X Close

UCL Researchers

Home

Find Your Future

Menu

Guest Feature: Moving into Medical Writing

s.duran9 July 2021

Throughout the academic year, we take a deep dive into some key topics and career paths discussed in our events programme. In these posts, we explore what careers in a variety of different industries look like for a researcher, find out about the roles their organisation has to offer and get some key tips on applying. In this summer’s bonus blog series, we’re following up with some of the speakers from our Researchers Professional Careers Beyond Academia Conference. We’ll learn more about their roles, industries, and answer a few questions we weren’t able to get to in the conference.

This week we’ll be looking at medical writing with Emma Phillips, Publication Manager at Costello Medical.

Emma completed her PhD in Neuroscience at King’s College London. She worked as a post-doctoral researcher at University of Cambridge prior to moving into medical writing in 2018.

So, how did you move from your PhD to your current role?

I completed my PhD in Neuroscience at Kings College London in 2016 before doing an 18-month post-doc at the University of Cambridge. However, I quickly realised that an academic career wasn’t for me and, after some help from the university’s career service, I decided medical writing sounded really interesting. I had previously enjoyed writing both my thesis and academic papers, so this seemed like a good fit.

I applied to Costello Medical and started as a Medical Writer in the Publications division in April 2018. I found I really enjoyed the job – the work was interesting and meaningful, closely linked to cutting edge science and used many of the skills I developed in my academic career. In April 2019, I was promoted to Senior Medical Writer and began managing projects alongside continuing to write. In October 2020, I was promoted again to Publication Manager. I now do less writing but manage full client accounts and line manage several members of the team. I also play a strategic role in the projects I work on for clients and internally within Costello.

Who are Costello Medical, and what do you do?

Costello Medical provides scientific support in the analysis, interpretation and communication of clinical and health economic data. We work with pharmaceutical and medical device companies, as well as charities, to help communicate their data to a variety of audiences. We provide a wide range of services, which means we can support clients throughout the lifecycle of their product. I work in the Publications division who specialise in academic publications, including peer-reviewed journal papers and congress work, but have frequently worked on cross-divisional projects.

In my current role, my day-to-day work involves keeping all the projects on my client accounts running smoothly and to time. This includes reviewing work that the Medical Writers and Senior Medical Writers draft, communicating with clients about new and ongoing projects to make sure we are meeting their brief, and working on business development to make sure we have projects lined up for the future. As a member of the Senior Management Team, I also have internal responsibilities, including helping plan who works on which project, line managing members of the Publications division and helping shape what Costello Medical is going to look like in the future.

What are the benefits of working for Costello and in your current role?

Whilst I enjoyed my time in academia, there are benefits to my current role. For example, it is permanent, I am better paid and there is better training for managers. However, these are not the things that really stand out to me as my favourite aspects of the job.

I really enjoy how varied my work is – I am always learning about new disease areas and project types; every day is different. I also love the impact I can have through my work. Outwardly, this is most obvious through the publications we develop – the science we write about has real impact for patients and healthcare systems across the world. However, I also have the privilege of having an impact internally within the company, both through mentoring junior members of staff and watching them grow into excellent Medical Writers, and through having my say in the future of Costello Medical. The company has always been shaped by the interests, opinions and passions of its employees. For example, I am really interested in patient engagement in medical research and my line manager has always supported this. We now have a team of people working to progress patient engagement at Costello Medical and in the projects we work on.

What were the biggest challenges in moving from your PhD to industry?

Except for a short placement working at Lilly during my PhD, I had no experience working in industry. I had no idea how to work in a professional office and was really worried that I would do or say the wrong thing! When I got to Costello Medical, I quickly realised my fears were unfounded – everyone was so friendly and helpful. I was also worried that I would miss being in the lab but, honestly, this never happened.

Coming from academia, you often have very little experience in the client-facing side of the role. I did find this daunting at first – it can be scary to speak up on client calls at the beginning. However, my Project Managers and teams were always there to help me, and I wasn’t left to take client calls by myself until I was much more experienced and felt confident to do so.

What type of career progression is available in Medical Writing at Costello Medical?

