I started my career as a research fellow in Singapore, doing basic research. It was interesting work, but I always felt there was something missing. As a basic researcher, you are there at the very beginning of the process. What you do not get to see is the end result of your work. How were our findings translating into medical breakthroughs? In what way did our research make a difference to people’s lives?
My desire to find the answers to these questions is what drove me towards the pharma industry and, ultimately, to the Medical Affairs team at Novartis.
In my current role, as Medical Lead, I get to see the impact of our medicines almost every day. My job is to establish long-term partnerships with healthcare professionals, so I can understand their needs and work with them to address any gaps that currently exist within their patient journeys.
Here’s an example of what that looks like in practice. I recently partnered with a tertiary hospital where the physicians had limited time to spend with heart failure patients because there were simply too many for them to deal with. Together with the heart failure director in the hospital, I co-created a clinical workflow, which allowed stable patients to be co-managed with primary care, freeing physicians up to see more new patients and prescribe them the medicines they needed.
Fundamentally, the job is all about stakeholder management – and I love being able to work with medical practitioners in the field, building relationships that are good both for our business and for the healthcare system as a whole. But it’s patients who are at the heart of everything I do. I’m currently based in our gene therapy area, where I spend my days collaborating with pediatric neurologists and geneticists. Their patients are all people who have been born with genetic conditions (in some cases, conditions that have had no effective treatments until now). It is so incredibly rewarding to see the life-changing impact our medicines can have. That’s when you realize it’s not just drugs you’re bringing to patients – it’s also hope.
Having this sense of purpose is one of the things I love about working at Novartis. But it’s not the only thing. There is also our company culture, which I find hugely empowering. We are all accountable for our own actions and work, and our leaders always recognize our individual achievements. At the same time, it’s a highly collaborative working environment, where everyone practices active listening and where people are always happy to provide you with constructive feedback.
It's exciting to be part of this team, working with colleagues around the world to bring innovative medicines to as many patients as possible. Do I regret my decision to leave the lab behind? Not for a second.