Alex Evans works in community pharmacy in Kihei, Hawaii. He is also a PADI assistant scuba instructor.
Ever thought of leaving healthcare? Or, even just doing the research? Take your MD/other degree with you and try these 4 options on for size.
I love being a community pharmacist, but I’ve always been fascinated with the variety of other jobs and interesting work that could be pursued after graduating from a clinical professional program. I’ve met others working in many of these fields and seen advertisements for companies actively seeking individuals with healthcare backgrounds who also possess or can demonstrate the ability to learn other unique skill sets.
If you are just starting out and looking for your first position or you think it could be time for a change of pace, consider widening your search, at least online, by using not only “physician,” “doctor,” “nurse practitioner,” or “PA” as your keywords, but also including your degree, eg, “MD.” Many of the jobs I highlight below will consider an MD, PharmD, or even PhD in a related field. Also, keep an eye on specific companies in your industry of interest and, although it can be a challenge, be open to a wide variety of roles within that industry.
With no further ado, here are my top picks for careers outside the healthcare box:
1. Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR)
For an excellent introduction to HEOR I recommend you check out this presentation from Beth Lesher, PharmD, BCPS, and Catherine O’Connor, BA, who currently work in this field. Like many of these jobs, HEOR professionals come from diverse backgrounds that include both MDs and PharmDs. According to Lesher and O’Connor, health economics, “analyzes the economic aspects of health and healthcare, with a focus on the costs (inputs) and consequences (outcomes) of healthcare interventions.” Outcomes research on the other hand, “evaluates the effect of healthcare interventions on patient-related clinical, humanistic, and economic outcomes.” With the ballooning costs of healthcare, including expansion of hyper-specialized yet hyper-expensive therapies, I can only imagine the demand for this field growing.
2. Medical Science Liaison (MSL)
MSLs work for pharmaceutical companies and you’ve likely met them in your work or know colleagues, as I do, working as MSLs. They are not “drug reps” because, unlike pharmaceutical sales representatives, their job is not to sell the medication. MSLs are experts in their therapeutic category and facilitate communication and partnership with members of a wide variety of medical and scientific communities. They may also train a drug company’s sales and marketing teams.
More specifically, according to ExploreHealthcareCareers.org, a MSL’s job is to, “ensure that products are used effectively; serve as scientific resources and experts, advise on upcoming advances…and provide input about relevant scientific and clinical data.” From my encounters with MSLs, the most common backgrounds hired into the role are MDs and PharmDs. Likely the biggest downside to this job is extensive travel, but MSLs also have a lot of flexibility in their schedule.
3. Management Consulting
Management consulting may be the field least expected of these 4 to hold opportunities for healthcare professionals (HCPs). You are likely familiar with companies such as Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company, and if you work for a large enough organization I can almost guarantee that at least one of those companies has provided consulting services to your employer. With a HCP degree you could work on a team advising a rapidly failing hospital on a turnaround plan or one helping a pharmaceutical company boost flagging sales for a dominant brand.
The field is known to be demanding, but for HCPs who’ve already navigated a degree and are looking for a new challenge, it could be worth a closer look. You can find details on the type of candidates hired into management consulting and examples of large, high-impact projects executed by teams from diverse backgrounds on Deloitte’s website or on Bain & Company’s website.
Business acumen is critical for management consulting and the vast majority of consultants have an MBA. One route to obtaining an MBA while still working is to “attend” one of the excellent programs offered online, which is what I am currently doing, and check to see if your employer offers tuition reimbursement. A great resource for professionals who want to obtain an MBA is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), a global nonprofit that oversees the standardization of collegiate business and accounting schools.
I recommend finding an AACSB-accredited school so that you know you are getting a quality education. If that is not your cup of tea, though, consulting is still possible with significant professional experience. Take a look at this article by an attorney who successfully transitioned without going to business school.
4. Medical writing
Medical writing is a broad term for a wide field. Writers in medical communications produce documents ranging from abstracts for journals and conferences to grant proposals, regulatory documents, and sales training materials. They can be self-employed freelance writers or employed by medical communications or education agencies, medical institutions, or pharmaceutical companies, to name a few examples. Most medical writers have advanced degrees, such as a PharmD, MD, or PhD in a relevant field.
Experience is highly valued in this industry and creating a portfolio to show potential clients or employers will allow you to secure more work or even a full-time job. I am currently exploring the option of medical writing as a significant part of my career; please have a look at my portfolio as an example.
The professional organization representing medical writers is the American Medical Writers Association, and if you are interested in pursuing this either as a full-time job or as a “side hustle” I encourage you to check out their website. Their new writer toolkit is also a great place to start.
If you work in a nontraditional area you don’t see on this list, I’d love to hear from you! Who knows, if I get enough responses I might be able to compile a Part 2. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com.