Judith, based in Cumbria, UK, is a Director of Partnership Strategy in our Medical team. Here, she shares how her clinical background in podiatry inspired her to transition into Medical Communications, and what she finds most rewarding about her role.
What prompted you to pursue a career in Medical Communications (med comms)?
Like most in this industry, I didn’t set out to work in med comms—rather, it was something I happily stumbled into! From an early age, I knew I wanted to work directly with people, and I initially began my career as a podiatrist. I specialized in diabetes podiatry, treating patients at high risk of ulceration, which is how I became acutely aware of the paucity of effective support and information to prevent foot complications. I became curious about the dissonance between medical terminology and lay understanding, how our experiences influence our actions, and the power of listening.
My desire to make a difference in this field saw me move from the NHS to academia and then eventually to working in this industry, where I first started to partner with med comms agencies. My PhD explored the effect of diabetes on people’s lives and the factors which affect their capacity to act with regard to their self-care practices. Eventually, I decided to move from the client side to agency life, relishing new challenges and opportunities to utilize my expertise and make a difference for a wider group of patients and their caregivers.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I love the variety of people, clients, and projects I’m involved in.
My primary focus is to guide and lead our internal teams and clients to consider how we can better serve patients by working in partnership with them, rather than making assumptions or decisions about them. As someone who has advocated for patient-centric initiatives and person-centered care for many years across various roles, being able to contribute towards this is incredibly rewarding.
I believe the pandemic has rapidly accelerated the era of participatory health and challenged legacy models in the pharmaceutical industry. This is opening up a new world of possibilities that reflect the needs and preferences of healthcare practitioners and patients. It’s exciting to see this shift, together with digital transformation, which sees patients being recognized as important stakeholders in the healthcare dialogue. This momentum also brings increased opportunities to offer personalized experiences for healthcare practitioners and build increased value in medical engagement touchpoints, enabling better outcomes, and optimized medicines developed around patients’ wants and priorities.
What does it take to succeed in your role?
Being able to work in an agile way to respond effectively to changing requirements, adopting a growth mindset—especially when working on particularly challenging projects—determines success in this role. Thinking critically, logically, and strategically is key whilst constantly circling back to what is the end goal and why it’s important. To do this it’s imperative to have great questioning and listening skills. I have a health coaching accreditation and draw on the skills acquired from it daily.
How would you describe the working environment at Avalere Health?
I’m grateful to work alongside some of the most talented and knowledgeable people in the industry. The collective expertise we have in our Medical Strategy and Excellence team, and across the business, is incredible and I am always learning from my peers. Even though we are a larger organization, we are also a tight-knit community where the culture is inclusive, supportive, and collaborative.
My role is cross-functional in nature, which means I collaborate with colleagues across the business to co-create internal initiatives such as our plain language summary (PLS) training and establish our internal PLS review board. We utilize our non-scientific colleagues’ expertise to provide initial lay feedback on the clarity of materials, as well as working with our motion team to develop emotive, real-life patient videos which enhance the understanding of the everyday challenges that patients face.
After a busy work week, how do you unwind?
I still run a small podiatry practice, so on Saturdays I go back to my clinical roots of treating patients. It’s a privilege to be able to help people and foot care is an important but often overlooked aspect of our health. My older patients always inspire me with their rich tapestry of stories, and I’m humbled by their stoicism and wisdom—there’s so much we can learn from listening to their experiences.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
I have two lovely cocker spaniels who need their routine. If I am ever sitting at the computer for too long, a wet nose appears, nudging me to go outside for a walk. I’m fortunate to live in Cumbria with access to some beautiful, scenic countryside on my doorstep.
What do you do outside of working hours?
When I’m not working, I’m normally outside, regardless of the weather. I first began participating in open water swimming about 20 years ago after a serious car accident. It played such an important aspect in my recovery that it’s now critical to my everyday wellbeing. Being able to regulate my breath in icy water makes me feel so alive and instantly provides clarity as to what’s important. The colder the water, the better!
I’ve also recently been blessed with my first granddaughter. Being outdoors, walking our dogs, and spending time with my loved ones and our precious new addition brings me the greatest joy.