6 Must Have Qualities of a Strong Medical Director in Medical Affairs

William Soliman

William Soliman

President and CEO of Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs
Senior Level Life Sciences & Pharmaceutical Industry Expert

What Do You Look for in a Strong Medical Director in Medical Affairs?

Many have compared the medical director role in a pharma/biotech company to a maestro in an orchestra. The medical director is the center of the wheel in many cases guiding, directing and orchestrating several cross functional areas like clinical development, marketing, regulatory affairs and patient advocacy.

If you’ve worked with a strong medical director, there are some common characteristics they all have. We asked the experts and came up with 6 that all agreed were MUST HAVE QUALITIES:

1. Knows the Disease

Any medical director needs to not only be an expert in the product’s data but an expert on the disease state itself. This includes the pathophysiology, epidemiology, and the clinical data across several treatment options.

2. Strong Business Acumen

An exceptional medical director doesn’t forget that they work for a business and always keeps on eye on changing market dynamics, key thought leader (KTL/KOL) politics and anything else that can impact the business side of the science. 

3. Excellent Relationship Building Skills

A masterful medical director knows that he/she needs to build skills not only with KTLs/KOLs but with internal stakeholders as well. They need to gain their trust and confidence so that they see them as the company’s true subject matter expert. 

4. Broad Understanding of what Medical Affairs Does

A solid medical director understands all areas and functions within medical affairs. They get what MSLs do and can help ensure they are integrated into internal medical affairs activities where it makes sense. They appreciate drug safety, HEOR and med info and have the know how to jump in where needed. 

5. Exhibits Confidence with External Stakeholders

As the saying goes, “You only get 1 chance to make a first impression.” Good medical directors aren’t afraid of big name KOLs and they’r e willing to challenge them with confidence on the data or science. They do so with ease and confidence thus building a strong rapport and bringing long-term value. 

6. Superb Communicator

One of my favorite quotes on communication says, “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” Many medical affairs/MSL professionals suffer from “data vomit.” Where they have a compelling sense to spew out data in an incoherent manner. But a fluid and sophisticated medical director can make their point by interweaving stories and adding color to the data so that it has clinical meaning and content. They know when enough is enough
Of course there are more than 6 qualities.
Can you think of some more? If so, share your thoughts with us!

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