On February 24, 2020 The Medical Science Liaison Society launched the first-ever professional board certification for Medical Science Liaisons (MSL) and MSL leaders. The Medical Science Liaison – Board Certification (MSL-BC®) program, which has been in development for the last several years, is an effort to set industry recognized standards for the MSL profession.
One of the most important criteria in creating a credible and valid certification program was involving the MSL community. Throughout the development of the MSL-BC® certification program, 22 global MSL leaders volunteered numerous hours attending multiple in-person meetings to identify areas of competency for testing, developing appropriate test questions, and assisting with validation of the exam.
These MSL leaders included:
Avery Ince, MD, PhD
VP, US Scientific and Medical Affairs Strategy Lead
Linda Traylor, PhD
VP, Clinical Development & Medical Affairs
Arthur Chan, PhD, MBA
Lead Medical Director
Donna Holder, PharmD
Director, Executive Director, GMA Field Medical Center of Excellence
Belinda Gist, PhD
Director, Medical Affairs Learning & Development
Kite a Gilead Company
Ellen Shannon, PhD, RN
US Head of Medical Affairs
Scott Thompson, MS
Mike Abbadessa, PharmD
Former Sr. Director of Management & Operations
Takeda Pharmaceuticals / Currently CEO, OPX Insights, Inc.
Kumaran Krishnan, MBA
Associate Director MSL and Digital Transformation
Judi Vensak, MBA
Field Team Medical Director
Dan Anderson, PharmD
Former Team Lead, Nephrology RMLs
Cherie Hyder, PharmD
Medical Excellence & Operations Lead
Melody Davis, PhD
Versant Learning Solutions
Elizabeth Kupferer, PhD
Regional Director, MSLs
Leona Hamrick, DHSC, PA-C
Medical Science Liaison
Deborah Profant, PhD
Associate Director, Managed Care MSL
Rita Zambelas, MSN
Associate Director, Medical Affairs
Tiama Chaar, PhD
Medical Science Liaison
Bernadett Mamone, PhD
Medical Science Liaison
Josh Yoder, PhD
Medical Science Liaison
Daniela Divlianska, PhD
Medical Science Liaison
What is a Certification?
Certification is defined as a voluntary process whereby an individual may earn a time-limited credential after validation of their ability to meet predetermined standardized criteria for their profession. Certification establishes minimum competency standards in a set specialty and offers formal recognition of specialized knowledge and skills for those who have met these standards.
The Medical Science Liaison-Board Certification exam (MSL-BC®) is the first-ever board certification for the Medical Science Liaison profession and is an effort to establish industry recognized standards for the MSL profession. The Medical Science Liaison Society is dedicated to the validation, through certification, of a specialized body of knowledge for individuals working as a Medical Science Liaison (or equivalent title) or leading a Medical Science Liaison team.
Professionals working as Medical Science Liaisons (MSL) or managing a team of MSLs can demonstrate a baseline of specialized competency, skill and/or knowledge in the field by meeting criteria and passing the examination offered by the Medical Science Liaison Society.
Benefits of Certification
Certification offers several potential benefits and opportunities for the professional, employer and health care providers (HCPs) and may include:
- Creating a standard for MSL professionals
- Identifying professional achievement
- Offering validation of skills and knowledge
- Increasing professional credibility
- Assuring employers and HCPs that certified individuals have met rigorous requirements
- Higher salaries for those certified
- Employment advantage over non-certified job applicants
Certificate vs. Certification – How Are They Different?
A certification is often confused with a certificate, which are often promoted as certification. However, there are key differences between the two. The primary purpose of a certificate program is to simply provide training.
In contrast, the primary purpose of a certification is to assess and evaluate one’s acquired knowledge, skills, and competencies related to a particular role. Another key difference is that after an individual passes a certification, they will be awarded a professional credential that will be recognized and used to highlight their certified status. A credential is awarded following an advanced level examination which follows rigorous exam development protocols and standards which is psychometrically validated. Furthermore, unlike a certificate program which is typically a one-time training, certifications have routine requirements over time which must be met in order to maintain the credentials.
According to the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), certificate programs and certification programs are designed to meet different needs. The following table from their website lists the main differences between the two types of programs. The MSL-BC® credential is a Certification Program as outlined in the right column below:
The Medical Science Liaison-Board Certification (MSL-BC®) will require the individual to meet the eligibility requirements, achieve a passing score on the MSL-BC® examination to earn the credential, and complete continuing education to maintain the credential.