At Costello Medical, we are looking for individuals who are collaborative, self-motivated and enthusiastic with a genuine interest in healthcare and an eagerness to learn about new areas of science. No prior medical communications experience is needed for the Medical Writer role. Instead, we look for candidates with excellent written English, exceptional attention to detail and strong analytical skills. Furthermore, we expect candidates to have good organisation skills and the ability to work across multiple projects and teams at the same time. Given that our roles are often entry-level and career progression can be rapid, a desire and passion to learn is essential.

As a PhD student, you can do plenty to prepare for a future career in medical communications. For example, taking every opportunity you can to write. It is especially helpful if you can write for multiple audiences and develop writing styles suited to multiple formats, like publication writing aimed at fellow academics alongside writing documents aimed at the general public. Additionally, we would recommend any teamwork opportunities, which can help to prepare you for working within project teams and collaborating with people from different backgrounds.

Audience Question 1: What’s the application and interview process for medical writing? 

We firstly ask candidates to submit their CV, along with a cover letter, via the online application form on our website. After an initial CV review, you will be sent a written assessment to complete, which is a critical appraisal of a trial paper. This allows us to assess your scientific understanding as well as your written communication skills and attention to detail. Successful candidates will be invited to an interview which includes a short presentation based on the written assessment. The interview will then be with two senior members of the team and you will have a chance to also ask them any questions about the role or the company. Finally, you will complete a proofreading task to show us your attention to detail skills.

Audience Question 2: How much of a writing portfolio had you built up when you applied for your position within and outside of academic journal articles?

Most of my writing experience had come from writing academic journal articles – I think I had been an author on seven or eight papers. I had also written and presented several congress abstracts, posters and oral presentations. A published academic record is not needed to apply for a Medical Writer role, but I do feel it helped to prepare me.

Outside of academic writing, I had been involved in several projects that required me to target my communication to other, non-academic audiences, including the 3-Minute Thesis Competition and a variety of open days and public outreach projects.

Audience Question 3: Do you ever experience pressure from clients to word or present the write-up in a certain way and how do you deal with that?

Yes, we are often required to use client-approved wording or phrases in our writing. In fact, a key part of our job is ensuring the publications we write align with client strategy and messaging. We plan publications to make sure they are published to timelines that maximise their impact and build a consistent picture of the benefits (and limitations!) of a treatment. However, everything we write must be supported by data and references. If a client wants us to write something unsupported, we are encouraged to push back on this to ensure our work is of the highest possible quality. Honestly though, this very rarely happens – there are almost always independent clinicians involved who would be uncomfortable with this, and the client will want their publications to get past peer reviewers. There are also wide variety of industry standards that pharmaceutical companies and medical publication professionals must adhere to, which prevent companies communicating incorrect data or putting a ‘spin’ on results.

Thanks to Emma for sharing your experiences! We hope you found this useful and keep an eye out for more of our guest blogs… If this has inspired you to explore a career outside of academia, keep an eye out for our Autumn term events programme.

Professional Careers Beyond Academia Conference – Breakout Sessions

uczjipo3 June 2019

Professional Careers Beyond Academia Conference

Conference Schedule:

9.30 – 10.00 Registration

10.00 – 13.00 Introducing Life & Health Sciences outside of Academia
Welcome by Institute of Child Health and an Introduction to UCL Careers
Keynote – GSK “Research: Bio Tech/Pharma”
Keynote – Medpace “Clinical Trials”
Keynote – Costello Medical “Science Communication”
Keynote – EY Parthenon “Life & Health Sciences Consultancy”
Q&A Session with keynotes

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch Break

14.00 – 15.15 Breakout Session
Option 1: Forum – Careers in UK and Global Health
Option 2: Forum – Careers in Government & Policy
Option 3: Workshop –  The (Career)Path Less Travelled

15.30 – 16.00 Closing Remarks
16.00 – 17.30 Networking Drinks

Last chance to sign up:

Meet your afternoon speakers!

