The Nontraditional Pharmacist
Matt Paterini, Nick Kirkpatrick, and Lynn Switaj are the creators of The Nontraditional Pharmacist (www.thenontraditionalpharmacist.com) and PharmD graduates of the University of Michigan with a passion for exploring nontraditional roles in pharmacy. Matt works for IBM, Nick for CVS, and Lynn for Walgreen's. Their website is a central information source designed to help pharmacists and pharmacy students gain exposure to unique roles for pharmacists.
Nabeel Qureshi, PharmD, expands our understanding of the typical Medical Science Liaison (MSL) role by taking a look at his position in managed markets in an interview with Matt Paterini, PharmD of The Nontraditional Pharmacist podcast.
Matt Paterini, PharmD, Host: A lot of people may know some bits and pieces of the MSL role, but could you describe further your current role and day-to-day responsibilities?
Nabeel Qureshi, Pharma D, Guest: As you just pointed out, your audience may already be familiar with the traditional MSL role. Traditionally a medical science liaison calls on physicians and hospitals and key opinion leaders (KOLs) to provide them with most current scientific evidence around a particular disease state, talk about the drug pipeline for their company and their competitors' companies, talk about their products, on-label information, off-label information, and answer medical information questions at a level that you know a practicing clinician may not be well versed in the day-to-day practice. That’s sort of the traditional MSL role, so that’s really what my role is. What’s different about being a managed market ML, a medical liaison, is that instead of a physician or hospital or KOL being my typical customer, my customers are really payers, so managed care organizations and employer groups. So we refer to that collectively as being 'market access.' And so I’m meeting day-to-day with health plans, with employers, associations, to provide clinicians and nonclinicians with that most current clinical evidence and information around our disease sates and products.
Paterini: How does this job fit with your personal and professional life?
Qureshi: I love it. It’s something that I feel like I’m good at and enjoy, and where I feel like it can make an impact, such as when I go to a customer and provide them clinical information. I’ll give you an example. Today I was with a customer. It was a big employer health coalition and they represent nearly a million lives across 34 states. So any formulary decision that they’re making on products can be quite consequential right to the health of thousands, in this case almost a million people, and my company has a new product coming out. I’ll be able to give them a full clinical downloader on that product and really kind of take information that they would have been seeking out, some of that’s not published.
That would’ve taken them a lot of time to look into, and I was able to connect with them. They were also pharmacists by training, so I was able to connect with them clinically and provide information that’s going to make their lives easier and potentially open up those products to a lot of patients that could potentially benefit from it.
Paterini: That’s awesome. It sounds like you fill everything that you’re looking for from a professional sense. How does it fit in with personal life? Everything fit where you want it to be with the balance between the 2?
Qureshi: Yeah I think so, it kind of flows a little bit. In some ways, like this week in particular, you feel like you’re working all the time and especially in my job, I cover a 4-state territory, so there is a certain degree of travel involved. So this was one of those weeks, for sure, where you know it goes out almost 4 days. And so there’s that downside, but it’s mostly upside, honestly. You have a lot of autonomy, you feel like you own your own business. You can manage you schedule to some extent around customer internal/external. So yeah, there’s definitely a lot a lot of personal balance that you can have in this position.
Paterini: Where would one go to learn more about becoming an MSL?
Qureshi: For students, typically from what I’ve seen now that I’m in industry, the pharmaceutical industry, most people will seek out fellowships, and so a good place to start could be AMCP [Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy], the annual meeting in the spring or the next meeting and in the fall. Particularly if you’re [in a] managed markets MSL role, which is what I have. The other conference is ASHP [American Society of Health-System Pharmacists] Midyear Clinical Meeting. I know we have a booth at Midyear, our company, and I know other companies as well, so we recruit for fellowships. That’s often a good way to break into it because you get in-house medical training, and then you’re able to leverage that to be in the field as a medical science liaison.
For more experienced pharmacists looking for a change, I always say 'try to take whatever it is that you’re doing and find something unique about it, find something that you can work on within that job, that in some way relates to a future job. Regardless of where you are, try and get experience that shows that you are an expert, whether it’s research and publishing or taking care of patients or working on quality improvement projects or things like that.'