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Biosciences to Pharmacovigilance Operations

  • Name :Rufaida Hamad (she/her)

  • Job Title: Pharmacovigilance Operations and Compliance Graduate

  • A levels/ equivalent :Biology, Psychology, English Language and Applied Science

  • Undergrad and postgrad degrees :

Undergrad: BSc Human Biosciences

Postgrad: MSc Medical Affairs

  • Favourite science fact:The Majority of Earth's Oxygen Is Produced by Oceans.

Journey in 3 Words :Challenging, Exciting and enlightening

  • Briefly describe your current role

I currently work as a Pharmacovigilance Operations and Compliance Graduate within a global Japanese pharmaceutical company. My role focuses on patient safety and the monitoring of medicinal products (either in clinical trials or post-marketing).

  • What motivated you to pursue a career in science?

I had a strong desire to contribute to patient well-being, but I didn't envision myself as a healthcare professional working in hospital environments. Instead, I made the decision to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry, which plays a crucial role in ensuring patients receive the medications they need. This career path allows me to make a significant impact on patient care without direct contact with individuals in a hospital setting.

  • What is a typical week like for you?

In a typical week, my schedule is filled with numerous meetings related to various projects and involving different functions like regulatory affairs and medical affairs. Additionally, there are training sessions tailored to the specific projects, which are particularly helpful for me as a new graduate, as there is a lot to learn. One of my key responsibilities is managing safety reports that originate from different parts of the world where our medicines are authorised. My main focus is to kickstart the case processing for these reports.

  • What has excited you the most in your journey from Human biosciences to medical affairs?

One of the most exciting aspects for me was transitioning from a science-based degree that was primarily confined to the laboratory to being able to apply that knowledge in an industry setting. It brought me great joy (and relief) to realise that life science degrees offer diverse career paths beyond traditional lab work. Pursuing studies in medical affairs opened up an entirely new world in healthcare for me. It allowed me to contribute to patient well-being and provided opportunities to connect and collaborate with industry leaders specialising in various disciplines. This exposure broadened my understanding of the healthcare field and enriched my professional network.

  • Is there an experience/ conversation that has heavily impacted your career journey?

A key experience was volunteering in a hospital within the oncology unit. This experience made me realise that I don't have the emotional capacity to witness critically ill patients and I would often dwell on it when I got home. I knew I had a passion for health but did not want to be a healthcare professional in that environment. This was a useful experience as it allowed me to reach a conclusion early on.

  • What advice regarding your industry would you give someone wanting to follow the same path and study the same degree?

I strongly recommend considering a placement year during your undergraduate studies within a pharmaceutical company or the specific industry you aspire to work in. This experience can provide you with a valuable head start in your career. If a placement year is not feasible, I highly recommend pursuing a summer internship or attending networking events related to your field of interest. These opportunities can offer practical experience, industry exposure, and the chance to connect with professionals in your desired industry. Both placement years and internships are excellent ways to gain practical skills, enhance your resume, and increase your chances of securing a job after graduation.

  • Have you had a mentor and how has that contributed to your career journey?

Although I haven't had a formal mentor, I have encountered incredibly supportive individuals throughout my journey whom I reached out to via LinkedIn or networking events. These encounters have proven to be invaluable in terms of guidance and advice. By proactively seeking connections and reaching out to professionals in my field, I have been fortunate to engage with helpful individuals who have shared their insights and offered assistance. These informal mentorship relationships have played a significant role in my personal and professional development, and I highly recommend utilising platforms like LinkedIn and attending networking events to establish connections and seek guidance from experienced professionals.

  • How did your internship during your Msc benefit you? And what advice would you give for choosing a masters course?

The internship I undertook was so important for my personal and professional development. It provided me with a unique opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills I acquired during my studies to real-life scenarios within a pharmaceutical company. It was during this internship, particularly in the field of medical affairs, that I gained a deep understanding of how a pharmaceutical company operates and how different functions collaborate. Working alongside a remarkable team, I received invaluable guidance and built connections with individuals who were truly dedicated to patient care. This experience not only enhanced my practical knowledge but also strengthened my commitment to making a positive impact on patients' lives.

