By NextLevel Life Sciences - May 24, 2018

Leading up to NextLevel Life Science’s 2nd Annual MedAffairs Leaders Forum USA 2018, we are conducting interviews with selected members of our prestigious speaker panel to learn more about their thoughts on this vital issue.
*Opinions below are those only of the individual and do not reflect upon corporate strategy or positioning.

For more information regarding NextLevel Life Science’s 2nd Annual MedAffairs Leaders Forum USA 2018 click here!

Liz Clark, VP Medical Affairs, Norgine

NextLevel: What kind of work do you do at Norgine?

LC: I am the Vice President of Medical Affairs at Norgine, so that’s with responsibilities for all of our post-marketing medical work.  This encompasses provision of medical information, medical writing, marketing support, copy approval, and support for investigator-initiated studies (IIS). I also lead Norgine’s patient engagement work.

NextLevel: How long have you been at Norgine?

LC: In total, I have been with Norgine in Medical Affairs for fourteen years.

NextLevel: What is the greatest challenge to leadership or management in medical affairs?

LC: One of the biggest challenges is valuing and understanding what leadership is as a skill in its own right. This is something that people often find difficult to do. There’s often a belief that “leaders are born, not made” which is not true. Actually getting under the hood of leadership, understanding and learning the behaviours that support leadership can be a challenge, particularly when people have moved up and become more senior because of their technical expertise.  This is because it takes a different skill set in order to lead others. So, for me that would certainly be the biggest challenge.

NextLevel: What can people do to overcome this challenge and develop leadership?

LC: The first thing is to actually recognise leadership as a skill and believing that it can be learnt. Then it’s a case of understanding where you as an individual fit in terms of your disposition and your strengths and weaknesses.  As with any skillset, there are things you will naturally do well and there are things that you find harder. It’s really about learning to use the whole breadth of the leadership toolkit and knowing which tools to use, when, and how to use them.

So, in terms of what people can do, the first part is recognition, and then it really depends on their learning style as to how they choose to go about that. Some people would choose to read extensively about it, to look at examples of great leaders, for example, and think of the things that they did. Other people might want to go on a course that actually drills down to the essence of leadership and starts to draw out those behaviours. Some people would want to do it on the job, perhaps with support from a mentor or coach. There are many different ways of going about it. What’s important is understanding how you need to go about that yourself and then finding and using resources to follow the path that works for you.

NextLevel: How is medical affairs improving or interacting with patient engagement?

LC: It’s very easy for people to see this as a separate project, but my goal for patient engagement at Norgine is that everyone understands how their work is impacting patients.   Sometimes it’s very clear. For example, if you are writing a medical information response, that’s pretty obvious. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious, so maybe if you are working in the supply chain or finance, you could easily forget that what you do actually makes a difference to patients. If we were all to start with that perspective, then doing the right thing and working in a way that respects patients and is helping to better meet their needs, follows naturally.

NextLevel: How can we raise awareness of the importance of the patient in what we do?

LC: At Norgine we talk about bringing the patient into the office metaphorically and literally. This creates more awareness of individual patients and their experience. We have examples where patients have come to our offices and spoken to staff about their experiences.  This is a very powerful way of reminding us of the purpose of what we are doing. We also have video clips with patients that we have developed. There’s a lot of material on YouTube so that even if you haven’t, as a company, worked with developing materials, you can still find something that gives the real essence of what patients need and want. It’s one of those things that we can do in many ways, but again it starts with the motivation of understanding the purpose of our work. Hearing from a patient that has benefited from that is extremely inspirational.

NextLevel: How do you see the technical expertise in field medical evolving within their skillset?

LC: I think this is a skillset that varies to some extent depending on the context, but there are two broad areas within it, both of which need to be balanced. The first broad area is the technical expertise - the therapy area and product knowledge that enables a field medical person to be able to hold a good, quality, respectful, peer-to-peer conversation with customers, whomever they may be.

The second area is the interpersonal skills which are the vehicle which supports those conversations and enables collaborative working. It’s particularly important that anybody, but particularly  those with a broad customer interface have the capacity to build, strong, resilient relationships. Those relationships are then the basis for collaborative work.

A good relationship is one where there is respect on both sides and content flows in both directions. Sometimes we provide information or insights, sometimes the clinician provides information or insights. The clinician may propose a study or want to write a paper, or we may put them in touch with other people. So, the technical aspects of that fits within the broader people skills that enables those relationships to be developed and maintained.

NextLevel: How do you see the role of medical affairs partnerships with patients, charities, or entrepreneurs evolving?

LC: As medical device regulations in Europe change, there will be more need for clinical investigations that are probably more sophisticated than how it has existed in the past. I think that this is a great opportunity to do collaborative work, in a way that, for historical reasons perhaps, hasn’t evolved in the medicinal products arena. So, I see this as a very, exciting opportunity for collaboration.

In other areas, I would say we can sometimes get a bit obsessed with partnerships for partnerships’ sake. I find it more helpful to think about what we are trying to achieve through collaboration and when that becomes a natural partnership that works together, rather than trying to form partnerships because one needs to fulfil a particular KPI, for example, such as having made a certain number of contacts.

NextLevel: What are you looking forward to most at our event in Boston?

LC: What I look forward to about coming to your conferences is the diversity of people that attend and speak and the opportunities for some very good, quality conversations where we can all explore common problems together, whilst maybe coming from different perspectives. I find it very useful to hear what other people are doing, who are maybe working in a slightly different therapeutic area, or a different regulatory framework, or a different purpose. Having that time to think, is there something I could learn from or would be helpful to apply in something I am doing? I find that extremely useful. It’s a great opportunity to learn from what other people are doing and from speakers with tangible experience that can be shared.

For more information about this MedAffairs Leaders Forum USA please click here!