Medical science liaisons must have a high degree of subject matter expertise (SME) to be effective. You don’t go into a meeting with an international key opinion leader and expect to have a productive dialog if you cannot speak to the depths of science and clinical research.
Many MSLs pride themselves in their expertise of a disease state, especially those who are hired specifically for their research and clinical experience in the disease state they will represent for their companies to the healthcare community.
On the other hand, what differentiates a good MSL from a spectacular MSL goes beyond subject matter expertise to business process expertise (BPE). This is because the MSL role spans across clinical dialog to create a clinical value for both KOL client and employer client.
The rationale is: SME can be taught. BPE is harder to teach and the results of poor BPE skills can be disastrous.
Many directors look at a MSL who is well-grounded in science but lacks business acumen and wonder if this MSL can be trained to better appreciate the program’s business challenges. They may hire a seasoned MSL who has demonstrated a track record of business results but who may have other therapeutic experience.
Medical science liaisons can look at a medical director who is a subject matter expert but who has never worked with MSL programs and who may not appreciate the delicate relationships between commercial and medical functions to appreciate how important BPE plays in a leadership role.
- Business process expertise deals with:
Even though BPE can fall into the same debate as “are leaders born or made”, if you are a medical science liaison, you don’t want to wait around for a resolution of this debate before you ensure that you identify gaps in your business process expertise and create a professional development plan to fill those gaps.