Pharmacists that transition from academia to industry are often said to have moved to “the dark side,” insinuating that they have abandoned patient care or have become too “sales-y”. Pharmacists in industry do play an important role and should not be perceived as someone who has “sold out” their career. I recently transitioned from academia to industry and want to provide guidance to anyone considering this move.
Despite spending my entire career in academia, I was very familiar with the different roles for pharmacists in industry. After careful consideration, I decided to pursue a field medical role as a medical science liaison (MSL) because the job appeared to match my skillset and clinical interests. In this role, I’d still be an educator focused on therapeutics and disease, but substituting KOLs in lieu of pharmacy students.
Although I felt prepared for the challenge, I was very surprised at how difficult the transition was for me. Learning the long list of industry acronyms, such as ‘SOP, ‘KOL and ‘SRD’ and new concepts such as ‘business acumen’ and ‘strategic plans’ was daunting. Who knew that healthcare compliance training would make feel so unprepared?
I wish I had taken advantage of the many resources that help pharmacists’ transition to industry. Organizations such the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs (ACMA) and Drug Information Association (DIA), provide valuable resources and on-demand training that provides foundational knowledge of the industry and the various roles for pharmacists. For example, the ACMA’s Medical Affairs Competency Certificate Program (MACC) is a medical affairs training program offered to students in pharmacy school that provides industry knowledge that can be leveraged into an industry position. For industry professionals, the Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist Program (BCMAS) is a comprehensive training program that is considered to be the standard in medical affairs. In addition, seek guidance from industry pharmacists through LinkedIn, pharmacy school alumni, and work colleagues. The better prepared you are, the easier the transition will be.