The LSCDS’s Mini-Networking Series kicked off on October 21st with the Mini-Networking Night: Medical Science Liaison & Medical Affairs. Mini-Networking Nights (MNN) host multiple professionals from a specific industry to chat with a small group of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in a casual environment.

This month’s virtual event featured six medical science liaisons and medical affairs professionals alongside 32 attendees. During the event, approximately five attendees were assigned to each breakout room and the industry professionals were rotated through the rooms for three 25-minute periods. As organizer Xavier Lee described, “it’s like speed dating, without the romance!” The event wrapped with a 30-minute unstructured networking session where professionals were assigned to breakout rooms and attendees had the choice to join any room, giving them the opportunity to engage in follow-up discussions with specific individuals.

Medical affairs bridge industry to the wider medical community. Professionals in the field translate scientific and clinical expertise to doctors, patient care groups, and other stakeholders, and often have advanced degrees with specializations in a given therapeutic area. The MNN professional guests ranged from medical writers and advisors to medical science liaisons (MSLs), working for companies like AstraZeneca, Novartis, and McCann Health.

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In the breakout rooms, attendees drove the networking by taking turns asking their questions. A range of topics was addressed, including logistics surrounding roles and hiring processes, transitioning from graduate school to industry, work environment and day-to-day tasks. Some recurrent themes that emerged were the importance of communication skills and  relationship-building in the MSL career.

The MNN setup fosters an intimate networking environment by maintaining a 1:5 professional to student ratio. The industry professionals were welcoming and candid as they shared stories and advice from their respective career paths. When asked if he faced any unexpected challenges during his transition to the MSL role, Dr. Robert Ungard described being surprised by the learning curve required to navigate corporate etiquette, like whether it is appropriate to message someone on Microsoft Teams when their status is set to Do Not Disturb. To tackle this, he took advantage of being the ‘new guy’ by introducing himself widely and asking questions about these minutiae. Amid a discussion about relationship-building, Dr. Kaitlin Anstett spoke to the importance of personal ethics and integrity in establishing credibility with physicians so that they can rely on you as a resource for impartial information and guidance. Above all, the guests reiterated their passion for the field. “It’s a dream job if you are interested in science, research, and patient care,” said Dr. Alison Dungey of AstraZeneca.

The Mini-Networking Series will continue virtually through 2021-22, with events posted on the LSCDS website and social media – LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Spots are limited and available only to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, so be sure to register early!