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Pharma 2023: A More Collaborative Medical Affairs


Experts explore MA's evolving role and skill set in engaging effectively with clinicians and other external stakeholders.

stetoscopio, salute, medicina, controllo, analisi. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Images/xyz+

Pharma 2023 featured Kishan Rees, senior director, CKD and digital global medical affairs, Bayer, and Steve Royle, founder, My Medical Affairs, in a fireside chat titled “Medical Affairs: The Sales Prevention Unit?” In an interactive format, Rees and Royle discussed the traditional role of medical affairs and its changes in the past 20 years. The exchange fostered audience questions submitted online, further inspiring discussion.

In response to one question, “How do you coach medical colleagues to elevate their business acumen and enterprise mindset?”, Rees stated, “Some of my greatest [medical science liaisons] came from commercial, who enjoyed the science but were not PhDs; but we need to leverage soft skills. We aren’t making the commercial more scientific, but rather medical affairs more conversational."

Royle remarked that such a statement could create heated debate. Even with medical affairs needing to offer insights to clinicians, it is still useful to have those soft and conversational skills to make the discussion more engaging.

Another observation that Rees shared from his experiences was that while the divisions and barriers that are set up internally in pharma between commercial, medical affairs, and R&D to external stakeholders, the pharma teams are “viewed the same.” Therefore, to Rees, it makes more sense to position the best people in the organization into the best roles—to present information to clinicians in the most impactful way.

“Generally, it comes down to the individual and the company. Diverse teams work the best. If you have different people, with different backgrounds, then you can choose the right people to bring into a meeting.” said Rees. “All in all, medical affairs, MSLs, and these activities provide value and should enable the field force.”

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