How the MSL-BC® Exam was Developed
The Medical Science Liaison-Board Certification (MSL-BC®) was developed after several years of exploration and demands made by the Medical Science Liaison community for a certification that reflects the MSL as a distinct professional with specific skills and knowledge.
The goal of the MSL-BC® is to set industry recognized standards for the MSL profession. To do so, the Medical Science Liaison Society hired one of the top certification industry testing leaders to help launch the program based on international certification standards. Since its inception, the MSL Society has collaborated with and been supported by numerous MSL leaders from around the world who have volunteered their time and effort to create a credible examination.
To achieve the MSL-BC® credential, an MSL or MSL Leader must successfully pass the MSL-BC® certification examination which will evaluate one’s acquired knowledge, skills, and competencies related to the Medical Science Liaison role. From the beginning we have collaborated with and been supported by numerous MSL leaders from around the world who have volunteered their time and effort to create a comprehensive examination.
During the development of the MSL-BC® exam, it was determined the exam would need to be administered virtually but proctored live due to the fact that in numerous countries there are no Computer Based Testing center locations to take the exam. As a result, to make the MSL-BC® available to all MSLs and MSL leaders globally, the exam is administered virtually.
According to international standards, there are multiple steps to create a valid and credible certification program. Over the last few years the Medical Science Liaison Society and a large number of volunteer MSL leaders have worked diligently to complete each of the necessary steps which consisted of the following:
Job Task Analysis Meeting – March 2017
The first step of the certification development process was conducting a “Job Task Analysis” (JTA), which was led by a psychometrician and consisted of a live, in-person, 2-day meeting with multiple MSL leaders and took place in Denver, Colorado on March 24-25, 2017. The objective of the meeting was to list tasks associated with the MSL profession and to create a blueprint for the certification examination that professionals must pass in order to become certified. The purpose of the JTA was to create the content outline for the MSL certification and to identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities that an MSL should demonstrate regardless of company type, therapeutic area of concentration, or geographic location. The JTA also helped provide the validity of the certification exam. During this 2-day in-person meeting, these subject matter experts created a blueprint for the certification examination that professionals must pass in order to become certified.
Job Task Analysis Survey – December 2017
The next step in the certification development process was to conduct an online survey created to validate the results of the Job Task Analysis (JTA) by asking survey participants to rate the frequency and importance of various activities for Medical Science Liaisons that the JTA volunteer Group had outlined in the blueprint. The online survey was completed by 216 MSL Professionals in 28 countries. The survey was opened in December 2017 and respondents included Medical Science Liaisons and MSL Leaders with a wide range of years of experience, varying levels of education, and represented pharma, biotech, medical device and other healthcare companies. The final results of the survey were reviewed by a psychometrician.
Exam Question Writing and Review Meetings – February 2018
The next step of the certification development involved an in-person Exam Question Writing Meeting where another distinct group of MSL leaders, led by a psychometrician, gathered to write the actual questions used for the MSL-BC® examination. This was immediately followed by a Question Review Meeting where a separate group of MSL Leaders reviewed the exam questions and wrote additional questions, as needed, to fill in areas of the Examination Blueprint. Each of these separate meetings were 3 days in length and took place February 1-6, 2018 in Orlando, FL.
In adherence with international standards for a certification, all MSL leaders volunteered to participate.
Exam Question Webinar Review – March 2018
Following the Exam Question Writing and Review Meetings, a psychometrician led a 3-hour webinar with those in attendance of the Exam Question Writing and Review Meetings to discuss and approve the final MSL-BC® exam questions. During the webinar review, all questions and possible responses were thoroughly reviewed and evaluated by a large group of MSLs and MSL leaders.
Pilot Exam – July 2019 to November 2019
The next step was recruiting a diverse group of MSLs and MSL leaders (who meet the MSL-BC® eligibility requirements) to volunteer and take the MSL-BC® Examination as a pilot study.
The pilot exam was conducted from July 25 – November 1, 2019. A total of 68 MSLs and MSL leaders from 8 countries completed the exam under the same conditions as expected on the official exam. The exam was proctored remotely and live through ProctorU. Participant backgrounds included a wide range of years of experience, varying levels of education, and represented pharma, biotech, medical device and other healthcare companies.
Standard Setting Study / “Cut Score”- November 2019
The final step in launching a certification program is the Standard Setting Study or “cut score”. After all the pilot participants completed the exam, a Modified Angoff Study was conducted to identify a recommended passing score for the MSL-BC® examination. A cut score is the point that sets a predetermined level; it is a process that determines a passing score.
