Interview with Robin Kerbel, CEO of Six Degrees Medical Consulting
Ms. Robin Kerbel is currently the CEO of Six Degrees Medical Consulting, a leader in global medical communications serving pharmaceutical clientele in North America, Europe and Asia. They provide meeting design, digital communications, medical writing services and training programs to optimize clients’ brand, disease and corporate objectives.
- Why does the field of medical communications exist?
Innovative pharmaceutical companies know that regular communication with healthcare professionals is essential to the drug development process. The range of communication is considerable regardless of where the drug is in its lifecycle: guidance is needed to fineturn the design of a protocol, educate on disease diagnosis and treatment and train on how a potential molecule may be used in a specific patient population upon approval. Professionals in medical communications help facilitate efficient and productive conversations between healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry.
- What are some specific examples of support you offer to your clients?
We facilitate advisory board meetings for clients whose drugs are in the design stage of their phase II trial by organizing meetings and workshops to obtain feedback from healthcare professionals. We also provide internal medical/sales training, manuscript writing and symposia planning that can all help generate greater awareness of the trial results. Experts in medical communications often work closely with members in the medical affairs team or sales team but also occasionally work with individuals from regulatory affairs, clinical trial management and health economics.
- Could you describe your team in more detail?
Six Degrees Medical Consulting staff include project managers, scientific content managers and meeting managers who can offer various levels of support. Project managers are very hands-on from initial proposal to budgeting and managing timelines to completion while ensuring optimal quality control. Scientific content managers are responsible for bringing scientific data and information to life either through medical writing or training internal pharmaceutical staff as well as health care professionals via live or virtual meetings. Finally, meeting managers are logistics experts whose aim is to ensure events run smoothly.
- What are the types of entry-level positions that students should aim for to get experience necessary for your kind of career/company?
Examples of entry-level positions include medical content associates and associate project managers. Typically, these positions are available in the form of internship for graduate students in their final two years.
- What is the most rewarding aspect of being in medical communications?
Medical communications is an exceptionally rewarding field for people who prefer to have variety in the work they perform. Typically, people are involved in five to six projects at a given time. The nature of the work also allows you to be involved in higher level strategic thinking, and you get an opportunity to learn about new drugs and diseases in a team environment. In essence, you are given an opportunity to learn how to apply scientific knowledge in a creative way.
- What is an unexpected aspect of being in medical communications?
Medical communication is not simply scientific writing; you have to be able to translate science with a creative flair to make the content engaging for your audience. Versatility in writing is the key to success in this role.
- What are things that a graduate student should be doing now if they want to be market-ready?
As I mentioned previously, you can start by gaining some experience through an internship in a related field. Oftentimes, graduate students complete their MSc or PhD without ever having engaged in writing that is not strictly for scientific publications. I would encourage students to participate in writing for the school newsletter or even start a blog. It is important to note that the field is progressively going digital, as are most things. If you are well-versed in writing for a virtual platform and applying best practices in the design of educational interventions, you will find many opportunities to apply your scientific background to a career in medical communication.
Interview by LSCDS Exec Member Yoojin Choi
Yoojin is a PhD candidate in the department of immunology, pursuing her research in the lab of Dr. Rupert Kaul. She is interested in a career in Medical Affairs or higher education. She can be found on LinkedIn here.