It was a hard decision to leave academia. I worked on fascinating science, with many inspirational people, but life at the bench just wasn’t for me – I loved the creative thinking required but grew frustrated with the pipetting, waiting and disappointments. I have the utmost respect for those who remain at the forefront of research to drive discovery, but I needed to find a different way to contribute to a field that excites me.
Opportunities in patent law and medical publishing didn’t feel right. Then, in New Scientist, I saw an advert for a job writing communications about medicine from converted barns in the Oxfordshire countryside. Nobody had heard of medical communications (med comms) back then, but it sounded like the right opportunity for me, so I applied, did the writing test and interviews, and got the job as an Associate Medical Writer. Fifteen years later, I’m looking after 150 people in one of our Oxford offices.
Being a medical writer is what you make of it. Some people enjoy delving deep into the science, others appreciate the prestige of writing up the results of major clinical studies for the New England Journal of Medicine or The Lancet, for example. Others may prefer taking on the complex methodology of a systematic review or the short-term intensity and travel opportunities that come with meetings work. As I found at Oxford PharmaGenesis, there is also plenty of opportunity to gain a greater understanding of strategy and the commercial world if you want to. Each day is different, and you can learn from brilliant colleagues, clients, and world experts alike.
People sometimes ask why I’ve stayed with Oxford PharmaGenesis for the last 15 years – why didn’t I leave to experience a different company culture or jump around to try to accelerate my career? The simple answer is that when I joined the company it had ~20 people and felt like a family business, and it still does today, despite growing to be a global community of more than 350 people. From my very first day, I was given opportunities to develop as a writer, grow strong client relationships and have a key role in a young team that delivered our company’s first million-pound account. I’m proud to have helped build something special here.
Oxford PharmaGenesis has leaders who want to do interesting things that have a real impact on the world, who trust others, who want to win as a team and who share the rewards of the company’s success. Our true independence has also helped to bring long-term stability. Colleagues with experience of some other companies would tell stories of working for corporate conglomerates, where financial targets and timesheets seemed more important than quality and relationships. They have found our culture to be much more rewarding.
My personal mission to help rebuild trust in science and medicine is closely aligned with the goals of Oxford PharmaGenesis. To this end, I train colleagues and clients, teach publication ethics at the local university, and contribute to research and education for the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (www.ismpp.org). Oxford PharmaGenesis is also helping to drive positive change in medical publishing through the Open Pharma initiative (www.openpharma.blog) – of which I was a founding member. Open Pharma has grown to become a large group representing several pharma companies, publishers, patients, regulators, non-pharma funders and academic societies. As part of this, I take great pride in seeing our trainees hold their own in discussions on open science and innovation with the heads of department at top-10 global pharma companies. Our trainees are the future of not only Oxford PharmaGenesis but also our industry.