The Standard Setting Study was conducted on November 8, 2019 and led by a psychometrician with a group of MSLs and MSL leaders who had previously participated in either the Item Writing or Item Review Meetings. During the Standard Setting Study, all items on the examination were systematically discussed and evaluated based on the typical minimally qualified candidate which ultimately determined the final passing score.
The MSL-BC® exam has been designed in accordance with testing industry standards for validity and reliability.
|Validity is the degree to which the content of the test reflects the knowledge and skills required to perform the duties of an MSL professional in a competent and efficient manner.
Reliability is the accuracy of the test results. That is, the degree to which they are free from measurement errors.
The MSL Society, with the assistance and advice of multiple MSL leaders, has attempted to develop a credential that will recognize accepted levels of expertise for MSL professionals with the goal of improving professional standards in the profession. However, no credentialing program can guarantee professional competence. In addition, given the frequent changes in industry practices and relevant codes and regulations, the MSL Society cannot warrant that the test materials will at all times reflect the most current state. The MSL Society welcomes constructive comments and suggestions from the public, the profession and employers.
The Medical Science Liaison-Board Certification (MSL-BC®) is designed for professionals that have experience working as a Medical Science Liaison (or equivalent title) or leading a Medical Science Liaison team. As a result, experience working as a Medical Science Liaison or MSL leader is required of all certification candidates; those aspiring to break into the MSL profession are NOT eligible. All MSLs and MSL leaders, including international applicants outside of the United States, are encouraged to take the examination if qualified.
Specific eligibility requirements include:
- Bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally or nationally accredited educational institution. A copy of the candidate’s highest degree or transcript must be provided at the time of registration.
- One (1) year of cumulative experience working full-time as a Medical Science Liaison (or equivalent title) or leading a Medical Science Liaison team. (see Appendix A in the Candidate Handbook for equivalent titles)
Note: This certification is NOT intended for sales, marketing, or other non-MSL related functions within a company. All candidates must legally attest that they meet all the above requirements, which are subject to verification.
Details About the MSL-BC® Exam
- Consists of 140 multiple-choice questions. Of these, 125 questions will be used to calculate your test score. The remaining 15 items serve as pretest questions, and do not affect your final score.
- You will have a total of four (4) hours to complete the exam.
- The exam is virtual and can be completed at your home or office (we do not recommend using company issued computers as there are often company firewalls which prevent the individual from properly accessing and completing the exam).
- The exam will be administered through the Medical Science Liaison Society’s Learning Management System (LMS) and will be remote proctored live through ProctorU.
MSL-BC® Examination Content Outline
Following international certification standards, the Medical Science Liaison Society conducted a Job Task Analysis Meeting and a Job Task Analysis Survey to support the content validity of the MSL-BC® Examination. Program content validity was demonstrated with a comprehensive job analysis conducted and analyzed by experts, with data gathered from current experienced MSLs and MSL leaders. The process identified the knowledge and skills required to competently perform the role of an MSL professional and the level of importance and frequency of specific knowledge and tasks associated with the role of an MSL or MSL leader.
The Medical Science Liaison Society offers the MSL-BC® certification examination to professionals either working as Medical Science Liaisons (or equivalent title) or leading Medical Science Liaison teams.
The MSL-BC® Examination Detailed Content Outline was constructed from the results of the Job Task Analysis Meeting and a Job Task Analysis Survey which were both conducted in 2017. The results of these provided the framework for the knowledge and tasks important to the roles of an MSL and MSL leader and therefore the content of the exam. To be certified, an MSL or MSL leader is expected to have proficiency in the three (3) main content areas displayed in the chart below. The percentage of scored questions in each of the major content areas is shown below.
Medical Science Liaison-Board Certification (MSL-BC®) Examination Detailed Content Outline
As defined by the most recent Job Task Analysis Meeting and Job Task Analysis Survey, an MSL-BC® shall have proficient knowledge in the following three (3) content areas, 14 tasks, and 60 steps, illustrated below. An MSL or MSL leader typically uses this knowledge to perform the tasks listed.
The specific knowledge and tasks identified as important are provided in the MSL-BC® Detailed Content Outline listed in the Candidate Handbook available on the MSL-BC® website: https://www.themsls.org/msl-board-certification/
A detailed content outline serves as the basis for the development of the examination and its test specifications. A valid examination accurately reflects the knowledge and skills required for competent practice. All questions appearing on the examinations have been validated using accepted psychometric rating scales. Subject matter expert volunteers from the MSL profession developed the questions on the examination. The Test Development Committee reviewed and finalized all questions for the examination. Each stage of the MSL-BC® examination development is an intensive peer review process. Each scored examination question has been verified for accuracy, and referenced to a published source.
