Monday, 2 January 2017

The role of a Medical Information Officer

After finishing my PhD in Molecular Microbiology in the University of Nottingham (UK) I confirmed my change of career path whilst joining ProPharma Group, a company that "provides validation, compliance and technical services to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and related industries". My role? Multilingual Medical Information Officer. And why? Because I am fortunate enough to speak 3 languages, almost 4 if I was that confident to get my rusty French out there as I do it when I'm on my own singing the tunes of Tom Sawyer's cartoon intro.

My closest friends weren't a bit surprised about my career change as I had been 'threatening' to actually try a leap of faith after my last years in research. The reasons were so vastly explored in this blog that it would be tough to name the most crystal clear posts on the matter. But if you are indeed curious about it, try hit the tag 'Careers' or even the tag 'Detoxifying Notes' and you'll be able to find my spiritual purge. If you want the main reason in the shape of a twit, let me say that as it is built today, research does not offer ANY stability to ANY researcher wanting to have a FAMILY. But this is like the tip of the iceberg; there are a million of other valid reasons to despair whilst being a researcher these days.

But my friends were also quite surprised at the nature of my new role as a medical information officer. Surprised and also ignorant, I may say. Thus, I decided to explain just a little better what I do, with the help of two websites: 1) The PIPA one - Pharmaceutical Information and Pharmacovigilance Association that provides a great summary definition of the actual MI role, and the 2) ABPI  one - Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry that provides a really well-structured insight to what tasks are lined up for a medical information officer. 

These are the straight answers to those questions my friends bombarded me with.

What do you do?

"Medical Information Professionals usually work within the commercial divisions of Pharmaceutical companies. They provide evaluated, balanced information and advice on clinical aspects of medicines to healthcare professionals (e.g., physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and NHS managers) and to patients. Information and advice are based upon published literature, confidential company data and experience.

Medical information professionals also provide proactive information services to company personnel, typically providing expert support to medical, marketing, sales, or NHS liaison staff. They are often responsible for checking advertising and promotional material against the ABPI code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry. They may also be involved in monitoring drug safety and reporting suspected adverse reactions to company products to the regulatory authorities". [1]

How do you do it?

"To do this [medical information professionals] use:

- reference text books,
- medical and pharmaceutical journals,
- research papers (including clinical trials, systematic reviews),
- guidelines produced by expert bodies.

Some people working in the medical information provide information in response to a specific question asked by a healthcare professional. The question is researched and the relevant sources collated to answer the enquiry in a fair and balanced way. The findings are summarised and relevant highlights are presented to the healthcare professional." [2]

What about your career prospects?

"A role in medical information within the pharmaceutical industry will provide you with a range of training and development opportunities during your career. This will lead to natural career progression within your company, or provide you with the relevant experience to work in a range of related jobs within the industry.

You may move from the position of an information officer to an information manager, moving upwards into other managerial areas. You may be able to specialise in a particular area, and this may help with promotion, but is likely that you'll need to move between jobs for this." [1]

[1] Medical Information (MI), Pharmaceutical Information & Pharmacovigilance Association, [], last visited on the 2nd of January 2017, last update unknown. 

[2] Medical information, ABPI - Careers, [], last visited on the 2nd of January 2017, last update unknown. 


  1. Do you think that the current job market in research favors people with a bachelor's or master's? Just about everyone I had talked to agree that a PhD does not provide a steady reliable source of income so I am looking for alternative solutions. But I do really want to continue doing research. I would like to hear your thoughts on the matter!

    1. Hi there, please find my opinion below! Cheers.

  2. Hello Unknown, thank you so much for your question? Well, what can I say that I haven't said before?? My personal opinion is that even though a PhD gives you practical and theoretical attributes that no other degree can, it will also narrow your professional options in terms of knowledge and in terms of salary. A PhD is usually a very expensive professional due to the acquired knowledge. Having said that, a bachelor do not hold the extensive know-how and technical/intellectual capacity attained by a PhD. We are judging acquired knowledge, be it technical or theoretical or even both, but prepared people are capable of performing any task if trained to do it. Training is also a very important feature when looking for a position because that means one will always be given the tools to do the job and progress, as we are not born knowing it all.

    Then we have those with Master degrees who basically live in the limbo. And I also found myself in that position in 2009/2010. I was too-qualified to do jobs usually passed onto BScs and I was not enough qualified to perform roles given to doctorates. That was tricky and I had to resort to desperate measures by accepting everything.

    My personal opinion is purely based on what I had the chance to see and experience these past 10 years of my life. If you go for a PhD you are most definitely entering a very narrow road where your surviving skills will have to be used right after the end of your PhD... by trying for a postdoc, and then another one and who knows yet another one... Add to that the instability of living on funding for the rest of your days. Transitioning from academia to the industry is not easy at all for a PhD. I know that I am now paid far less than I deserve and would be paid if I was in academia, but you have to suck up for a few years, be humble and make your way up the ladder when you move to the industry.

    Research is my passion. Toxicology and research in toxicology will always be my passion. I was severed of this dream for many reasons where I not only blame the pyramid scheme of academia as I also blame, to an extent, a few people I had the bad luck of working with. Bear in mind that you will always have to clarify within yourself a few basic ideas for the future: what is your true passion, to what extent are you willing to fight for your dream, do you want to have a family, when do you want to have a family, how is progression in your specific industry for someone with a BSc, MSc, PhD. Your question is broad but can be narrowed if you do your research, as I did for myself. But I have to agree with those who told you that a PhD does not provide a steady reliable source of income. I see the gaining of practical skills in modern areas where only a few professionals exist as the future for those who love research but can't take the instability anymore. Examples being bioinformatics, big data analysis, just for the sake of the example. I really hope I helped but you can also check previous posts I wrote about it in the careers tag. Cheers.