Elin Pyke, Mudskipper
A great escape from the lab post-PhD is a very traditional ‘how I got into MedComms’ story. Personally, I realised early in my undergraduate degree that even though I loved learning about science, actually doing the research was a different matter and I found reading about other people’s discoveries far more interesting than doing experiments of my own. Deciphering complicated science and being able to describe it accurately and engagingly was something I really enjoyed (even more so when I could see the real-world relevance of results), and so the opportunity to creatively communicate cutting-edge medical research through a career in MedComms was very appealing.
Although not having a PhD is sometimes seen as a bit of a barrier to getting into medical writing that wasn’t my experience and I have been surprised by how many of my colleagues ‘only’ have an undergraduate or master’s degree.
However, it does pay to be a bit flexible and my first MedComms role was as an editorial assistant, providing support with styling materials, compliance tracking and submitting publications. Although occasionally repetitive, this work gave me a well-rounded background in the many steps needed to get a project successfully from start to finish, and that experience has proved invaluable as my role has progressed – knowing your way confidently around a submission site is a definite advantage when managing last-minute changes at 9pm on deadline day!
I was lucky that the Mudskipper team had my career development in mind from the start and I was quickly given opportunities to work on my own writing projects before moving to a full-time medical writing role. I work on a publications account, traditionally seen as a more structured, less creative area of MedComms, but in reality an area of increasing innovation to ensure significant results reach the necessary audiences. The variety of work is both impressive and surprising. Whether accurately summarizing findings in a 2-minute animation or figuring out the best way to convey a novel study design to a congress audience of 40,000, attention to detail is key. But the bigger picture is also important and opportunities to help shape this are plentiful, from working with clients to develop scientific messages (allowing clinicians to understand how best to utilise new treatments), or reviewing materials to ensure strategic alignment, accuracy and a clear narrative as a drug makes its way through clinical trials to regulatory approval.
Most excitingly, working on publications allows you to be one of the first in the world to see new data and to work closely with the pharmaceutical client team and external authors as they discuss the results and interpretation, quickly becoming an expert yourself – it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the sense of enthusiasm and anticipation as part of a team preparing to present practice-changing results to the scientific community. Hearing first-hand from top clinicians the life-changing impact new drugs have on their patients is both a privilege and a welcome reminder of the huge importance of well-communicated research.