It was a true honor to join my esteemed peers as one of the judges for the annual MSL society awards. I’m sure I speak for the other judges by sharing that the 9+ hours we each spent reviewing applications in our spare time was incredibly refreshing and inspiring. We got to know the finalists through their heartwarming stories and recommendation letters, and you couldn’t help but just feel the emotions and experiences as they shared how they truly made a difference in this challenging year. Judging was definitely no easy task, as the bar was set high just to become a finalist and everyone was deserving and had unique merits!
I thought I would share what stood out amongst the finalists that made an exceptional impression (and may have scored a few extra points). In fact, it is the same “secret sauce” that enables exceptional MSLs to really stand out in their everyday work.
1. Tell a great story
People remember and relate to stories over facts and data. The most memorable selfie videos from this year’s competition were stories that start with why (borrowing the title from Simon Sinek’s book), contain humor and personal touches, and end with a visionary statement that the individual aspires to pursue. The best videos have all the ingredients of what an impactful and memorable story – and KOL conversation – should contain.
2. Empathy matters
The most touching letters of recommendation went beyond describing the applicant as top of their game, always ready to help, and a great person. Letters that resonated with me described how the applicant listened, attempted to truly understand needs and challenges, and came up with curated and creative solutions. Empathy and emotional intelligence go a long way in being a successful MSL or manager. In fact, since most conversations that MSLs have are reactive, the art of listening, asking probing questions, and using empathy to best help a KOLs solve their dilemmas makes engagements impactful.
3. Cross-functional collaboration and curiosity
I work for a company where being curious is a trait that we value in our associates. Curious MSLs explore opportunities to contribute beyond medical affairs and often take on tasks that go above and beyond the MSL role. Tasks that demonstrate cross-functional partnership, versatility, and a desire to find additional ways to contribute, all while ensuring compliance. In the MSL of the year applications, there were some really fantastic letters from cross-functional peers that described how individuals truly shined in collaborating.
4. All about team
One common thread with our winners every year is their humility and how they share the honor with their teams, families, and mentors. The top finalists all emphasized the impact that their team members, managers, and cross-functional associates had in their career journey. The managers who won awards talked about not what they accomplished, but rather the gratitude they had for their team and how they became better people because of the people they hired. It was so heartwarming to hear acceptance speeches about how team members supported each other emotionally and personally during this challenging year. We know that behind every award winner is an award-winning team and support infrastructure.
5. Community Involvement and character
Peer nominated industry-wide awards are an opportunity to recognize those who stand out as role models. With that honor comes an unsaid but assumed duty to give back to the community, lead by example and inspire others to do the same. Every year during the awards reception, Samuel Dyer talks about the MSLS awards as an opportunity to pay it forward. The judges look for individuals who have the most potential to further contribute towards the entire medical affairs community based on what they do beyond their daily job-related tasks. Examples: Volunteering their expertise with professional societies and employee resource groups, mentoring associates and students, giving back to their alma mater, serving others in their community. MSLs are much loved and much trusted employees, on the front lines as the faces of our companies. As such, equally important to being a wealth of scientific knowledge is one’s character, integrity, ethical conduct, having the courage to ask for guidance, and always doing what’s right.
On behalf of all the 2020 MSL Society Awards Judges, congratulations again to our 2020 award recipients – you are true role models! Winning is truly just the beginning. The medical affairs community is excited to see how you will use this platform to be someone who leaves a legacy by giving back and inspiring others to follow!
Arthur is the head of MSL Capabilities 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.