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Advancing Field Medical Skills: Critical Competencies for Engagement Experiences Customers Desire
As technology changes the ways we engage with external stakeholders, the skills we need to manage these interactions are changing, as well. Here we speak with Jen Millard, Vice President of Field Medical at IQVIA, about emerging competencies for external engagement. This episode is sponsored by IQVIA.
Garth Sundem 00:01
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series: “Elevate”. I’m your host Garth Sundem, Communications Director at MAPS. And today we’re speaking with Jenn Millard, Vice President of Field Medical at IQVIA about emerging competencies for external engagement. This episode is sponsored by IQVIA. So, Jenn, first of all, welcome.
Jennifer Millard 00:26
Thank you. Great to be here.
Garth Sundem 00:28
And let’s get right into it. So traditionally NSLs, or I guess, medical science liaisons and other field medical team members, you know, the barrier for entry that has been and maybe still is clinical and scientific expertise. But there’s a whole lot of new stuff that we need to be able to do. So what is it? What are these new required competencies for MSLs?
Jennifer Millard 00:57
Yeah, I mean, what a what an interesting couple of years, right? As we’ve evolved, and I feel like things have shifted to medical I’m, you know, you hear over and over again, the peer-to-peer communication that doctors really appreciate. I think now as organizations, we put a lot more onus on the MSLs, to accomplish more. So and you know, the competencies, I think you hear people say, business acumen, business acumen, business acumen, strategic thinking, strategic thinking. And I’ve, and I’m excited to talk about that today. Because I don’t know that we really sort of define business acumen we tell people like you should have business acumen. And I think there’s a lot that goes into what exactly is business acumen. But I think it’s a it’s a driving competency for our medical teams to continue to be better and more strategic in what they’re doing. That’s sort of the one that I focus on a lot in terms of teaching and letting people know that that some place that to grow.
Garth Sundem 02:01
Well. So here’s a question before we get into business acumen and what it is. Do individual MSLs need business acumen? Or is this more of a team capability where where managers and MSL leaders need business acumen?
Jennifer Millard 02:19
Yeah, you took sort of a talking point right out of my mouth? I think that, I think when I say if I’m hiring for a team, right, I think of the, the unicorn, the person that’s gonna have it all. And they’re called unicorns for the reason that either they don’t exist, or they’re very rare, varied. And so when I think about a team, I think a team rounds out each other. That’s what makes them functioning. That’s what allows us to grow. So I don’t know that every individual MSL needs to have every aspect of business acumen in their competency to be successful. I think when you’re hiring a full team, and you’re looking at what the team brings, I think everyone should round out that experience and those competencies.
Garth Sundem 03:05
Okay, so somewhere in the team, there needs to be business acumen. And so there’s two things I want to ask is, why does the team need business acumen? And what is it?
Jennifer Millard 03:17
Yeah, so I’m gonna start with the what is it first, right? Because I think when, when when we have scientists who think business acumen, we may think of one or two skill sets in there, and often that’s financial. And yes, financial acumen is definitely part of that, right? How is my business run? How is the business being run, how, you know, our houses, money made, it’s important, we’re, you know, largely part of revenue generating organizations and should understand how that revenue was generated. But I think more importantly, under business acumen is strategic thinking, strategic thinking and planning, and really market orientation. So knowing the market and that market could be your customer, your thought leader, your payer, right, the decision maker that you’re talking about what is their market look like? And then lastly, I think it’s part of having analytical skills all wrapped up. And what I say to other folks is you have to have grit and grit is that like, willingness to continue to learn and as scientists I feel like that’s what we’re really good at. Right? We’re really good at asking questions are really good at trying to get down to the why the why the while the time, and so you want to make sure we translate that grid until also sort of exploding out or, or building out our business acumen skills, right. So from strategic thinking and planning to understanding the market to those analytical skills.
Garth Sundem 04:45
Okay, so in Medical Affairs in general, there has been the trend to distance from commercial, you know, sort of grew from commercial and then we were so independent that, you know, medical said we haven’t nothing at all to do with commercial. Now you’re saying we should keep the how, what financial? I don’t know where with all our financial, you know that the business in mind, does this bring us back closer closer to commercial? Or is this purely Independent Medical thinking but with the business case in mind?
Jennifer Millard 05:21
I think it’s the latter, I believe that we don’t necessarily, I think if you understand how commercial works at the highest level, then you can understand how to communicate and bring value to the organization may not be financial, right? We’re not necessarily I would never say that we’re tracking against, you know, that component. But I think when we start to think about how we’re measured and what value we bring, we have to understand that the people that are making some of those decisions are commercially focused. And so how do we translate that medical value into something that they will understand, but not necessarily saying we should be commercially focused, I think we should be medically focused, and focused on communicating the evidence that we’re communicating, and bringing insights that drive research and development. So I think it’s the ability to understand how others are making their decisions in order to convert that into how you’re communicating your own value.
