Medical Science Liaisons’ Career Limiting Trap

Medical science liaisons know the importance of relationships with key opinion leaders. Many MSLs love their job because of their KOL relationships, and intellectual stimulation from dialogs with therapeutic KOLs can be a major source of job satisfaction.

On the other hand, relationships with internal stakeholders (you can even say these are your “internal KOLs”) tend to be the source of contention and even job dissatisfaction for medical science liaisons.

These internal stakeholder relationships become a career limiting trap if MSLs do not strike a careful balance between their approach to their internal stakeholders.

Ask yourself these questions to gauge whether your current interactions with your internal stakeholders may hold room for improvement:

1. How do internal stakeholders view your role? What’s the purpose they see in your role to the company and what “impact” do they recognize from your role? If you aren’t sure, how can you find out?

2. How do internal stakeholders expect you to interact with them? Do they prefer to hear from you in person, by phone, over email? Different companies may have different rules and expectations of interactions between field-medical and internal stakeholders (especially with stakeholders within the sales and marketing functions.)

3. How do internal stakeholders expect your relationship to grow? What does growth look like? Obviously these internal stakeholders cannot expect you to work “for” them, but they should be able to expect some level of information sharing that are within the boundaries of your respective roles at the company.

One of the best insight I got about MSLs’ approach to internal stakeholders was from a senior medical affairs executive who said that tension is a natural part of these internal stakeholder relationships.

Push and pull are aspects of a natural phenomenon of any corporate dynamics and human relationship. Rather than taking the tension as a confrontation, he looks at this as part of the corporate ecosystem and then looks for ways to strike the optimal balance for his MSLs.

How do YOU strike this delicate balance with internal stakeholders as a MSL?
Jane Chin, Ph.D.