Pharmacy Careers: Interview with a medical science liaison

The Career Seminar Series aims to feature various professions in pharmacy. Diego Gomes, a Senior Medical Science Liaison for Bayer Pharmaceuticals, shares his insights on how a PharmD degree translates to a promising career in the pharmaceutical industry.

Can you tell us about yourself and what you do as a medical science liaison.

A medical science liaison is responsible for establishing and maintaining relationships with key opinion leaders (KOL), also known as thought leaders. A KOL is a trusted person and well-respected professional in certain areas in the medical field. These people are responsible not only for academic institutions or departments but also involved in health care decisions. They can be hospital executives, or they can be leading important research groups inside universities or even being the chief of the department inside a big hospital. These KOLs can be found within research institutes, they can be physicians and clinicians, also pharmacists and they are responsible for influencing or generating a lot of insights that are of great value to pharmaceutical industries that not only help their commercial strategy, but also help to identify treatment gaps in certain disease states.

Why would someone with a PharmD degree be a good candidate to be a medical science liaison?

Someone with a PharmD would be a great fit to become a medical science liaison because that professional would be able to bring together the clinical experience and the pharmacy experience. They would have a broad understanding on how a disease is seen, not only from a clinical perspective, but also in identifying gaps or patient adherence and knowing the structure of molecules or the development of new technologies. Potentially someone without a PharmD would not be able to have a clearer perception.

What does an average day in your life look like as a medical science liaison?

An average day in my life starts with checking my emails. I try to answer any important questions. As an MSL, we are constantly getting questions that cannot be found in the product information, so mostly off-label questions. I also do virtual or in-person meetings with KOLs. As an MSL, you cover a territory that includes metropolitan areas to states or even regions. In my case, my territory goes from Alaska to Nebraska, so at the end of the day, I like to finish my day trying to set up new meetings and prioritizing specific regions in my territory and then I have to make plans to hop on a plane an spend at least one or two days somewhere else.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing that in the long term, we are affecting patients’ lives in a direct way. I came from a research background in which all the experiments I used to do on the bench was a small contribution to the scientific world. But being able to speak to physicians about a new drug and seeing that being implemented, seeing the results on people’s lives, and improving health care, that is the most rewarding part of the position for me.

Diego presents medical information to primary care physicians at a medical center in Los Angeles.

Can you tell us about your career path and how you got to where you are today?

My major was in biological sciences, after that I got involved with other PhD and PharmD students in a research path, so I pursued academic life for about 10 years. I ended up being a fellow where I worked with other PhD students also some PharmDs and made the transition back to the pharmaceutical world back in 2019 getting a job as a medical science liaison. Now, I not only have the opportunity to work with MDs and PharmDs, but also nurse practitioners and other PhDs, all of us acting as a medical science liaisons.

If a pharmacy student wants to learn more about becoming a medical science liaison, what should they do?

If you want to learn more about what an MSL is and how you can become an MSL, you can find a lot of information on LinkedIn. One of the characteristics for a good MSL is being able to connect with other people, so don’t feel afraid to connect with me on LinkedIn or finding other MSLs online because we are usually very receptive and very welcoming to new people who are trying to break into the area. There is also an MSL association—you can find information online. As long as you are engaging and you can communicate well and you love to talk about science with other people, you are already a good candidate to become a medical science liaison.

What career advice do you have to offer to students?

Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to go beyond what people expect of you as a pharmacist. You have a wide variety of opportunities you can explore so don’t be restricted or constrained to one specific job. The world of a medical science liaison is very interesting, but it also gives you a lot of opportunities for internal growth inside the pharmaceutical world as far as becoming a director, becoming a scientific director, many in the pharmaceutical industry take PharmDs and put them in positions to be the head of a whole therapeutic team. So, you can start as an MSL, but nothing will stop you from conquering new levels in your career pathway.