We are always interested in hearing more about the women making a difference in the pharmaceutical industry. We recently interviewed one of Chiesi’s rock star medical science liaisons, Dr. Priya Patel. She is currently in the company’s Special Care Division with a focus on Neonatology and Cystic Fibrosis.

1. What is your current role? 

I am currently a Medical Science Liaison for Chiesi USA, providing clinical support for drugs in Neonatology and Cystic Fibrosis.

2. Where did you go to school and what was your background/training?

I attended the University of Florida for both undergraduate and pharmacy school. After graduation, I completed a pharmacy practice residency at Northside Hospital and continued to work there as the NICU Clinical Pharmacy Specialist for 10 years.  During my time in clinical practice, I also consulted for a device company as a Pharmacy Education Specialist for a pediatric/neonatal smart IV pump.

3. What are some of the important skills that someone in your role must possess?

Personality traits include self-motivated, organized, flexibility, and an outgoing personality.  A strong clinical background with the ability to clearly and confidently communicate high level science to top thought leaders is also key for a successful medical science liaison.

4. What are some of the biggest initiative(s) that you are working on?

Bringing value to discussions with clinicians by helping them understand what the pharmaceutical company I work for can do to support their clinical needs. Clinical value includes collaboration on post-marketing research, investigator-initiated studies, and partnering on real world databases all with the goal of expanding current knowledge and ultimately improving patient care.

5. What are 3 predictions you have for the pharmaceutical industry in the next 10 years?

Healthcare continues to rapidly evolve and with an increased emphasis on value-based medicine, pricing and reimbursement are affected.  I anticipate that healthcare economics and outcomes research will become a necessity rather than an added bonus..

Precision medicine and the increased use of pharmacogenomic data will drive providers and researchers to accurately make decisions for patient-specific prevention and treatment strategies.  Utilizing real world databases and registries to effectively analyze big data could ultimately decrease the need for costly clinical trials.

A move towards patient centricity. While many pharma companies are working towards this, most remain unsuccessful in empowering and engaging patients. Understanding patient perspective is important for adding value, improving outcomes and quality of life.

6. What has been one of the bigger setbacks in your career, and what lessons did you learn from that?

Medical Science Liaison Priya Patel picture

I don’t know if this would be considered a setback, but more of a challenge. Two months after switching careers and accepting a MSL position in my desired therapeutic area which covered the Southeast region (13 states), my husband was offered a great career opportunity that would require us to move from the Southeast to New York City.  Not only did we have the usual stressors of moving, selling our home and cars, finding a place to live, and navigating a new city, but I had no idea what it meant for my career. Before moving, I had an honest and open discussion with my manager about what my options were. Lucky for me, she recognized my potential and advocated for me to continue building relationships and working in my current territory. We both knew that this would not be easy. It required more planning, longer flights, and more nights away from home.  Three years later, I am still in the same medical science liaison role. I choose to do this because I am passionate about the company (especially the people), the disease state and the products. Lesson learned:  don’t give up if you don’t have to – not everything is easy, you just need to decide whether it’s worth it to you.

7. Tell us about some of the biggest successes in your career and why are you most proud of them?

Seeking opportunities and not being afraid of change. As a hospital pharmacist working in the neonatal intensive care unit, I never imagined I would be able to do anything else.  Being the right person, at the right time and place with a strong clinical background has allowed me the opportunities to branch into alternate career paths. As a consultant for a syringe pump, I was able to travel all over the country to educate other pharmacists on the elements of building a safe drug library for the pediatric and neonatal population. Now as a medical science liaison, I have traveled both in the US and internationally to provide clinical support to health care providers in a therapeutic area that I have devoted my career to.  Most recently, my company allowed me the opportunity and support to take the Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist Program Certification.

8. What is some advice that you would tell your younger self or other pharmacists starting their career?

You will repeatedly hear that the pharmacy world is small – don’t underestimate the power of networking. Make an effort to become actively involved in organizations, attend conferences and make some new friends along the way. You never know who will be able to open the door for future career opportunities.

9. What does being a woman in pharmacy mean to you?

Flexibility! As you navigate through life there will be many changes and challenges. These may include starting a family, a new job, relocating or even needing to change career paths.  It is important to believe that you don’t have to do the same thing forever! The opportunities in pharmacy are vast whether they are in retail, hospital, pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy benefits management, or academics.

10. What is your favorite quote?

“She believed she could, so she did.”

11. How has becoming a BCMAS impacted your career?

Completing the BCMAS program provides a great foundation and insight into the pharmaceutical and device industry. The in-depth content is not something that is easily learned on the job or simply working at a pharmaceutical company. As one of the first BCMAS certified members of the Medical Affairs team at my company, it has allowed us to set a standard for the future. The credentialing is recognized internally, within our company and hopefully will make me more marketable for future opportunities.