Sarah, based in Knutsford, UK, works as a Senior Director in the Medical Strategy Leadership Team at Avalere Health. Here, she discusses how her career has evolved within the team and how she is helping to enhance our skills and capabilities in medical strategy.
What prompted you to pursue an opportunity in medical communications?
After completing my undergraduate degree in pharmacology, I wasn’t entirely sure where I wanted to focus my career, so I decided to pursue a PhD. Due to a combination of factors, I didn’t particularly enjoy my PhD experience and spent more of my time editing and formatting my posters to make them look nice, rather than focusing on the experiments and questions I was trying to answer. As a result, my supervisor recommended a career in medical communications (med comms) as a suitable industry for me and I have never looked back since!
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Medical communications involves a unique combination of science, business acumen, and team collaboration which creates an incredibly stimulating and enriching work environment. I love to learn and feel like I’m contributing to the advancement of healthcare. On a personal level, I enjoy working at the forefront of medical science, applying my skills and experience to help facilitate the development of medicines, and meet patient needs.
Working as a Senior Director in Medical Strategy requires collaboration across all levels of our business and I enjoy these interactions with colleagues, whether it’s mentoring, coaching, working together to deliver strategic projects for our clients, supporting our business development initiatives, or collaborating with colleagues across the wider group.
What does it take to succeed in your role?
A successful Director in Medical Strategy is someone with both intellectual rigor and business acumen who can keep seeking answers to the question “Why?” with both internal teams and clients. When working with clients and colleagues, it is imperative to see the bigger picture and connect independent pieces of information together. A willingness to engage with complex science, ask insightful questions, and be capable of communicating effectively with others is crucial in helping to identify insights and develop scientific strategy.
Why work for Avalere Health?
I’ve worked for several med comms agencies both as a full-time employee and freelancer—and it can be challenging to articulate some of the nuances of culture that make agencies different.
Avalere Health retains much of its entrepreneurial culture and drive to innovate as the business has evolved. We are actively encouraged to build connections across different parts of the business to understand how we can collaborate to provide greater value for our clients. Our people-oriented culture endeavors to understand and maximize the strengths of each individual which often creates opportunities to broaden the scope of any role beyond formal job descriptions. Working at Avalere Health has enabled me to try new things and learn more about myself in the process. I have a greater awareness of my strengths and of the areas in which I need to lean on the skills and knowledge of others.
What are the key highlights of your time at Avalere Health?
The highlight of my time at Avalere Health so far has been partnering with colleagues in the Medical Strategy Leadership Team to develop and innovate our capabilities and service offerings and upskill our teams to deliver innovative solutions for our clients. Over the last few years, we have seen an increasing demand for support with medical strategy from our clients. Scientific platforms, evidence-generation plans, global medical plans, and omnichannel plans are becoming standard deliverables. In response to the changing market, a colleague and I developed a new initiative called COMPASS (Complete guide to Medical Planning and Scientific Strategy), a bespoke case-study-based medical strategy training program for our team. COMPASS allows our teams to bring the medical strategic planning process to life and develop skills to lead and scope strategic projects, gain confidence in delivering them, and support strategic business opportunities. Seeing and supporting the onward development of those who have taken part, and the impact the training has made to client deliverables and our own business development, has been incredibly rewarding. I find so much meaning in sharing my knowledge and experience to help upskill others through our COMPASS program, and I value the investment Avalere Health makes in training and developing our teams.
After a busy work week, how do you unwind?
I have two children, so life is busy both inside and outside of work. My role can be rather cerebral, so I find being creative is a great way to switch off. A fun hobby of mine is sewing and making my own clothes. I learned the basics from my mum as a child, and it continues to be an activity I pick up on and off throughout my life. I find the details of cutting, shaping, sewing, and tailoring fabric very mindful, and I love perfecting the small details and finishes! Avalere Health has an internal online social group where colleagues can share their creative outlets with one another. Sharing my designs and garments with the group has been a real confidence boost for me!
Do you have any advice for maintaining mental well-being whilst working from home?
I find this comes from finding the right balance between collaboration time in the office and focused time at home. I enjoy the flexibility that working from home comes with but I value spending face-to-face time with colleagues and appreciate the effort that goes into facilitating all our social events.
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