CAREER SPOTLIGHT: 2008 SMDP Biotech Scholar

My role is to assist population health decision makers (payers, hospital systems, specialty pharmacies) in making access decisions by providing clinical and health economic information for our products. The simple version is that I help health insurance companies and hospital systems make decisions on providing access to the oncology therapies that we produce at GSK. Another important part of my role is to uncover customer insights to influence our product strategies.

During a summer internship at Abbott Labs, as an undergraduate, my mentor told me if I wanted to manage a lab in Pharma/Biotech I would need to get obtain a PhD. Therefore, when I finished my BS in Bioengineering at Rice University, I worked as a research technician in a gene therapy lab and prepared to apply to PhD programs. Fortunately, I was selected for the inaugural class of a Post-Baccalaureate program at Baylor College of Medicine. The program paid my salary as a technician, helped with preparation for the GRE and grad school interviews. I selected the Cell & Molecular Biology program at Baylor College of Medicine where my thesis focused on stem cells & breast cancer.

Knowing I wanted to pursue a career in Pharma/Biotech after graduate school, my participation in the SMDP program facilitated my involvement activities away from the bench. I began attending networking events for the local biotech community, eventually leading to internships in tech transfer & licensing Baylor College of Medicine and a marketing internship at GSK. These experiences allowed me to accelerate my transition into Pharma.

About 3 months ago, I returned to GSK a global health care company that produces pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines & consumer health products. At GSK our goal is to be one of the world’s most innovative, best performing and trusted healthcare companies.

My cousin worked as a sales representative for the pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham when I was in elementary school. Eventually, SmithKline Beecham merged with Glaxo Wellcome into the company we know today as GlaxoSmithKline or GSK.

At present, I most like the diversity that I see within the company. One of the things that stuck out to me before accepting this role was the number of women and people of color in leadership positions. It is always encouraging to see people with similar backgrounds in roles and positions that you aspire to attain.

I began my pharma career as a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) primarily sharing clinical data to physicians. I learned one of the keys to success is understanding the perspective of your customer. When I supported a product that was treated as a biosimilar, I began interacting with more pharmacy directors that considered the economic impact of therapies in addition to the clinical value. Being a big picture person with an interest in business aspect of pharmaceuticals, I became more interested in becoming a Health Outcomes Liaison. As a Health Outcomes Liaison my focus is broader in terms of considering the economic impact and place in therapy for a new product.

For me, success is to be an honorable Christian man, husband and father. As it relates to my career is to be a trusted colleague that serves my stakeholders (both external & internal) to ensure patients have access to life changing therapies.

My desire to work in Biotech/Pharma came from seeing relatives suffer from a variety of diseases. Now, I most enjoy knowing that my efforts facilitate providing access to therapies for cancer patients with limited options.

I’ve learned the answer to this question can be the topic of a seminar series! My advice is to follow your passions, do what you truly enjoy. I was once told the intersection of your passions, your values and your abilities is the “sweet spot” for your next role. I often tell those interested in becoming an MSL to align their resume/experiences with the requirements of the job description. A job candidate should be confident in their abilities to perform ~80% of the job requirements and have experiences demonstrating these abilities (#receipts). If you are deficient in any areas, seek opportunities to acquire new skills. Also, when it comes to your resume focus on the impact or value that you added in your previous roles. Instead of providing a list of things you’ve done, tell me what you accomplished or learned.

When it comes to choosing a company, be able to articulate why the company is a good fit for you, go beyond the fact that they have an opening that aligns with your career goals (company vision, mission, culture, the products meet a need that’s important to you…) Last, talk to as many people as you can that are currently in the role that you desire.

Currently, I have daily morning date with my 12-year old daughter as we are reading through The Bible this year. Also, I recently read, The Go – Giver by Bob Burg & John David Mann, a great book on how to attain stratospheric success (spoiler alert: selflessly serve others)! Next on my list, The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. As a bonus, I also suggest Good to Great by Jim Collins as a must read on everyone’s reading list.

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