Garth Sundem 06:27
Interesting. So business acumen is not going out to our external stakeholders, and, and creating ROI, right. It’s our conversations, but it’s in how we speak back to the organization and maybe being aware of the value we bring.
Jennifer Millard 06:45
Yeah, and I think it’s about how how we think about value Raiders are, we would like, share of scientific voice. And that’s valuable. And so understanding that, you know, having that share of scientific voice is important, and being able to sort of views that as, that’s how I bring value, right, I’m communicating science and having a share voice in the community is important. And so I think it’s a little bit around there, and that leads into God.
Garth Sundem 07:19
Well, no, I was gonna say, and you also brought up contributions to development, you know, is it keeping in mind what the organization wants? Or, you know, to speak in the language of Horace McKagan? You know, is it keeping the business strategic priorities in mind when you’re demonstrating your own value to the organization? Yeah,
Jennifer Millard 07:40
I think that’s that is valuable, just keeping them in mind in terms of the strategic priorities. It’s helping to inform those strategic priorities. As medical community, peer to peer conversations are being had that information drives strategy, right. And I think hearing directly from doctors and research and knowing what their unmet needs are, is what drives the strategy. And that makes it relevant for all the people that we’re trying to serve as an industry.
Garth Sundem 08:11
You know, that’s a really important distinction. Because medical, you know, we say that we sit alongside r&d and commercial. And if that truly is the case, then we wouldn’t only be supporting organizational strategic priorities, but we will be helping to set those priorities Correct. Yes.
Jennifer Millard 08:31
And that’s where that strategic thinking and planning really comes into play. Right? So for every conversation you’re having, have you tied it back to the strategic objective of your medical and your, your company that you work for? And how do you use the insights in order to drive what may need to be adjusted moving forward across, like you said, research and development and then eventually feeding that into the commercial space?
Garth Sundem 09:00
Okay, you said another key word there that is insight. So is that how we are contributing back to the organization? Okay, so if you’ve got this business acumen, you’ve got the strategic thinking, is it that this business acumen is helping shape those insights that you bring back to the organization?
Jennifer Millard 09:21
Absolutely. And part of business acumen to go back to this market orientation comment, right? This, this understanding your customer, to really get to good insights, you’ll be communicating and having really personalized engagement. So when I say personalized, I mean that, you know, Dr. Mullard. And you know, Dr. Smith, live in very different worlds and their needs and their gaps in education are going to be very different. And so how do you storytel That’s another product competency that we could talk about. Have you How do you tell that story based on on the market based on your customer and their needs? And when you tell the right story, when you’re getting to things that they need to understand and what is important to them, then you’re bringing out those insights right as well. Because that peer to peer that that conversation, you’re not talking to someone, you are having a conversation with them. And that’s what drives those deeper insights as well.
Garth Sundem 10:24
Okay, cool. So let’s put a peg in business acumen and move on. And I was chatting with somebody, I don’t remember who it was, but they had a Hollywood screenwriter come in and talk to their MSL teams about storytelling? Is that what we should all be doing to increase this competency? Or what let’s go to the storytelling competency? Tell me more.
Jennifer Millard 10:44
That sounds fun to have that. I think we we were very scientific. Again, I’ll go back to the science, right. We know the science, you know, the clinical, but how do you tell that in a story, I do think that we need to continue to teach presentation skills, but not like we historically think about right. It’s not just PowerPoint slides that we’re delivering anymore. There. There’s interactivity, there’s virtual, there’s digital, and how do you display that in a story that resonates with your reader, if you will. And I do think that is really, really important. From a connection perspective. We’re all people are gonna, at the end of the day, we all want to have that connection that seems relevant to me.
Garth Sundem 11:29
So do you just bullet point your your key points that you want to get across in an interaction? Or do you need a three act structure? Or do you need like an arc to your conversation? How do you plan for storytelling?
Jennifer Millard 11:40
Yeah, I think you need an arc, I think about I would say the ideal situation is to have that, right. If you know, as much information about your doctor, your Kol, as you can get, that arc should really start to come to life. Or you do think it’s about storytelling, you have 15 minutes with someone maybe 20. And access is really challenging, it’s getting harder to get get access, I think it’d be really compelling in the relationship you build and how you tell that story. Now what I will say, Garth, not everybody wants that. Right. I think you have to know your audience enough to know who needs to be talked to, in what manner right? Some people may just say, You know what, come to me on Tuesdays, give me the snippets bulleted out. That’s all I want. And so I think it is about understanding the person that you’re talking to, and shaping the arc, or shaping the bullets based on what their preferences are.
