Dr. Samantha Falk, CAMB (G&E) 2016 alumnus and former student of Dr. Ben Black, loves her new job. She learns about cutting-edge science, daily. She collaborates with industry insiders and diverse professionals, constantly. She works from home, frequently. It’s creative, interactive, engaging. Most likely, you’ve heard of it already. She is a medical writer for the Scientific Pathways medical writing agency (Hamilton, NJ), which is owned by Nucleus Global, a UK-based group of medical communications agencies.
Scientific Pathways and Nucleus Global call on their teams to act as scientific resources for clients, providing consulting and generating deliverables. “We work with pharmaceutical companies to put together communication materials for them,” Samantha explains. She is a full-time medical writer, whose numerous concurrent projects include writing manuscripts for journal publication, drafting sales training plans for pharmaceutical marketing, and attending industry conferences. Samantha works alongside other PhDs and the MDs to communicate the latest research about blood and lung cancers. This group then pairs with a public services team of in-house editors, graphic designers, publishers, and others to deliver this material to the client. For instance, Samantha may be asked to summarize the pharmacological history of a drug or synthesize the most recent leukemia literature and conference presentations into an accessible synopsis. A studio team may then incorporate figures and visuals from the literature, after which the work relays across the agency’s circuitry to the client for feedback and further development. Her work can vary in scope and reach. Samantha can be asked to write about the minutiae of a new drug trial or a sweeping assessment of the field as a whole.
“I think about it more in a global context. How does this agent I’m working on fit into the bigger picture? Some projects have a more global scope but other projects are focused on one aspect,” she relates.
How, you might now ask, did Samantha come to this work for Nucleus?
Samantha chose Nucleus Global through fellow G&E alumnus Aleksandra Nall. “Networking is definitely the main reason.” Nall introduced the medical writing career to Samantha, and provided a direct referral. Direct referrals greatly increase the likelihood of an applicant having their application reviewed and getting a phone interview. This proved decisive for Samantha. The idea of being a medical writer appealed to Samantha as it built on an enduring interest. “I’ve always been interested in communicating science to different audiences,” Samantha explains. While in graduate school, she created lessons and taught genetics and epigenetics to diverse audiences at Franklin Institute events. She chose to parlay these experiences for her job search.
“On the first day of my job, my boss told me one thing she really liked during my interview was the aspect of creativity, because of my involvement in the Philadelphia Science Festival. That was something she really picked up on.”
This demonstration of creativity helped Samantha get hired, but she emphasized that there were a number of skills that the agency looked for.
What are the skills an interested graduate student might want to cultivate for a medical writing career?
“Multitasking is an important one. You have to figure out how to balance your projects, and I think having to do that in graduate school has helped a lot with my current job,” Samantha states. Also, being able to find information quickly and parse out the most important points is a powerful ability to develop. Communicating clearly is another skill that has helped her succeed as a medical writer. Lastly, Samantha emphasizes the importance of learning how to structure a story by asking, “who are my audience? How does my story fit into the bigger picture?” when presenting her work to different audiences. She suggests practicing interviews and presentations with scientifically-literate people inside and outside of academia to become more comfortable communicating with people of diverse backgrounds.
Samantha enjoys her work greatly, but she has an eye on the future.
“I have always been interested in public-oriented scientific communication. Ultimately, I would like to focus more on communicating to patient and general public audiences.” She hopes to leverage her work for Nucleus Global to reach these groups as a specialist and educator.