Today we hosted an excellent Medical Writing careers event at Manchester, organised by Peter Llewellyn. Peter arranged for over 20 medical writing specialists to attend, either to give talks (many thanks to Mike Gazeley, Annick Moon and Jane Fraser) or to chat over a lunch provided with the support of UK GRAD.
I now feel I have a clearer view not only of the role of a medical writer, but also of other related roles. Hopefully those who attended agree.
I hadn’t appreciated the extent to which medical writers accept that their role is part of the marketing of a pharmaceutical product. They are there to educate the healthcare professionals about the client’s product, to improve sales. They have clear ethical responsibilities (it is one of the most regulated industries) and as former research scientists, it was clear that the speakers wouldn’t be doing the job if they felt they were being compromised – but it’s still part of the process of making money for the pharmaceutical industry, and not a career for anyone who feels uncomfortable with the commercial implications. On the plus side, if you’re a PhD / post-doc life scientist who thinks they’d like to do something related to marketing, this is one career to consider where you can combine your technical expertise and your creative flair.
Other related areas touched on were writers in regulatory roles – writing up clinical trials, presenting data and so on, for submission to the regulatory authorities before a drug is approved. No marketing element here, but maybe not the same level of variety and creative input that you would get in a medical writing job.
Talking to the exhibitors over lunch, there are obviously several other avenues to explore if the bench has lost its appeal and information is more your thing – medical information, clinical trials roles or even moving more into the advertising end of the marketing spectrum.
There is some great material in the slide presentations from the three speakers which are on Peter’s MedComms Networking website (or will be by tomorrow). However, if you weren’t there for Jane Fraser’s entertaining run through the qualities needed for a medical writer, you’ll have to use your imagination when you see her slides to decide which qualities match which animals. I loved the final picture of a rhinoceros – “you have to develop a thick skin but if you’re good at it, you get to charge a lot…” [Update : Jane has added notes to the slides she’s put on Peter’s website and taken out the pictures so you will now have more of an idea of what her talk was about – but it’s not quite as pretty!]
Some other highlights of the day were :
- hearing from Michael Thompson from Complete Medical Group that they were delighted to be there as they were looking for a trainee medical writer at the moment (so if you were inspired by what you heard on the day, now’s the time to go for it)
- talking to Miriam Banner, who was a final year PhD researcher at Manchester until she spotted an ad on the Careers Service website for a medical writer for Alpharmaxim. She’s just finished her first 9 months in the job and was bubbling with enthusiasm for her new career. (Result!!! In the Careers Service, we don’t often hear “how it all turned out” so it cheers us up no end to find out that the stuff we provide actually helps.)
I’ve gathered together some resources for those wanting more information on these careers, or for anyone who couldn’t make it on the day.
There are several good web resources with articles about medical communications, often written by medical writers themselves. Have a look at
- a PDF on the European Medical Writers Association website about careers which includes seven profiles of writers
- two articles on the PDR Partners website, one on is a career in medical writing for you, and one on how to get started in medical writing
- two pages from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry careers website on the medical writing profession and a profile of a medical writer
- a series of linked articles from Science magazine on medical writing careers (a bit old now – 2001 – but includes some UK and US content and real life stories)
There’s also a book called “Careers With The Pharmaceutical Industry” (ed. Peter Stonier, Wiley & Sons) which has lots of detailed information about a whole range of roles, including those mentioned here.
If we run another event like this, next time we’ll have a slightly warmer venue (or hold it in July) but for anyone who attended, we’d love to know what you thought of it all. Just respond to the e-mail you should get in the next few days and we’ll feed it all back to Peter and the medical writers who attended.