Garth Sundem 12:38
Cool. Not everybody wants a long time ago on a planet far, far away, but maybe. Okay, so are these skills? Okay, we’ve got some good skills. Not every MSL has these skills? Can we train these skills in existing MSL? Are we talking about hiring people with new people with these new competencies?
Jennifer Millard 12:58
I think you can train people. My, my, I think people may come with them as well. Right. And I think I think there’s two things that that I would love to see in terms of elevating the industry. One is earlier understanding that there’s a role like this that exists for those that are scientists PhDs, program, you know, they’re going through the program to say, did you know that this exists, and here’s some really good competencies, if you have them, like, let’s choose the role, I think the awareness of the role earlier on in people’s career development helps us find those unicorns. And I think for people that are already in the role and kind of have a general idea of, or very, you know, clear idea of what to do, I think upskilling them is really, really important. I think all of us use, you know, should be thinking about how we upskill ourselves, what our next career moves are. And I do think that we as employers should consider and be effective and train them into the competencies that we want them to have.
Garth Sundem 14:04
Okay, that’s interesting, early awareness of the MSL role, I find that as well where, you know, we chat with MBAs and they have really no idea but they’re kind of interested in sort of heard maybe, but early awareness. Well, okay, so how about we we’ve been sort of chatting about individual MSLs and a little bit about MSL teams, what about MSLs who are looking to take the next step in their own career towards more leadership roles? I imagine we would be saying business acumen again, but what other competencies do MSLs need if they want to grow towards leadership?
Jennifer Millard 14:38
I mean, having said it earlier but I’ll say it again, right. Garth? Having that growth, the ability to be curious, the ability to problem solve. Yes, I think you know, leadership skills are important, but that comes down to like commitment, and trustworthiness and time management and having that positive attitude and self motivation. So you think as you’re thinking about what’s my next step? And how do I become a leader? You know, there are ways to lead today on on a variety of different ways that may not necessarily be, you know, I’m in a leadership role, right. And I think we all sort of have to convince others to do things that we want, we all have to have some level of integrity and honesty. And I think as you continue to display those types of leadership qualities people follow.
Garth Sundem 15:31
That’s interesting. So I think it’s easy to get a little myopic on, I need a PhD and an MBA, and I need to know how to make a real good PowerPoint presentation. But you’re saying that some of the skills that you need for advancement in career advancement are, I don’t want to call them soft skills, because I don’t think we use that word anymore. But
Jennifer Millard 15:51
Power skills. We call them power skills.
Garth Sundem 15:53
Oh, is that what we call them? That’s so good to know.
Jennifer Millard 15:55
Cause they’re not soft skills, you’re right, soft skills, make it sound like you can’t train towards it, and that they’re not important. But they are, I think, oftentimes, you can fulfill knowledge gaps. Yeah, you know, you can, that’s easy to train people, especially when you have that scientific thinking, the scientific acumen, you can train people in those. I think it takes both a personal motivation, as well as access to training in order to get to leadership and time management. I’ll say, you know, in a leadership role today, myself, my biggest struggle to get here was always delegation skills. I and it was one of those things where you’re like, you have to learn to say no, and you have to learn how to delegate work in order to be in a leadership role. And I found that one to be the most challenging for me to personally figure out and I had to work hard at it. So it’s things that where you find your own gaps, you know, find ways to fulfill that gap, or, or make it a conscious effort. Every Monday, I’m going to go through this list and say, Where can I delegate work to Garth this week. And really making that conscious effort right to focus on it, you know, strategic thinking and planning this is it doesn’t just come right, you have to make the effort, you have to really put forth. I put an hour every week on my calendar to block time to say, I’m going to do some strategic planning right here, right. And that’s very tactical, but it gets me to the strategic ability to set with my thoughts and kind of organize.
Garth Sundem 17:30
That is such a cool example. So power skills. I wonder if people listening could list a bunch of these power skills and like you brought up delegation. I wonder if everyone has a power skill that they could work on every week to to boost towards their leadership advancement.
Jennifer Millard 17:51
Monday morning, 8am. Block your calendar, find a way to support that one hour before your week gets kicked off to set you forward on that path. That’s my recommendation.
Garth Sundem 18:01
Oh man, Jenn will let’s leave it right there with that for today. That is awesome. So, to learn more about how your organization can partner with IQVIA, visit IQVI.com. MAPS members, don’t forget to subscribe. And we hope you enjoyed this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series: “Elevate”.
602 Park Point Drive, Suite 225, Golden, CO 80401 – +1 303.495.2073
© 2023 Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS). All Rights Reserved Worldwide.