When students choose medical science as their academic choice after 12th board exams, the majority of them think that they will be only eligible for performing clinical practice and treating patients. It is often forgotten that healthcare is much beyond the direct management of patients and many sectors are a part of this giant sector while choosing a career in healthcare space. The pharmaceutical industry is a big part of the healthcare system and can be a career choice for medical doctors. Generally, doctors with MD in pharmacology or medicine are preferred; MDs with physiology, microbiology, P&SM have been part of the industry for long.
Whilst it is generally assumed that medical doctors would be part of research & development (R&D), there are many roles that medical doctors play. In R&D role of a medical doctor can be that of subject matter expert or a scientist for basic research or can be a part of clinical development division which looks into various clinical trials. Although working as a researcher with laboratory, pre-clinical and clinical studies/ trial is an obvious choice if one has scientific bend and academic inclinations, medical affairs is another choice to pursue as well. Here one not only needs to have academic inclination but also a flare with marketing.
Medical affairs were erstwhile known as medico-marketing, the term no longer is appreciated by professionals as it gives misinterpretation that medical doctors are marketing or selling the pharmaceutical products. The role of medical affairs personnel is to increase awareness about drug molecules, treatment options in specific therapy areas and ultimately increasing better patient outcome. It is also expected that medical doctors take an active part in developing treatment protocols and policy development through advisory board meetings and industry-government partnerships.
Scientific writing in the space of medical education, medical communication, regulatory writing, protocol writing and so on, is one of the other career options within the pharmacy industry that medical doctors can have. Medical writing can include publications writing and medical content for scientific engagement with clinicians or training. With the digital world now being an integral part of our lives, medical doctors' role in Pharma industry too is expanding from just being involved in traditional face to face interactions to being tech savvy and being virtually competent. All major pharmaceutical companies are engaging with their stakeholders virtually and having technical knowledge of one's field along with working knowledge of the digital world will only help.
Apart from these core functions, medical doctors can also work in regulatory affairs, medical and corporate compliance functions. A lot of medical doctors who has an astute business sense also join marketing and commercial function and write their success stories there. In my opinion, being a medical doctor can be much more and beyond being a clinician.
Dr. Dhara Shah
An MD in Pharmacology from M.P. Shah Medical College, Jamnagar, Dr. Dhara Shah currently serves as the Medical Lead - Digital (India) and Efficiency (APAC) at Pfizer. Dr. Shah is an experienced Medical Affairs personnel specialized in Pharmacology with extensive experience of 16 years working in academia and pharmaceuticals industry and is also skilled in Medical Affairs (both for Rx and Consumer health), Medical Writing and Digital Initiatives in Medical Affairs.