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Medical Affairs. You are the connectors.

Pharmaceutical Executive recently published an article detailing the power of medical affairs – Silent (R)evolution in Medical Affairs Through the Power of Partnerships.

The article got me quick with that title.

Personal secret and true story: the idea of breaking ground with new partnerships and collaborations has always deeply interested me. When I was in college, I seriously considered studying the value of partnerships between the pharmaceutical industry and NGOs to bringing therapeutics to underserved populations in a doctoral program. (I loved the Merck foundation and river blindness and oh! I could go on...)

But I digress.

I love the power of breaking ground with new partnerships. Doing things that hadn’t been done before. New connections. The power and excitement in connecting two groups who hadn’t spoken before. It’s exciting, right?

I really did enjoy reading that article, and it made me think about medical affairs, and what I’ve seen with my clients.

A few years ago, I did an investigator meeting. The initial premise was to update sites on protocol amendments. Relatively standard. However, as we discussed the agenda, it was clear more was needed. As is common with trials, the sites were having challenges recruiting patients. We needed to find out what the issues were, and how to help.

The investigator meeting became somewhat of an advisory board. We asked some of the principal investigators of high-performing sites to share feedback on what was working for them. Study coordinators walked us through the “patient journey” of potential payments as they were evaluated for the trial. We did breakout sessions to understand site specific issues.

Other things we did – we had the chief business officer at the meeting.

We had a welcome reception the night prior, and we encouraged conversation and ideation.

We brought in clinical trial solution providers (offer personalized services to trial enrollees, such as assisting with transportation to site, payment for work missed, and food/beverage) and scheduled 1x1 meetings with them and the individual sites.

It was a fantastic meeting and so much came out of it. Immediately after, I got an email from that chief business officer literally with these words: “I never thought this would have been possible…I was reflecting on so many productive and positive conversations that I had over the last two days. I simply can’t believe it! There is no doubt in my mind that this will have an impact.

Outcome: The trial was fully enrolled ahead of schedule. Any of us with trial experience know how challenging that is and that the numbers are not in our favor.

What that experience taught me is that in medical affairs, we do have power. Power to connect people who hadn’t spoken before. Several new clinical programs came out of people just talking and connecting at that meeting.

It taught me that medical affairs can connect people that other groups traditionally cannot. Commercial may have the best of intentions, but medical has different goals and different metrics and given the climate in the pharmaceutical industry today, it is more appropriate for this to come from medical.

Medical shares insights from the field. Medical understand the patients. Medical knows the clinic.

I encourage you, in medical, to think about the value of the position you are in. Think about your network, and who you know that should be talking. The output may be new studies, new educational programs, new publications, new programs.

There is incredible value in this! Both for your organization, and for you as an individual contributor.

Never forget – there is no one in the industry with the skillset of medical affairs – scientists and medical experts, excellent communicators, networkers, patient advocates, and most of all, connectors.