MSLs chose the healthcare, medical device and pharmaceutical industries because they are individuals who genuinely care about helping people and being with people. We are watching our KOLs both fighting the front lines on this war against Covid19 and having to temporarily close down practices during these unprecedented times. We understand that they are juggling kids at home, concerned about their staff, still trying to care for as many patients as possible while adapting as best as they can. We know the right thing to do is be available to our customers without being another email they have to respond to. Every MSL misses the human social interactions, medical meetings and the ability to travel while sheltering in place.
Those three words, just three weeks ago were unheard of, and now the world’s entire MSL workforce has been “grounded”. In these times of virtual engagement, MSLs are a crucial function and provide tremendous value. Here are some ideas on how MSL teams can go the extra mile to lead in an organization.
- First – for people managers, ensure your team members’ families, health and wellness come first. Embrace flexibility and know that everyone is doing the best they can, when they can. Let your team know that they can communicate and respond anytime convenient for them. Provide team members time in the morning to prepare their day and minimize meetings. There’s nothing more important now than our wellbeing and knowing that our leaders also agree.
2. Share how you’re able to balance. MSLs have always been efficient working from home. There’s a lot that a field team can do to guide their office based counterparts. From best practices while web-conferencing to ideas for balancing kids at home and maintaining a fitness routine, this is what MSLs do every day. Sharing ideas and being a voice of calm will make a difference for colleagues adjusting to their new work environment.
3. In addition to being flexible and available when a KOL requests an online MSL consultation, be a resource for other medical teams. Can medical information use your expertise when inquiries come from physicians wondering how your products affect those exposed to SARS-CoV-2? Can the clinical trial team use your ideas on how to guide trial patients who aren’t able to return for a follow-up visit? Can you help convert an advisory board or group presentation into a virtual gathering?
4. Grow your organization’s skills. You know those courses you’ve always wanted to take, those training sessions and journal clubs that you never had time for, that audiobook you never finished on the plane? Schedule some time for the team to train, train others, and be an organization that emerges out of social distancing smarter and stronger.
5. Enhance your tools and clean out the library. It’s a great time to modernize slide decks, prioritize the most relevant papers, organize insights and organize the CRM system. The phrase “if only I had a few days at home to do this” is no longer wishful thinking.
6. Offer coaching and mentoring. Many high schoolers are not only missing prom and uncertain as to what the remainder of the school year may bring, but their college visits, internships and shadowing opportunities are likely to be postponed too. There are also many aspiring pharmacists, physicians, researchers, bioengineers who would love to learn from you. Graduate students about to finish their advanced degrees are seeing networking events, medical meetings and interviews postponed. Many aspiring MSLs could benefit from your guidance and some of the time previously spent traveling could be dedicated to mentoring. This unprecedented time is a calling for MSLs and medical affairs leaders to find time to help those who aspire to be one of us, and continue the growth of this profession.
And finally, as I wrote in a recent LinkedIn article, we should choose optimism. Being separated makes us realize how much we miss things we’ve been taking for granted – a handshake, a hug, a meal together. I’ve always had faith in humanity and believe that once we emerge from physical-distancing, we’ll all be more patient and appreciative, think twice about what we consume, and realize how much more we can do together to advance science and help others. And never before in my generation has there been a stronger call for society to unite and help those who are most vulnerable. We are all in this together. This is an unprecedented time for all of us to lead.
Arthur Chan, Ph.D., MBA
Lead Medical Director – Novartis Ophthalmics
MSL Society Board Member
Arthur is the Lead Medical Director at Novartis and leads the team that trains all of Novartis’ US MSLs, ensuring they have the customer tools, resources and technology to be the best they can be. Prior to his current role, he built the Alcon surgical North America MSL team from scratch. Arthur holds a degree in mechanical engineering, a PhD in biomedical engineering, and an executive MBA specializing in healthcare marketing. He developed and patented an image-guided treatment for uterine fibroids using focused ultrasound waves and was a Bill and Melinda Gates foundation fellow involved in starting three biotech companies. Arthur has had various leadership roles in clinical applications, professional education and medical affairs for both pharmaceutical and medical device companies in various therapeutic areas. His career highlight was representing Alcon in Cambodia on a SEE international medical mission trip. Arthur is originally from Calgary, Canada and now resides in Plano, TX with his family. In his spare time, Arthur enjoys running, cycling, playing piano, coaching his kids, traveling, skiing and volunteering.