 The breakout sessions are an opportunity to learn more about a specific area of health and life sciences. Choose between three great sessions covering careers in UK & Global Health, Government & Policy and a workshop on Entrepreneurial thinking. Interested in a career in public health, or becoming an advisor? The session on UK and Global Health could be for you. Fancy devising policy or working to support the healthcare system? Then our Government and Policy session could be your fit. Want to become an entrepreneur or learn key business skills? The workshop is an opportunity to hear from a UCL start-up.

Not sure which session to choose?  Find out more below:

2pm – 3.15pm: Breakout Session

  • Option 1: UK and Global Health Forum
  • Option 2: Government and Policy Forum
  • Option 3: The (Career)Path Less Travelled

UK & Global Health Forum

Speakers will be covering areas including research, public protection, global health and public health modelling:

Dr Laura Webber

Dr Laura Webber is co-founder and COO of HealthLumen, a global population health company that uses computer simulation models to build virtual populations to quantify the long-term impact of different policy, screening and treatment interventions.

HealthLumen acquired the modelling unit of the UK Health Forum (UKHF), a policy and advocacy organisation focused on the prevention of chronic diseases. At UKHF Laura was Director of Public Health Modelling, and led a multi-disciplinary team of epidemiologists, mathematicians, analysts, and computer programmers, co-ordinating global, European and national projects. Projects included the European Commission funded project ‘EConDA’ (Economics of Chronic Diseases), the Trust For America’s Health project ‘F as in Fat’, modelling obesity across each US state (http://healthyamericans.org/assets/files/TFAH2012FasInFatFnlRv.pdf), as well as various projects for Public Health England, Cancer Research UK, and the World Bank.

Laura holds an MA (Hons) from Cambridge University and a PhD in childhood obesity from University College London (Cancer Research UK studentship). She is honorary Assistant Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine within the Health Protection Research Unit, and an occasional advisor to the World Health Organization and World Bank. She is lead author and co-author on a number of peer-reviewed publications and major reports. Laura was nominated for the Young Investigator of the year at Europrevent, Amsterdam (2015) and recently won the Open University Future Leader Award (2018), where she is studying for an MBA.

Lukasz Aleksandrowicz

Lukasz is a Portfolio Manager at Wellcome, alongside finishing a part-time PhD at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Wellcome is a major health research funder, and Lukasz works specifically on the Our Planet, Our Health team, which funds research on the connections between global environmental change (like climate change and its impact on food systems) and human health. In his role, Lukasz is responsible for managing a portfolio of research, developing new funding initiatives, and helping define the Wellcome Trusts funding strategy.

Before this, Lukasz worked in a number of research roles across various parts of global health, though the majority of his experience was working at the Centre for Global Health Research in Toronto, Canada. Many deaths in low- and middle-income countries happen outside the health sector and are therefore not registered, leading to a lack of basic data on which disease burdens are most prominent. The centres focus was on tracking this “invisible mortality”. In that role, Lukasz helped develop the tools and surveys that were used in fieldwork, and helped analyse the trends in data.

Lukasz’s PhD is in the area of sustainable diets and uses an interdisciplinary approach (including data on nutrition, environment and economics), to investigate how food consumption in India can be both healthy and environmentally sustainable. Lukasz’s PhD did not start his career in global health, but has rather been on-going in parallel to it. Even in his current non-academic role, the PhD has proved to be valuable training. It has built his expertise in a topic area (food systems and environment), which he now use in his role funding projects on this theme. It has also developed his ability to critically evaluate many aspects of research: how research questions are defined, how projects and teams are built around them, and whether the methods and approaches used are appropriate.

Dr Elizabeth Goodburn MBBCh DRCOG DFSRH MSc PhD FRCGP

Elizabeth is a medical doctor with wide-ranging experience in international health focusing especially on maternal and reproductive health and primary care.  After completing UK GP Training in 1985 she worked for 4 years as a Provincial Medical Officer in the Solomon Islands. Elizabeth’s subsequent international career included both long and short term assignments in Asia and Africa. Elizabeth’s research work, based at LSHTM, included collaborative health studies focusing on MCH and Reproductive Health among low income groups in W Bengal and rural Bangladesh. Elizabeth has worked for a variety of agencies, including DfID and the UN, on policy and strategy development with international partners, including several years as Chief Technical Advisor for UNFPA in Cambodia.

