How to land a job in Medical Writing

September 22, 2020by Todd Eury

Hi Divyanka! It’s so nice connecting with you! We connected on LinkedIn originally through our mutual interest for content creation and mentoring pharmacy students, but you also work in medical writing which is so cool! Medical writing is a great path for PharmD’s to go down and I feel like it is still a bit of a new career path for us. I’d love to ask you more questions about it.

Tell us about yourself (school, graduation date, etc)

My name is Divyanka and I’m a recent 2020 PharmD graduate! I went to MCPHS University in Boston and am currently enrolled in a part-time MBA program. Apart from my professional label as a PharmD, I’m a dancer and creative!

What did pharmacy school look like for you?

My PharmD was a 6-year program which I joined right after completing high school. The first two years are the equivalent of a ‘bachelors’ and then the four years after that were considered graduate school years (P1-P4).

What internships, APPE’s, and organizations did you join in school that you found to be beneficial for you?

I worked all 6 years in pharmacy school. The first year I worked as a pharmacy technician at a retail chain pharmacy, probably like every other pharmacy student. I knew that isn’t where I saw myself in the long run and proceeded to get a variety of experience for the next 5 years. During my second year, I discovered the possibility of working in the pharmaceutical industry. I then landed an internship at Celgene, a pharmaceutical company in NJ (now BMS), as a Medical Affairs Strategic Planning Intern. This was by far the most beneficial internship for my career.

For my APPEs, I was able to land two industry-related rotations. One was at Vertex Pharmaceuticals as a Medical Writing Intern and the second was at BGB Group, a CRO, again as a Medical Writing Intern. These experiences definitely helped me in going down the pathway of medical writing after I had already decided to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry.

As for organizations I joined in school, of course the most helpful in terms of the pharma industry was IPhO (Industry Pharmacists Organization). I also started a chapter of ISPE (International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering) at my campus, which exposed me to more individuals in the pharmaceutical industry who came from a variety of backgrounds (not only PharmDs). I would highly recommend getting involved in either or both of these organizations for those who are interested in pursuing a career in pharmaceutical industry.

When did you first become interested or introduced to medical writing?

I first became interested in medical writing when I was introduced to it at Celgene, during my summer internship in Medical Affairs. I was introduced to the various medical writing deliverables within Medical Affairs and Scientific Communications and was showed the importance of medical writing as a skill. I worked towards gaining more experience for the next many years, which included gaining medical writing experience at my APPEs at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and BGB Group as stated above.

In your LinkedIn it says you have 4 years of experience in medical writing, can you share how you were able to gain such experience while in school to help you land a role right out of graduate school?

Of course! During my sophomore year (2nd year of the 6 years), I started working as a Lab Research Assistant at a lab at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Here I started to get medical writing experience through manuscripts. Then when I moved to Celgene for my summer internship, my experience continued as a Medical Affairs intern. As stated above, it continued through my APPEs and other experiences.

I saw that you went to Midyear your P4 year, were you initially interested in residency or fellowship or were you looking for opportunities in medical writing there?

I did! I went to midyear my P4 year and was interested in pursuing a fellowship, if the right opportunity was presented. I will say that I was picky in what I wanted in a position. I always had the thought of entering an entry level role after graduating as an option though. As long as the position fit with what I was looking for, I would’ve been okay with either a fellowship or entry level role.

Overall though, there are ample fellowship opportunities within Medical Writing and Medical Affairs!

2020 has been a hard year for everyone, it’s especially difficult for new grads looking for jobs. When you graduated, what did your job search look like? Can you share more about what you did, how many jobs you applied to, and share the hustle that goes behind the scenes?

It has definitely been a challenging year for everyone. If you’re like me and struggled or are still struggling to find a position during COVID-19, I want to start off my saying BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. I know that seems like pretty general advice – but I saw myself suffer from not believing in my abilities, skills, experiences and education and that was the most detrimental mindset I could’ve put myself in. It’s a hard time but if you don’t believe in yourself, there’s no chance anyone else will.

My job search was definitely long, tedious and hard. I applied to 140+ positions in the three months of COVID and many more before that. During the initial months of COVID-19 I knew my chances of landing a position were even more slim due to the pandemic, so I utilized that time to network and meet new people via LinkedIn, rework my resume/CV for various position and build additional skills via online courses. The best way for me to explain what I did during my job search and how I landed a position during COVID-19 is via video, so have a look at the videos below for more in-depth answers on this!

Again, if you’re in this position right now – don’t give up and have faith in yourself. It’s a hard time and it’s not the most helpful to hear encouraging words while you’re in the rut of it, but it truly will work out if you put in the hard work and dedication towards job searching.

What did you interview process look like for your current role at Ora?

My interview process was quite standard: one 30-minute phone interview with HR, one 30-minute phone interview with the hiring manager, one 30-minute zoom video interview (to make up for an in-person interview) with the hiring manager, a 30-minute zoom video interview with the regulatory team and lastly, a 30-minute phone interview with the head of the department.

Can you share more about what your day-to-day looks like as a medical writer?

My role at Ora is as a regulatory writer, where my role consists of about 60% regulatory work and 40% medical writing insight but it all overlaps. My general day is currently work-from-home, working from about 9am to 5pm. Ora is a CRO (contract research organization) and we work with many pharmaceutical clients to assist with clinical trials, INDs, meeting request letter and much more. Each writer leads multiple different projects with different sponsor companies and we are additionally responsible for writing the materials required for each FDA submission.

What’s the biggest challenge in your job or adjustment you had to make?

The biggest challenge thus far is learning the processes of how a writer works within the department, the company and with sponsor companies.

Additionally, it’s definitely been a challenge starting a job during the pandemic while being 100% remote. It’s more difficult to cultivate working relationships, have meaningful conversation and just learn overall.

Are you able to share what therapeutic areas you’ve worked in and written about?

Ora leads work in ophthalmology and therefore all of our projects revolve around the eye!

Previously, I’ve worked and written heavily in oncology and rare diseases.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I personally really like engaging with my immediate team and with sponsor companies whose projects I am leading. Cultivating those relationships, although it’s been hard remotely, is definitely rewarding and helps everyone put in their best work.

I also noticed you’re going for you MBA/MHA and I’d love to learn how that is going with a full-time job! 

My MBA just started so I can’t speak too much to it but I’m excited to learn a bit alongside working!

What drew you to pursuing your MBA/MHA?

When I was introduced to the pharmaceutical industry through my internship at Celgene, I realized the importance of the business aspect of healthcare/pharmaceutical companies. This drew me to the idea of pursuing my MBA; to understand the business aspect of it all.

I want this interview to be able to provide insight to students but also new grads and PharmD’s looking for new opportunities and growth in their career. What advice do you have for anyone in this position?

Be picky and accept all opportunities – all at the same time.

I know that advice seems extremely dichotomous, but the balance is necessary. Knowing what you want to pursue and/or what your professional goals are, is extremely important and therefore once you know that, it’s good to be picky about opportunities. While you may know what you want though, many times unexpected opportunities open doors. So, don’t initially close yourself off to any opportunities that may come your way.

This means applying to every position that may fall in the general category you’re looking for, even if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for. It’s extremely hard to judge a role or company from a job description. If you find yourself in rounds of interviews and you really don’t see yourself in that position or at that company, then by all means remove yourself from the running for that position, but don’t initially turn it down by just looking at the job description.

Lastly, it’s never too late to make any career change, especially as a new grad. The first few years after graduating are to explore and learn what roles you are happy with – so go exploring!

Interested in connecting with Divyanka? You can find her here:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ZpTXIPeVdQqKPIVUrTjiQ

LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/divyankagupta/