The Medical Science Liaison Society’s Samuel Dyer—The Thought Leader Select Interview, Part Two

Thought Leader Select is a company focused on driving industry collaborations among biopharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostics companies with leading medical experts and centers of excellence, with the ultimate goals of these collaborations being two-fold in purpose:  better treatment options for patients and better outcomes for global public health.  As part of our company’s mission, we work with multiple organizations to promote best practices that deliver ethical, transparent interactions among these various healthcare constituencies.

One of these groups is the recently-launched Medical Science Liaison Society, a global Non-Profit organization being led by the Chairman of the Board, Dr. Samuel Dyer.  The MSL Society is filling a vital need for the expanding role of Medical Science Liaisons around the world, as they collaborate with KOLs, physicians, and other health care professionals to advance medical science together to improve the quality of life for patients everywhere.

Thought Leader Select’s Allison Murphy, a veteran MSL herself from her days working in the Endocrinology Medical Affairs unit at Eli Lilly and Company, recently sat down with Dr. Dyer to learn more about this emerging organization and the impact the MSL Society is having in promoting the role of Medical Science Liaisons in the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostics industries.

In part one of the interview, Allison and Dr. Dyer discussed the organization’s founding, purpose, key partnerships, and leadership. In today’s segment, they discuss the role of the MSL and the different areas that the MSL Society is providing resources to help shape the profession.

Allison Murphy:  “Tell us more about your target community for the MSL Society.”

Samuel Dyer:  “Although the MSL role works traditionally within Medical Affairs and communicates cross functionally with commercial and regulatory teams, we wanted to focus completely on the MSL role.  So our target is MSLs, MSL management, executives as well as those looking to break into the MSL role.  We found that the MSL community would more likely support an organization if it were truly interested in advancing the role and if integrity was fundamental.  In fact, there have been a few organizations trying to fulfill our same mission, but none of these organizations actually focus on the MSL role and we felt this was necessary to truly advance the profession.

There are also a number of individuals out there that position themselves as MSL experts but have never actually hired an MSL, never managed an MSL, or some have never even been an MSL themselves.  We really took issue with this.

Because many that we initially spoke with raised the issue of integrity and experience, we decided to focus as a Non-Profit on education.  The so called MSL “experts” tend to be for-profit and charge high amounts for their “expertise”, when, in fact, they have no or little experience as an MSL and certainly have never hired nor managed an MSL. The MSL Society wanted to address this issue and so we agreed that we would set very reasonable yearly rates for membership, offer free webinars from actual MSL experts and provide excellent unique networking opportunities.

Our Mission is to be the primary global resource for MSL professionals in the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology, Medical Device, CRO, and other healthcare industries. We aim to be the go-to organization for people at every level of the MSL profession, from new Medical Science Liaisons to veteran executives in the profession.  To that end, we will always focus on education and remain true to our non-profit mission. We also need to focus on the fact that the MSL role is still evolving and still emerging in many global markets.  Although it’s relatively mature here in the US having been part of the industry for 45 years, many companies around the world are just beginning to embrace the MSL role as central to the industry’s relationships with KOLs and other HCPs.

So far, the MSL Society has been a success and we are reaching our intended global audience.  Our very first live event, a webinar on KOL Management, attracted a very diverse group of people. In just two weeks of promotion, we had more than 600 VP-level Medical Affairs executives, regional MSL leaders, senior MSLs, and people brand new to the community for our first event.  We are obviously thrilled with the results.  As an example of sharing best practices and resources we immediately made the recording and the presentations from the webinar available for free for all members on the MSL Society website.

We are expecting to actually see a huge increase in registration for our next webinar in December, as we will be discussing the “Sunshine Act” legislation here in the U.S., which of course has much greater implications than for just MSLs or Medical Affairs.

Allison Murphy:  “Where is the MSL Society heading in terms of opportunities for knowledge-building among the medical affairs community?”

Samuel Dyer:  “We want to make sure the MSL Society is a community that MSL professionals will want to be a part of year after year, and not just participate in one-off events. We’re planning multiple live webinars that will roll out over the course of the next year, with a goal to having live events every two to three months on various relevant topics. Each webinar will consists of three to four global experts on discussing topics and challenges that shape the MSL role including: off-label discussions, Key Opinion Leader management and relationship building, and metrics for measuring this emerging role. And we want these to always be free for members of the MSL Society.

We’re also planning multiple conferences around the world, with the first few already in planning. We anticipate locations such as Boston in the U. S. and Barcelona for our first European offerings, with future plans for South America, Asia, and Australia as demand grows globally.

And, of course, what we can deliver to our members through our website is critical. Hard-copy resources are also important. Right now, we have multiple white papers, podcasts, and presentations by fellow medical affairs professionals coming together in an online resource library housed on our site, free to our members. As I mentioned, we also have already added the recording from our first webinar on the website and will be doing the same for all of our future webinars, so that those members who miss the live presentations can watch and listen to entire presentations or segments delivered by particular speakers. It is also a great way to review information from each talk.  These efforts are building a very rich database for us moving forward.”

Allison Murphy: “I would imagine that with the global mission and desired reach of the MSL Society, that you have a heavy reliance on social media.  Tell us about how you are leveraging these channels to reach medical affairs professionals.”

Samuel Dyer:  “Absolutely—social media has been instrumental in building the awareness of the MSL Society into a recognized leader in the MSL community, and we are utilizing multiple channels for outreach, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Using these channels fits with the other piece of our mission, building a formidable global network for MSLs to advance the profession together. We own two of the largest medical affairs networking groups on LinkedIn—MSL and Medical Affairs Networking Group, with around 6,000 members, and MSL World, with over 1,500 members.

We are careful to be very targeted and focused with our networking and marketing, keeping it centered completely on the MSL space.  Through this intense networking, we are building a global MSL directory, which is a very valuable resource to our members. We want to open up the profession, so that people can reach out to each other for whatever reason, whether it’s with help transitioning between companies, adjusting to a new role, or facing challenges within the role.

Social media networking has brought us many new members—we’ve gotten lots of very interesting responses and active new members from around the world already, purely through our networking from social media.”

Allison Murphy:  “Are you seeing interest from other corners of the healthcare community?”

Samuel Dyer:  “So far, we’ve had lots of interest from our core audience, medical science liaisons and medical affairs executives in biotech, pharma, devices, and diagnostics.  But we’re also seeing some great things in other areas of the healthcare community. Recently, the leadership at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine reached out to the MSL Society about adding an educational component of the role of MSL Society to their students and website which they did add to their website last week.

In the last several weeks I have also been contacted by a number of journals and publications expressing an interest in publishing some information on the MSL Society and our mission which is part of our publication planning.

Finally, we are in negotiations with a leading biotechnology company to deliver MSL education to their annual medical affairs conference next year.  I think it is clear that there is a real interest in the Society and what we are trying to accomplish”

Allison Murphy:  “If you had to sum up the MSL Society and its contribution to healthcare for our readers, what are the most important takeaways from your perspective?”

Samuel Dyer:  “For medical affairs professionals who come to Thought Leader Select, I want them to know that we’re here for them as well.  We’re here to provide education, resources, and networking that will help them advance in their careers.

We will work with our advisors and members to continue to develop consistent, relevant content and opportunities to showcase the MSL profession as it continues to grow, both here in the U. S. and around the world.  The MSL Society is excited to be an integral part of a profession that’s dedicated to great science and using that science to impact patients’ lives around the world.”

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