5 Common Mistakes Seasoned Medical Science Liaisons Make

Marianne Kenny, PharmD

Marianne Kenny, PharmD

Former VP Global Medical Communications Allergan

Think you’re too experienced for more training? Or say to yourself, “I’ve been an MSL for 10 years, what could I possibly learn?” If that’s you… keep reading. 

Studies in the MSL space have shown that within about 2 years, MSLs begin to intellectually ‘fatigue’ and typically plateau when it comes to their knowledge level of the disease state and functional areas. They start getting into certain habits that rendering them less effective because although industry market dynamics change, they don’t.

Here are 5 common mistakes, seasoned MSLs make:

1. Think they know it all

Ever meet that MSL that’s been in the industry for 10+ years and thinks they have it all figured out. You would think that they’re going to be the most effective, most engaged. Unfortunately, oftentimes they are just the opposite. It isn’t because they don’t have the chops for the role. It’s that they’ve either grown apathetic or simply grow content with their current knowledge levels.

If that’s you.. Think about ways to reinvent yourself and stay up to date and fresh with industry standards.

2. Stop Growing in their Profession

Have you been to a training session and the person next to you rolls their eyes as if to say, “what a waste of time.” Oftentimes, seasoned professionals have this idea that they won’t benefit from any additional training or professional development. One of the things the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs (ACMA) hears all the time from seasoned MSL pros is how much they found out they didn’t know when they become Board Certified in Medical Affairs (BCMAS).

3. Get Stuck in their Habits

We are all creatures of habit and get stuck in bad ruts. The key is to not make one big change at once but rather small changes. I’ve talked with some MSLs who tell me that they wait till the end of the week to report all of their KOL interactions because they just don’t’ have the time during the week. The problem with this approach is you end up relying on your memory and may forget important details and insights about the interaction that your company might want to know about.

4. Go back to the Same KOL/KTL ‘Well’

Once when I was heading up an MSL team, I did a little exercise to see who our MSLs were engaging and found something quite remarkable. Most of the lower performing MSLs were meeting with a small number of KOLs with a disproportionally higher frequency versus their counterparts who met with a broader pool of KOLs.  When I dug further, I discovered that the primary reasons for this was (1) comfortability with those particular KOLs and (2) access was easier. The result was that the company wasn’t effectively engaging the right people. With digital technology and innovation in medical affairs, new tools and analytics for KOL profiling make it easier to identify the right KOLs to engage. I personally like H1 Insights which I believe have the most reliable data with an easy to use interface.

5. Assume other People Grasp Your Previous Experience

You walk into a new role after you’ve been with your previous company for 10 years and they still treat you like a ‘newbie.’ It’s a common story we hear at the ACMA. Don’t assume anything. Unfortunately, when you start at a new company, you have to rebuild your reputation and those relationships. 

There are a few ways to overcome these common mistakes:

  1. Invest in Yourself 
  2. Prove Your Worth Early On
  3. Reinvent Yourself
  4. Keep an Open Mindset
  5. Look at Future Trends

If you’re a seasoned pharmaceutical, biotech, diagnostics, or devices MSL, enroll in the Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist Program (BCMAS).  Reinvent Yourself.

The Future of Medical Affairs is Here.