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A Medical Science Liaison (MSL) acts as a point of liaison between the Pharmaceutical company and external experts (KOLs, HCPs, etc.). They connect the two by sharing unbiased scientific and clinical information. In brief, the specialist skills of an MSL include managing relationships, impactful presentations, insight integration, high emotional intelligence, effective engagement, cross-functional collaboration, self-coaching for personal success, among others.

Over the years, individuals from various scientific and clinical backgrounds have become MSLs. But this has progressively changed since first established in 1967. These days, having a doctorate degree (the D-degree) in life sciences or pharmacy field has become the educational standard or the new norm in the industry for the MSL role. The most popular D degrees for an MSL role include Doctor of Medicine (MD; Medical Doctor), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD; Medical Researcher), Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD; Pharmacist), and Clinical Research and Trials Professionals (CRA and CTA).

The infographic and short explanation below depict an overview of how your academic training equips you with SOME of the required transferable skills for an MSL role.

Doctor of Medicine (MD; Medical Doctor)

An important skill that Medical Doctors can bring to an MSL role is their clinical expertise. They can be clinical research physicians looking after clinical trial participants or involved in clinical pharmacology. Generally, physicians get a decent amount of hospital experience due to which they have strong verbal and written communication skills, as well as the production of publications, safety reports, or educational materials. Leadership and decision-making skills, as well as regulatory reviews, will prove useful transferable skills for an MSL role.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD; Medical Researcher)

By definition, Medical Researchers with a PhD have advanced training in a particular therapeutic area and disease. They already have many of the transferable skills to be an MSL. The very first evident skill is that they are experts in the medical science aspect of a particular therapeutic area. By training, they are impactful presenters and have interpersonal communication skills. Given that the collaboration in cross-functional teams is fundamental for a PhD's success, they can be exceptional relationship builders with love for learning and a growth mindset. Critical thinking and problem-solving is a skill that PhDs consistently practice during their training that is critical to transit into an MSL role.

Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD; Pharmacist)

Pharmacists are experts in pharmaceuticals, pharmacotherapy, communication (interaction and counselling patients) strategies, and health care logistics that make them well suited for an MSL role. With their ability to talk the clinical talk, they can easily translate the science into something that is clinically meaningful for a KOL. Also, they are familiar with multitasking with attending ward rounds as part of a multidisciplinary team, the daily practice of obtaining a patient's medication history and educating them on treatment plans, and conducting medication reviews. Simply put, these transferable skills are crucial to be an MSL.

Clinical Research and Trials Professionals (CRA and CTA)

CRAs and CTAs are known to be experts in clinical research and have a strong understanding of the clinical trials. The strongest transferable skills they possess are being collaborative as they work in multidisciplinary teams, communication, understanding and conflict resolution. Lastly, they are well organised and have the ability to manage extensive studies and projects across multiple sites, mentoring, training of junior staff and designing trial protocols. All these skills can be used to become an MSL.

In conclusion, this article might help to pinpoint some of the essential transferrable skills, among many others required to become an MSL.


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