Medical Science Liaison-Board Certification (MSL-BC®) Pilot Exam
As previously mentioned, the pilot exam was conducted from July 25 – November 1, 2019. A total of 68 MSLs and MSL leaders from 8 countries completed the exam with 57 passing the exam and earning the new MSL-BC® credential.
The following individuals passed the Pilot Exam and achieved the MSL-BC® Credential:
- Lara Lapyckyj, PhD, MSL-BC
Global Medical Collaboration Lead
- Suellen Rodrigues, PharmD, MSL-BC
- Chakravarthi Narla, PhD, MSL-BC
- Rahul Bohra, PhD, MSL-BC
- Stamatia Bellou, PhD, MSL-BC
- Gabriel Muthuri, MB, MSL-BC
Medical Affairs Manager
- Antonio González del Castillo, PhD, MSL-BC
- Joan Folque Canut, MSL-BC
- Victor Sastre, MS, MSL-BC
- Amjad Mahmood, MSL-BC
- Brian Carroll, PhD, MSL-BC
- Corey Schuler, MSN, MSL-BC
Director of Clinical Affairs
- Jamie Tobitt, PharmD, MSL-BC
- Jihad Rizkallah, MD, MSL-BC
Director MSL, Team Lead
- Larry Martinez, PhD, MSL-BC
- Susan O’Connell, MSN, RN, MSL-BC
Sr. MSL/Associate Director
- Cathy Lopez, MSN, RN, MSL-BC
Associate Director Medical Affairs
- Kris Washington, PharmD, MSL-BC
- Sasha Bogdanovich, MD, PhD, MSL-BC
- Susan Giacalone, MSN, MSL-BC
US Director, Field Medical
- Anait Azbekyan, MD, MSL-BC
- Mariya Krisenko, PhD, MSL-BC
- Mark Hanke, PhD, MSL-BC
- Tayo Fakunle, PhD, MSL-BC
- Benee Brown, PharmD, MSL-BC
Associate Director, MSL
- Alexi Negron, PharmD, MSL-BC
- Angela Lombard, CP, MS, MSL-BC
Instrumentation Laboratory, A Werfen Company
- Anu Guggilam, PhD, MSL-BC
SK Life Science
- Carolyn McMicken, PsyD, MSL-BC
Regional Director, MSLs
- Debra Lycett, PharmD, MSL-BC
Senior Director, Field Medical Affairs
- Elizabeth Hur, PhD, MSL-BC
Associate Director, MSL
- James (Scott) Lucas, MS, PhD, MSL-BC
- Jeanna Cooper, PharmD, MSL-BC
- Jennifer LaCorte, MSN, MSL-BC
- Jorge Farias, PharmD, MS, MSL-BC
Director, Medical Outcomes Specialist
- Kellen Voss, PhD, MSL-BC
Medical Science Director
Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America
- Ketki Hatle, PhD, MSL-BC
- Laura Lantry, PhD, MSL-BC
- Leonor Stephens, PhD, MSL-BC
Clinical Science Liaison
- Matthew Baker, PharmD, MSL-BC
- Naomi Gordon, MBA, MSL-BC
- Paul Vogel, PhD, MSL-BC
- Mila Levinson, PharmD, MSL-BC
- Sheila Komara, PhD, MSL-BC
- Todd Okamoto, PharmD, MSL-BC
- Virginia Reale, MSL-BC
- Jacqueline Armani, OD, FAAO, MSL-BC
- Michael Karon, PhD, MD MSL-BC
- Alyson Evans, DNP, MBA, MSL-BC
- Jennifer Merkel, PharmD, MS, MSL-BC
Managing Director, Medical Science
- Carly Mooney, ND, MSL-BC
Associate Director, MSL
- Moe Abouzari, DPM, MBA, MSL-BC
Thermo Fisher Scientific
- Prashant Desai, PharmD, MSL-BC
Sr. MSL II
- Savi Chadha, MD, MPH, MSL-BC
Senior Regional Medical Manager
Supernus Pharmaceuticals Inc.
- Thomas Hughes, PharmD, MSL-BC
- George DiCarlo, PharmD, MSL-BC
Director Medical Affairs
- Larry Dollar, PharmD, MSL-BC
Vice President Medical Affairs