin School of Business, Washington University – St. Louis, MO.
Harry began his pharmaceutical industry career on the commercial side of the business as a Metabolic Sales Representative for GlaxoSmithKline in 2002 and later secured a senior specialty-sales role with Boehringer Ingelheim as a Metabolic Specialty Sales Representative in 2011. When the opportunity presented itself to combine his medical science background and practical industry experience, Harry transitioned to BI’s Clinical Development and Medical Affairs division as a Medical Science Liaison in 2015. Responsible for the southeast region of the US, Harry is able to engage with key opinion leaders providing product and pipeline therapeutic area expertise. This role allows him to build advocacy with medical institutions and identify collaborative research opportunities, bringing him closer to the frontlines of influencing patient care and improving health outcomes.
Harry is passionate about leadership development and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives within corporate America. In his current role, Harry was selected by US leadership to participate in the BI Leadership Development Program (BILD). This company-sponsored program is designed to foster growth in key leadership behaviors and competencies that are necessary for success now and in the future at BI. Currently, Harry is championing BI’s Field-Based Medicine DEI initiatives to increase awareness about the value of DEI to internal and external partners.
Outside of his profession, Harry is a volunteer youth basketball coach where he is inspired by mentoring and teaching young people the value of commitment and teamwork. Harry resides in Atlanta, GA with his wife Dawanna and two sons: Mason age 15, and Myles age 13. During his free time, he enjoys family, traveling, reading, exercise, food, movies, and outdoor excursions.
Leann Pezdirtz, MS
Leann joined Boehringer Ingelheim in 2002 as an MSL after leaving Family Medicine where she practiced as a Physician Assistant. In 2003 she moved into a leadership role with the Cardiovascular MSL team. In 2004, Leann lead the implementation of the newly created Medical Grants Office and developed BI’s first online grant application process. In 2006 she joined the commercial organization where she had the opportunity to be a part of several marketing teams, including launch readiness, traditional and specialty marketing in the areas of institutional sales, and managed markets marketing.
In 2012, she assumed a 2nd line leader role for a field-based clinical team reporting into the commercial business. In 2015, she led a Cardiovascular Specialty Sales team and in 2016 transitioned to the Director of Oncology Nurse Educators. From 2018 to 2019 she served as the Interim Head of Sales for the Oncology Business Unit. In January of 2019, she moved into her current role as Head of Field-Based Medicine.
Douglas Yau, Ph.D., MBA
Douglas Yau, Ph.D., MBA is the National MSL Director of Oncology Solid Tumor Field Medical at Sanofi Genzyme. Dr. Yau has 20 years of experience in the biological sciences sector with over 10 years within Sanofi Genzyme Medical Affairs. In his career at Sanofi Genzyme, Dr. Yau has held a number of roles within Oncology with increasing responsibility including Medical Science Liaison (MSL), Senior MSL, Oncology Field Medical Training Lead, US Medical Lead for the drug Elitek, and East Regional Director. Prior to joining Sanofi, Dr. Yau worked in preclinical research at The University of Chicago Hospital, an instructor for Emotional Intelligence at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s graduate school, and a scientific advisor for Heartland Angels startup investment group.
Dr. Yau earned his undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at The University of Chicago, his Ph.D. in Pharmacology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago, and earned his MBA with dual concentrations in Health Sector Management and Leadership and Change Management from Depaul University-Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. He also holds two graduate certificates in Emotional Intelligence from The University of Illinois of Chicago and The Liautaud Institute and executive certificates in Leadership and Management from Cornell University and Wharton.
Shay Taylor, MD
Shay Taylor, MD is the Medical Science Liaison for Lupin Pharmaceutical’s. She has a Medical Degree and received her OB/Gyn residency training at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. After residency, she became Director of Women’s Health Research for the Geneva Foundation, developing and implementing women’s health research for the US Army at one of the largest military hospital centers in the US, Womack Army Medical Center. Her research focused on the effect of deployment on women’s health. Dr. Taylor transitioned into the pharmaceutical industry and has 6 years of experience as a Medical Science Liaison. She has been involved in the MSLS since her transition into the industry.