More specifically, the internship provided me with experience that I was able to talk about in job interviews. For example, we were able to sit in during meetings, listen to valuable discussions regarding strategies for patient care etc.

In terms of advice:I would tell students to deep dive into their interests and not to do a masters for the sake of it as it can be very intense. I woud recommend to look into different career routes and see which masters would be more beneficial for that specific field. Also, speak to students either currently studying the course or Alumni as there is only so much information you can get from the website.

  • You run an amazing page called @medscienceminds, what are the motivations and future goals of the page?

Throughout my academic journey, there was a lack of guidance on the different career paths following a life science degree. Also, being naturally indecisive, I opted for a broad undergraduate degree to keep my options open. However, it seemed like my entire cohort was focused on laboratory work or pursuing medicine/dentistry, which made me feel like the

odd one out. I lacked the necessary resources and knowledge to explore other potential career paths and had to do a lot of independent research.

This motivated me to start medscienceminds as I don't want students from a similar background to go through the same struggles I faced. My aim is to create a community of like-minded individuals who enjoy learning, are driven to progress, and seize every opportunity available to them. I aspire to act as a mentor for students who find themselves in a similar position to mine, providing guidance and support. Additionally, I hope to serve as a valuable source of information for those interested in the pharmaceutical industry.

The best places to follow me would be Instagram as I am most active on there but people can also follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok. People should look out for more ‘practical’ initiatives that I am trying to work on to hopefully provide students work experience in some way.

  • With the lack of career guidance out there, where do you think universities are getting it wrong?

I think the key issues are:

  1. Insufficient integration of practical experiences: While theoretical knowledge is important, universities should prioritise incorporating practical experiences, such as internships, industry projects, or work placements, into the curriculum. These opportunities can provide students with real-world exposure, hands-on skills, and a better understanding of the demands and expectations of the job market.

  2. Lack of networking and industry connections: Building a professional network is crucial for career development. Universities can enhance their efforts by actively fostering connections with alumni, industry professionals, and organisations. Hosting networking events, guest speaker sessions, and mentorship programs can help students establish valuable relationships and gain insights into various career paths.

This was something King’s College London was amazing at doing as they provided us with lots of networking opportunities.

  • Do you feel like scientist salaries reflect the amount of effort put in ?

Generally, I think that graduate salaries are not sufficient considering the level of education and qualification attained. Often, entry-level roles often demand significant prior experience, which can create challenges for recent graduates. To secure employment opportunities, it is increasingly necessary to go beyond academic achievements and engage in networking activities and gain relevant work experience. These additional efforts are often seen as essential for opening doors and establishing connections in the professional world.

  • What advice would you give your younger self ?

If I were to give advice to my younger self, I would emphasise the importance of not excessively worrying about the future and instead, savouring the present moment. It's not necessary to have everything figured out all the time, and it's perfectly alright to embrace uncertainty. I would encourage myself to recognize that opportunities are limitless and that confidence and taking risks are essential in unlocking my full potential. By being proactive and putting myself out there, I can explore diverse avenues and pave the way for personal and professional growth.

  • What is your biggest pet peeve about how the world perceives science ?

My pet peeve is the misconception that science is only relevant in certain contexts or that it is disconnected from everyday life. Science plays a crucial role in shaping our understanding of the world, addressing societal challenges, and driving technological advancements. Yet, it is often seen as something reserved for scientists in laboratories, rather than a discipline that affects and influences various aspects of our lives.

This perception can lead to a lack of appreciation for scientific research, funding cuts for scientific endeavors, and limited public engagement in scientific discussions. Addressing this pet peeve involves promoting science education, fostering a culture of scientific curiosity, and emphasizing the relevance and impact of science in our daily lives.

I think COVID has been a key example of how we all need to value science and be

able to understand certain concepts related to disease.

  • Outside science how would you describe yourself

I have a friendly and outgoing personality, and I find joy in traveling and spending quality time with my loved ones. Exploring new destinations is a passion of mine, allowing me to broaden my horizons and create amazing memories. Equally, I appreciate the serenity of relaxing activities, such as reading a captivating book on the beach. Balancing adventure and tranquility brings me a sense of fulfillment and contentment in life.


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