I’m Ellen Maxwell, and I started working as an Associate Medical Writer with QXV Communications (an Ashfield Healthcare Communications agency, part of UDG Healthcare plc) three months ago after attending the Ashfield Medical Writer’s Assessment Centre.
It was only two months prior to this that I discovered the world of medical communications – or “medcomms” to the insiders. I was working as a frustrated post-doc in cancer biology and started to do a lot of reading into the field. After attending a few career events and getting in touch with medical writers via LinkedIn to get an insight into their working lives, I decided this was a career with fantastic prospects and a great opportunity to work on ground-breaking drugs in therapeutic areas that directly affect patients’ lives.
One thing that really struck me when I started was the culture of teamwork and support. My team is fantastic and includes medical writers, account executives, editors and scientific directors. I love how everyone works together and supports each other to get a project finished within the deadline. There is a real opportunity to learn from others more experienced than yourself. Everyone from the juniors to the managing director are immensely supportive of one another, making sure everyone has a manageable workload even down to the small but essential items such as tea and cake!
QXV works with a number of different pharmaceutical companies and each individual medical writer can be working across several of these client accounts at any one time. For example, I am currently working on a manuscript for a lung cancer drug, an oral presentation for a lupus drug, and an educational slide deck on oncology. The diverse nature of the work means that you have the opportunity to work with different clients on different types of projects and learn about a range of therapy areas in order to gain a wide breadth of experience.
From lab-life to office-life
It was a big transition moving from the lab to the office full-time. First thing – sitting down all day needs getting used to – especially with all the sweet treats constantly on offer (birthdays, holidays, new house-days, I had a good day-days)! But frequent trips to the ‘pod’ (our little kitchen area) to make tea really helps. Despite no longer carrying out my own research, the work I do seated at my computer is still fascinating, and involves the research of clinical literature and the need to immerse yourself in data. If you’ve ever enjoyed researching for, and writing, a review manuscript then you would definitely enjoy this career. I also love the fact that at the end of the day or week, I really feel I have achieved something – not like in the lab when days and weeks can be wasted by an experiment gone wrong!
I’ve learnt that being able to write is not the only skill you need to be a medical writer. Being flexible, approachable, enthusiastic and willing to learn is essential.
It has been a very busy and very enjoyable three months, and I am really excited to see what other projects I will be working on in the coming months and years. I know I made the right choice and I hope this helps you do the same.
[Find out more about QXV Communications here]