Big pharma & beignets

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I was lucky enough to get the chance to attend the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) Scientific Sessions in New Orleans this summer. It’s the largest conference on diabetes in the world and there were over 16,000 people in attendance.

I had actually never been to a medical conference before and to attend one that was as huge as ADA was pretty cool. Work had me attending as many of the presentations and sessions as possible, which was both interesing and dull. It was all a bit hectic as the venue was massive and going from one end to the other took 10-15mins walking..!

The experience of it all was great – and being on the industry side of it all was definitely different. Being from the UK, where medications are all paid for by the NHS, it was weird to be in America, where the promotion of medications is so liberal everywhere you look. The conference centre had booths set up by different pharma companies, each marketing and promoting their drug. It was a big eye-opener on how much money gets put into the pharmaceutical industry. Despite working in the field for 7 months now, it only really occurred to me when I was in New Orleans how much of it is about sales. Probably a little naive of me, really. But that’s not to say the work done by the pharma industry hasn’t helped those who need it.

I did make me think that I’d be better suited to be on the flipside of things. Being a clinician and collaborating with big pharma, as opposed to being immersed in the industry completely. I don’t know if healthcare marketing is something I’m totally ready for right now!

New Orleans itself was a blast, though. Great city with great food (I totally recommend an iced coffee + beignets at Cafe du Monde and a po’boy from NOLA Poboys) and people. The weather was hot and humid (along with thunderstorms and torrential rain) but I was lucky that the sun was shining on my days off from work to go out and enjoy it. Even got to see some ‘gators…

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The world of work

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Having decided to take time out of medicine for at least the next eight months, I needed to find something to fill that time. Whilst it would have been wonderful to go travelling and disappear to the other side of the world for nine months, the lack of funds and parental judgement prohibited me from doing so. As a result, I had to get a job. Not just any job either but a job that had some sort of relevance, potential for career progression, and would at least help me work out what the hell I want to do with my life.

Through some good luck, I was able to secure a position as a junior medical writer for a medical and healthcare communications company in a pretty short space of time. Medical communications, or ‘medcomms’, is an interesting industry I came across when exploring other options beyond medicine. The role of medcomms agencies is a somewhat intermediary one. They work with pharmaceutical companies to help communicate the clinical trial data of new drugs to healthcare professionals and those outside the pharmaceutical world (mostly with the aim of marketing drugs and making the big bucks for drug companies).

My first couple of weeks in the job have been fairly relaxed. As it’s my first ever full-time job post-university, I think I’m being eased into it all quite nicely. I’ll be honest, there were some periods where I was incredibly bored reading about diabetes, but work has since picked up a little and I’m being given a steady flow of tasks to work on. My work at the moment is mainly putting clinical trial data into a presentable and comprehensible presentation, as well as researching new and interesting studies on diabetes to report.

For some, this job may not be the most exhilarating and life-changing job. But in all honesty, I’ve been more content with the steady 9-5 life I’ve had the last couple weeks than the chaos that was medical school and clinical placements. I’ve been able to enjoy myself in my own time and not have what I call ‘study guilt’ constantly hanging over my head. Things with this job may change: it may get busy and stressful and I’ll come to hate it; or it could challenge me and open my mind to a totally different world of work which I end up enjoying.

I’m just going to see how it goes. At the very least, I’m getting paid.