Gaining skills outside the lab – a career in medical communications

Team Leader, Oxford PharmaGenesisKim Allcott
Medical Communications
Dr Kim Allcott
PGR Careers Case Study

Introduce yourself by providing information about your research and current role

I studied for a PhD in Cancer Immunology at the University of Birmingham and graduated in 2012. I am now a team leader at Oxford PharmaGenesis, which is a medical communications agency. As a company, we support pharmaceutical companies with communicating information about their drugs and the diseases they treat to healthcare professionals. This involves providing assistance with writing publications and congress materials, in addition to helping produce internal education materials, organising meetings and symposia for international experts and offering advice on communications strategy.

How has your PhD prepared you and given you relevant transferable skills for your current role?

  • Communication
  • Project Management

Was it always your goal to pursue a career outside of academia? If not, at what stage of your PhD journey did you decide not to build an academic career?

During my second year I realised that if I wasn’t motivated by lab work by that point then I probably never would be! While academic research can lead to rewarding careers, I decided that I would prefer a job with greater security and more opportunities for progression.

What support have you had to help you make the move from your PhD to your job? For example from Careers Network, mentors and academics?

During the second year of my PhD, the University of Birmingham Careers Network started an initiative – Adept – to provide a specialised career development service for Doctoral Researchers. I took on the role of Adept Coordinator for my college, which meant I was responsible for supporting the development and delivery of the initiative by helping to identify ways to communicate careers information to PhD students and to encourage them to engage with the Careers Service. This enabled me to gain skills that I would not otherwise have developed through my PhD research, and made me realise that I would enjoy a career outside of the lab. Through Adept, I was able to explore options outside of academia, particularly through their support of a PhD Careers Fair. This provided the opportunity to meet and learn from representatives from many scientific, non-academic fields, including pharma, patent law and, of course, medical communications.

Cancer Research UK, who sponsored my PhD, held their own careers fair highlighting a range of options. A medical writer from Oxford PharmaGenesis was presenting so it was a great opportunity to get some inside information on a potential future employer. This encouraged me to apply for a trainee role.

Please add any tips or advice for researchers considering a career outside of academia.

  • Get published! It may seem difficult, especially if your research is not as successful as you might hope, but there are plenty of other opportunities out there, such as writing for scientific magazines and websites. You could even start a blog.
  • Make the most of any training courses offered at the university, for example writing skills courses to help with producing a thesis, or communications courses to aid effective presentations at conferences.
  • Hone your project management skills. Planning and executing your research will begin to develop these skills, but getting involved in different types of projects, such as organising a conference or running undergraduate projects.
  • Remember to tailor your CV for the role. Medical communications companies are not interested in an exhaustive list of laboratory techniques that you’re now skilled in.

Please invite your employer to add any relevant information about job opportunities for PhDs with their company.

Oxford PharmaGenesis is an independently owned Health Science communications consultancy, providing services to the healthcare industry, professional societies and patient groups. At Oxford PharmaGenesis, we work with the top 7 global pharmaceutical companies; we have a sustained track record of growth and opportunity;

95% of our writers and consultants are qualified to doctorate level;all of our writers and consultants interact with clients; we encourage our staff to gain involvement in multiple aspects of the business. We offer long-term career opportunities, with the potential for rapid progression, tailored training and development, professional colleagues you can rely on, and the chance to make a difference in a stimulating and rewarding industry.

We welcome applications from postdoctoral researchers and from students in the final year of their PhD; it is never too early to get in touch! We currently have entry-level opportunities in a number of roles. Trainee Medical Writers would need to have a flair for clear, accurate and evidence-based written and verbal communication, with a PhD, ideally in a life science. We are also keen to hear from talented Trainee Editors with an honours science degree, preferably in a life science, who have an interest in clear communication of scientific ideas and excellent attention to detail.

Candidates with an MSc or PhD in a life science or health economics who have an analytical approach to project work may also wish to consider applying for a role as an Associate Consultant in our Value Demonstration Practice, which delivers effective real-world evidence and value demonstration programmes to support the successful market access of healthcare interventions.

For more information, please contact our Recruitment Manager, Annie Beagent Annie.Beagent@pharmagenesis.com or visit our website at www.pharmagenesis.com/opportunities

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