Elizabeth returned to UK General Practice in 2002 and was a GP Partner and Trainer in the James Wigg Practice serving a diverse inner city population in London until 2015. Elizabeth’s international work continued during this period on a consultancy basis.  From 2013 to 2017, she was Medical Director for International Programmes (S& SE Asia) at the RCGP. Since January 2018 Elizabeth has worked as a Senior Technical Advisor for the SoapBox Collaborative as part of a partnership with WaterAid in Myanmar to improve IPC in health facilities.  Elizabeth’s varied career has led to a strong commitment to health services development both in the UK NHS and internationally. Elizabeth’s work ethos is always to share experiences and foster productive partnerships based on mutual learning and respect with the aim of making good quality health care available to all.                                               

Careers in Government & Policy

Our speakers will be covering areas including medical policy, regulation, health governance and policy consultancy from organisations including:

Dr Francisco de Matos Afonso Pereira

Pharmaceutical Assessor at the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

The MHRA is responsible for the regulation of medicines and medical devices used in the UK. This includes the authorisation of clinical trials and the evaluation and granting of Marketing Authorisation (licences) for medicinal products.

A Pharmaceutical assessor carries out the assessment of data provided in marketing authorisation initial and variation applications including those with new, wide-ranging or complex issues making appropriate recommendations and decisions in line with the protection of public health. We also provide scientific and regulatory advice to companies. Participation in international bodies such as the European Medicines Agency is common.

Francisco is a Portuguese and UK registered Pharmacist. Francisco did his undergraduate degree in Portugal and moved to London to pursue a PhD. His PhD thesis is entitled: “Sex, Drugs and Excipients: PEG 400 enhances the bioavailability of BCS class III drugs via P-glycoprotein inhibition”. The research work was conducted at the UCL School of Pharmacy and this was joint PhD with the University of Coimbra in Portugal. In this work he discussed how excipients are capable of changing drug disposition. Their role should not be underestimated. The degree to which excipients modulate drug bioavailability may be modified by sex. It is important that regulatory authorities and pharmaceutical industry take this knowledge into account during the pharmaceutical development stages of pharmaceutical products. This subject, closely related to drug product formulation, provided me with a strong foundation for my work as an assessor at the UK Regulatory Authority.

Dr Sara C Marques

Sara is a Senior Researcher at the Health Policy Partnership (HPP), a consulting company specialised in health policy. HPP works on a range of short-term projects and runs the secretariat for two well-established multidisciplinary networks, All.Can and The Heart Failure Policy Network (HFPN).

Sara’s work at HPP involves researching and writing about healthcare environments, in areas including cardiovascular disease, women’s health and personalised healthcare. Some of the reports Sara writes are external-facing, others for internal use. Sara is the Head of Programme of HFPN, an independent and multidisciplinary platform focused on raising awareness of the challenge heart failure poses to healthcare systems across Europe, and on the presentation of possible solutions to address the challenge.

Sara has a Master of Sciences of Pharmacy from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and a PhD in Molecular Medicine from the University of Aarhus, Denmark. Sara’s PhD focused on response to treatment with doxorubicin in people living with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, specifically on the impact of microRNA and RNA expression on the development of resistance to treatment. Towards the end of her PhD, Sara realised she didn’t want to continue working in Academia, and moved on to the health policy sector. Sara took on a role of Health Research Analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit, where she worked in the development of value-based healthcare frameworks and studies of burden of disease in Europe, Canada and Latin America. Sara also wrote critical appraisals of health research for the National Institute for Health Research. This position led Sara to her current role at HPP.

 “Academia researchers often develop a wide range of skills without even realising it – a comprehensive ‘toolbox’ that can be used across sectors. If you’re considering leaving Academia, identify your ‘toolbox’ and focus on your strengths. Put your research skills to use and identify the areas that seem to be a good fit!”

