An Interview with Brendon Phalen, Managing Director of BGB Group
How does someone straight out of the lab get into medical communications? I spoke with Brendon Phalen, Managing Director of BGB Group, to learn what he looks for in grad students and post docs looking to make this transition.
How did you get into medical education?
At the end of my residency, I knew I needed to take a break. I had a friend doing med ed in New York – he got me a job, and the plan was to hang out in New York for a year. I loved the cutting edge science that I was dealing with. I loved the pace. I loved the fact that I was sitting at the table with world experts and participating in those conversations. And I really loved the aspect of taking science and making it something beautiful visually.
How would you describe promotional medical education?
Med ed - and specifically promo - is a part of the marketing mix that pharma companies use to make healthcare providers aware of their new and current therapeutic offerings.
Additionally, it’s part of a responsibility biopharma companies have to HCPs to continually make sure [physicians] are aware of the efficacy and safety of different drugs so that they can make informed clinical decisions
For me, personally, I just say that as part of promotions and communications, there’s a high science message that needs to be delivered around drugs that takes a very specific audience to deliver it – you need your peers to do it. And it needs a long time. To get through all of the data and all of the important points of a clinical trial so that you can make an informed clinical decision – it’s a long process.
When interviewing someone who’s straight out of the lab and looking to go into medical education, what qualities/experience do you look for?
I look for evidence of leadership capacity. I look for evidence that they enjoy communication through writing and/or presentation. I pressure test their interest in taking science and turning it into something beautiful visually or creative.
I also look for people who I think really love science and are a bit of a challenge junkie. I’m looking for someone who’s running towards more science and more challenge. If you’re running away from the lab – that’s not enough. I think our industry is the best of science because you’re communicating it, but the pace and the amount of data you have to process is really high.
Finally, I look for someone with significant emotional intelligence – that means that they’ve done the real introspection about what drives them and what they want and I can tell that they’ve thought through making the jump [out of the lab] and I’m confident that that’s what they want to do. If they haven’t thought through it – I worry that they’re running away.
What qualities do you think a successful medical writer needs to have?
Understanding the science is necessary, but to move up, you have to embrace the ability to upshift and downshift within large groups. People who can really get things done can figure out what the drivers and barriers are for the people on their teams. I have to get this project done – it has to go through 20 people and 4-6 clients. If I had to do it myself, I could do it, but it’s a game of how do you drive a project through that many stakeholders? There’s lots of people that I had to coordinate with as a physician, but I didn’t have to flex up and down to the extent that I do here.
I talk to my friends who are physicians and they say they’re all working in teams, but it’s different. Here, everyone comes from such different backgrounds. They’re all interested, and they can all add value.