Historically speaking the Medical Science Liaison (MSL) role has been filled by either an M.D., PharmD, or Ph.D. I think the time has come to expand the circle of excellence. Today I would like to share my personal journey to becoming a Sr. MSL. A journey I would have never imagined throughout my career as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP).
After a 15-year career as an NNP, I made a huge leap into the pharmaceutical industry. I went from being a hero, saving the lives of the sickest of patients to a fish out of water. The early stages of learning how the “industry” operates had its challenges. However, I immediately noticed my colleagues were reaching out with clinical questions; and that I had something they didn’t — clinical experience. With my expertise, I knew I’d be able to prove value, and in turn, they helped me navigate Salesforce, Veeva, Tableau, and the dreaded prior authorization process. I spent the first two years on the commercial side of the house first as a Clinical Account Manager and then as an Institutional Director. Although I loved my colleagues and the work I did on the commercial side, something was missing. I wanted to dig deeper into clinical conversations with my key opinion leaders (KOL) but was unable to do so in my commercial role.
Luckily for me, my Medical Director at the time was expanding her team and wanted me to be her first hire. As to not show any bias or be blinded by her personal friendship, I embarked on a world tour of interviews. My current manager was a great mentor and provided support during the process. It was nerve-wracking, to say the least, but I made it through and was hired as the first-ever MSL in Specialty Care. I was extremely honored and determined to prove myself.
At first, it was a challenge learning the logistics and lingo used by my MSL colleagues. The world of Medical Affairs was a new adventure with new challenges. I soon realized my past clinical experience and experience collaborating with my colleagues in healthcare benefited me tremendously. The time I spent working on the commercial side also provided an additional advantage. I was able to understand the challenges that our patients and providers were dealing with. Knowing the ins and outs of a hospital and healthcare system was worth its weight in gold.
I believe MSLs who meet an exceptional Advance Practice Nurse (APN) associated with their specialty, might want to consider sharing the possibility of a career as a Medical Science Liaison. I think every MSL team would benefit from having an APN as a member of their collective team. Many APNs are KOLs themselves or have forged lasting relationships with the top KOLs in their specialty. Utilizing this untapped resource for instant networking cuts down on the time needed for onboarding and establishing the MSLs network of KOLs. So, I challenge my fellow MSLs to find that clinical expertise to help maximize your team’s potential and maximize the quality of care provided to your patients.
Reema Sbitany, MSN, is a Sr. MSL. She has been employed by Sobi, Inc. since August 2019. Prior to starting with Sobi, she spent the last 20 years working as a clinician in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. First as a Registered Nurse and then as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner for 15 years. She graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and The University of Pennsylvania with a Master of Science in Nursing specializing as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner. Some of the notable hospitals where she practiced were The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. During her time as a clinician, she managed the care of complex patients and patients enrolled in clinical trials. She is now working as the Sr. MSL for Specialty Care covering the East Coast.