Dr Susannah Cleary

In her current role at NHS England and NHS Improvement Susannah leads or contributes to the development and delivery of strategic projects as a part of the Strategy directorate, drawing on problem-solving, project management and stakeholder engagement skills to plan and deliver work. This includes advising the CEO of the NHS and various NHS executive directors on strategy, tactics and messaging for issues affecting the NHS and its staff. Examples of specific projects Susannah has led include: benchmarking NHS hospitals’ compliance with nationally-defined cyber security standards and assessing the NHS’s cyber vulnerabilities. Susannah is currently part of the team developing the processes and implementation framework that will allow frontline NHS organisations and commissioners to implement the recommendations of the NHS Long Term Plan, the NHS’s 10-year strategic vision, which was published in January 2019.

Susannah’s PhD took her to the National Institutes of Health, NIH, the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research, where she conducted the bulk of the primary research for her thesis. After doing a PhD, Susannah returned to the NIH for a postdoctoral fellowship, working on drug development for kidney cancer. During her NIH fellowship she undertook a detail in one of the NIH’s health policy shops, which turned into a year working at the Fogarty International Centre, the NIH’s global health institute. During that year Susannah evaluated the impact of US Government-funded training programmes to demonstrate that Fogarty-funded activity is building research capacity in recipient countries and is effecting change in country-level and international health policy. Susannah also developed and implemented a global health training course to promote awareness of global health amongst NIH staff and students and raised the profile of Fogarty International Centre. Susannah’s experience at the Fogarty International Centre led her to enroll in an MSc in International Public Policy at University College London.

Workshop: The (Career)Path Less Travelled

Entrepreneurial thinking and how it will shape your future

Envisaging your career beyond the academic sphere is not necessarily the hardest part; unravelling how to get there can be far more challenging. Despite being involved in activities that make them core sources of new knowledge and cutting-edge technology, few UCL researchers will take the time to recognise the extent to which their skills and experiences are entrepreneurial by nature. Even fewer will stop to acknowledge that being entrepreneurial is just as much about adopting a certain approach to your thinking and behaviour as it is about creating a new business or venture.

This workshop will focus on both of these elements, helping you to gain an understanding of what it means to be entrepreneurial as a researcher and how you should be capitalising on these traits to self-direct your career management. For those who are interested in creating spin-outs or their own start-ups, the workshop will provide practical advice and insight on how to move an idea forward and how UCL can help you to do so.

Janette Junghaus – Senior Programme Officer for Entrepreneurship, UCL Innovation & Enteprise

Janette coordinates a dynamic entrepreneurship skills programme for UCL’s doctoral and early career researcher communities, and builds relationships across the university to foster the development of entrepreneurial mind sets. Her professional background is rooted in fast-paced environments in the private sector, having worked in professional network management, PR, international architecture and design practices, and private equity. After completing a part-time MSc in Neuroscience, Language & Communication at UCL, she spent two years being part of a multi-disciplinary dementia research and public engagement project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Dr Vassilis Georgiadis – Senior Partnerships Manager (Pharma & Healthcare), UCL Innovation & Enterprise

Vassilis is responsible for developing strategic partnerships between UCL researchers and external commercial partners, with a focus on pharma and healthcare sectors. Before joining UCL Innovation & Enterprise he was a Business and Innovation manager at UCL’s Translation Research Office, supporting industrial research collaboration activities through a faculty-facing role. Prior to that he was one of the founding members of Molecular Warehouse, a UK diagnostics and digital health startup.He’s a molecular and cell biologist by training, with more than 10 years of academic research in various biomedical areas. Vassilis studied for a BSc in Genetics at Queen Mary University, followed by an MSc in Clinical Neurosciences at UCL and a DPhil in Cell Biology at the University of Sussex

 

Dr Rebecca McKelvey – Founder and Director, in2scienceUK

Rebecca has a PhD in neuroscience from UCL and during her PhD she founded the social enterprise in2scienceUK. In2scienceUK’s mission is to improve social mobility and diversity in the STEM sector and works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds helping them to achieve their potential and progress to top universities and research careers. The programme works by leveraging the skills and passion of researchers who give summer work placements and workshops to students. To date in2scienceuk has supported over 1,000 students in London, The South East and South West of England.

Want to learn more about the Keynote speakers? See our blog post on them here!