The importance of Recognition
Acknowledgment and recognition are vital in the workplace. Rewarding and recognizing employees leads to greater employee engagement, which increases retention and helps create a more positive overall work environment. Incorporating a rewards and recognition program helps increase employee engagement, leading to many benefits for the company or organization, like increased productivity and greater retention.
Purpose of the Award
Have you ever won an award? It’s not the prestige that matters but how it makes us feel. Awards make us feel good. They are an acknowledgment of a job well done and justification for the self-doubt and the hard work that went into winning them. Awards can make us feel proud, happy, overwhelmed, and excited. They give us career validation and confidence boost.
What is the purpose of the MSL of the Year Awards? The purpose of the awards is to recognize excellence within the MSL profession. The MSL of the Year Awards is one of the many ways that the MSL Society fulfills its mission of advancing the global MSL profession.
What is the Judging Process
Last year, the MSL Society received 94 nominations for MSL of the Year from 8 countries in 3 categories both in the US and outside the US. The 3 categories were MSL Rookie of the Year, MSL of the Year, and MSL manager of the year. Of those nominated, there were 32 finalists, 13 of whom were MSLs. There were 8 judges blinded throughout the voting process and they logged in a total of 171 hours reviewing every applicant. There were a total of 7 winners chosen in the US and outside the US.
Who is MSL of the Year US
As the MSL at Exact Sciences, I was the winner of the MSL Society of the MSL of the Year Award 2021 in the U.S. I have only been an MSL for less than three years and was the only MSL on my team of 12 to be nominated by my manager for truly exemplifying the core values of Medical Affairs. Having been described as a team player, I go above and beyond and produce quality work. I take on a proactive and innovative approach to mapping my territory that aligns with corporate strategies. As an MSL, I operate with the highest integrity and am accountable to my peers, leaders, and customers. Having been with the company for one year, I secured lasting relationships with many influential thought leaders and KOLs, especially those in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
At the MSL Society 9th Annual Conference in Las Vegas, I used the professional platform to pay it forward and teach others how to excel as an MSL. I gave a talk about “Starting Off on the Right Foot: Best Practices for Aspiring MSLs” alongside my colleague, Dr. Nabhan Islam. Together, we discussed how to build a network through professional organizations, recognize and explore opportunities to stand out from the crowd, and craft a CV and cover letter to get noticed.
Those who know me in my circle know that I truly care about everyone around me. For example, I have been giving back to my community as a longtime volunteer to promote health and wellness and disease prevention. I developed a strong partnership as an alumna of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, Center for Health Equity, where I teach health sciences, students, how to take blood pressure and health screenings. Because of my MSL work in the colorectal cancer screening space, I train students and hold free health screenings at local barbershops, salons, churches, community centers, and health fairs.
Perhaps one of my most important contributions last year was the “Shots at the Shop” initiative. It was a community effort providing free COVID-19 vaccines put forth by the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Bat’s Barbershop, Black Equity Coalition, and Pittsburgh Black Nurses. I took part in a weekend-long event and volunteered to conduct health screening surveys and was a translator for Spanish-speaking patients.
Why Winning an Award Can Boost Your Career and Community
Awards demonstrate that we take pride in what we do and that we do it well. Recognizing the good and great in the MSL community every year sets a standard for everybody to see and agree on. And perhaps to inspire others to meet or exceed that standard next year! Awards are a real contributor to continuous improvement and the advancement of society. Receiving an award brings more benefits than just winning. Aside from making us feel good, it can also offer a great boost to your career.
Earning a prestigious award like the MSL of the Year Award brings credibility and opens doors to new opportunities. In January 2022, I received the “Exact Sciences Medical Affairs 2021 Award of Excellence.” One month later, I was promoted to a leadership role after a rigorous panel interview process. Currently, I am the MSL Regional Leader for the northeast where I manage three new MSLs. This was an important step in my career trajectory.
Within the MSL Society, I was invited to take part in the first-ever MSL Onboarding Training program held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL in April this year. I discussed gathering actionable insights and tips for MSL success and best practices. Furthermore, receiving the prestigious award expanded my professional network. I was offered interviews by the American Cancer Society, Doctor’s Crossing Podcast, and Ascension Health Network to give presentations, talk about my career path, and community volunteer work in underserved areas. As an MSL leader in cancer prevention, I support and participate in cancer walks to raise money for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and the American Cancer Society. I engaged with the community and was invited as a guest speaker for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
How to Turn Awards into Action
Once you’ve won an award, what’s next? How can you turn those feelings of excitement and pride into action that furthers your community, career, and life? Here is a nice outline of the next action steps to take!
Steps to Take After Winning a Professional Award
- Post the good news on social media.
LinkedIn is perfect for posting your recognition, where professional accolades can create new connections and job opportunities. If you have a certificate, post a photo of it or you holding it! Be sure to tag the awards program and use any relevant hashtags to help garner more post views.
- Network with other winners and finalists.
Get engaged with this new community. Create connections with any judges, finalists, and awards program managers.
- Engage with the community.
Seek ways to share your knowledge and insight from your industry, using your recent recognition to provide relevance to your insights and opinions.
- Give back to your industry.
Think about ways you can give back. Perhaps this means providing opportunities for new people in your industry or interns or finding ways to volunteer your time to help further the industry and your community.
By celebrating excellence and all that is good in humanity we are valuing human achievement and encouraging more of it. Let’s never forget that and always remember to acknowledge effort and MSL excellence. Let’s never forget the teachers, trainers, mentors, judges, colleagues, friends, and family who helped us excel on our MSL career journey. And as Samuel Dyer always says, remember to “pay it forward.”
Best of luck to all the MSL nominees this year!
Sources: MSL Society and Award Force.
Maria Abunto, MD, MPH
Dr. Abunto is a medical doctor with over 20 years of clinical research experience. She received her Doctor of Medicine at the University of the East and served as a Family Medicine Medical Director. Dr. Abunto completed her Master of Public Health as Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. She assumed a position as an Epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging at the Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Science, conducting colorectal cancer research in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute. Currently, Dr. Abunto is the Regional Medical Science Liaison Leader for the Northeast at Exact Sciences.
Maria is an advocate for cancer screening and prevention as a member of the Pennsylvania Cancer Coalition, Ohio Partners for Cancer Control, and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. She holds leadership positions as a committee leader for Women’s Rights for the American Public Health Association, health advocate for the American Heart Association, advisor for Bridging the Gaps Pittsburgh, and mentor for the MSL Society and the University of Pittsburgh Alumni Association. Dr. Abunto is passionate about serving her community and educating on health promotion and disease prevention.
Dr. Abunto is recognized for excellence in the MSL profession as the recipient of the prestigious Exact Sciences Medical Affairs 2021 Award of Excellence, the Medical Science Liaison Society 2021 MSL of the Year USA, and 2020 MSL Rookie of the Year USA Finalist. She is an author of the MSL Journal of the MSL Society and is a national speaker for the American Cancer Society, Physicians Helping Physicians, Women in Bio Pittsburgh, Doctor’s Crossing Podcast, and the MSL Talk Podcast.