Written by Candice Tang

Medical writing is becoming an increasingly attractive job for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates. But what exactly do you do as a medical writer? Are you writing technical data sheets? Updating medical textbooks? Writing a new policy for the government? The truth is, medical writing encompasses a whole range of tasks, and that is one of the main things I learned from attending the mini-networking series on medical writing that took place earlier this month.

The Mini-Networking Series allow students to casually network with industry professionals in groups of 3-5 over a pint and some appetizers. This form of networking usually takes the pressure off of being on your best behaviour and showing up in your dapper suit and tie. Students are encouraged to ask the guests questions about their roles and companies, and to offer business cards if they would like to continue connecting outside the event. It’s also appropriate to ask for the guest’s business card or ask to connect with them on LinkedIn. The Mini-Networking Series is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and learn more about a particular job or career.

The three guests from Tuesday were Yuqing Wang, Vincent Leung and Yekaterina Poloz. Both Yuqing and Vincent are Medical Writers and Learning Solutions Designers at Metrix Group, a medical writing agency, and Yekaterina is a Senior Creative team member at john st., a marketing firm. All three guests are PhD graduates from the University of Toronto, but each found their own way into the medical writing world.

Yuqing initially wanted to become a principal investigator or professor, like many PhD students who are entrenched in their research. But the disappointing reality that awaits most PhD students – more qualified candidates than there are jobs – was no stranger to Yuqing. She turned to the pharmaceutical industry. By creating her own opportunities (including a mentorship in Knowledge Translation at the Hospital for Sick Children) and tirelessly networking with medical writers, she found and fell in love with her job at Metrix Group. In her current position, Yuqingdesigns learning materials for sales representatives and medical science liaisons of pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals who need to stay up-to-date on disease states so they can recommend the best treatment options or products to consumers. I learned that the United States and Australia are the only two countries where pharmaceutical companies can advertise directly to the consumer – you can’t do that anywhere else in the world.

Vincent started working at a start-up company nearing the completion of his PhD. Knowing that academia wasn’t his calling, he wanted to experience other forms of work while still staying close to the science. Soon after leaving the start-up, he started at Metrix Group, in the same role as Yuqing. He has one great asset that can’t be overlooked: he is a whiz in graphic design. His proficiency with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator has landed him several projects in both the healthcare arm and business arm of Metrix Group, giving him the opportunity to work with both teams.

After years of writing publications, proposals, and grants, Yekaterina, a post-doc, wanted to express her creative side. Through networking, she found herself at john st., working with colleagues from all walks of life. Together, they help promote a new drug or product for their client, being sure to integrate the company’s brand into their messaging as creatively and effectively as possible. For instance, her company was the genius behind the advertisement for disposable contact lenses by Alcon® (banner on homepage: http://ca.dailies.com/EN/). Yekaterina’s sound scientific background helps her navigate research areas ranging from oncology to eye care, women’s health to chronic disease. After meeting her, I am fascinated by the idea of working in a marketing firm.

So what did the attendees learn from the night? Ana, a PhD candidate from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto said that she’s “starting to gain more insight into the pros and cons of working in each of the different branches of medical writing”. She added that the evening’s conversations helped her figure out what kinds of skills are most in demand in the industry. Medical writing can mean updating training materials for pharmaceutical companies or curating research to best sell a brand for a particular company. I also learned that it is up to you to connect with people you eventually want to work with. Most importantly, life’s journey is not linear. Three PhD students from various backgrounds have found themselves in medical writing positions. But this is only the beginning of their careers.

Attending networking sessions like the Mini-Networking Series can bring you close to industry professionals. You may be surprised by what you learn and who you meet.

Find out more about LSCDS Mini-Networking Series nights here. Be sure to check out previous nights and our guest speakers. Happy networking!

Written by LSCDS Exec Member Candice Tang

Candice is a MSc. Candidate in the Applied Immunology program. She is interested in pursuing a career in science or research communications and hopes to change the way science is understood by the general public.