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Finding the right person to find the right person - a look at the profile used by Ashfield to hire Rare Disease Specialists. This career path demands a certain type of individual to stay dedicated to their purpose: helping improve lives.

As FDA approval regulations shift towards welcoming specialty drugs, new rare disease and orphan drugs are receiving more attention from the pharmaceutical industry. Behind this industry change are the patients themselves. Rare disease patients may be under the care of a physician, without a diagnosis or managing a diagnosis without intervention.

Many rare disease patients become their own advocates when awareness and treatment are minimal or non-existent. Without the tools to diagnose and treat a rare disease, healthcare providers often turn to Non-FDA approved drugs. So how does a new rare disease drug find its patient in need? The logistics of scanning the country for the nuanced symptoms or diagnoses can be left in the hands of a skilled rare disease specialist.

Sourcing the right RDS

In simple terms, a rare disease specialist is responsible for helping physicians identify patients in need of a drug on behalf of a client whose product treats a rare disease. The magnitude and importance of this role makes this position unique. Mark Miller, Client Account Director for Ashfield Commercial, provides the recruitment profile for vetting an Ashfield rare disease specialist. The right candidate, in addition to having the necessary clinical expertise, exhibits:  integrity, intellectual curiosity, competitive spirit, problem solving skills, resiliency, self-awareness and is patient-centric.

Where the rare disease specialist differs from a normal field sales profile is not only in the clinical experience, but in the application of patient-centricity and resiliency. With the expansive nature of the territories, an RDS is required to educate healthcare providers across massive regions. For rare disease, the territory can span multiple states. With such a small patient volume across a large geography, quick wins are virtually impossible.

The traditional field sales rep is aligned with competitive drive and market growth. The right candidate for the RDS position is driven by altruistic achievement – taking personal satisfaction in finding that “needle in a haystack” patient whose life may depend upon their client’s product.

Kevin Acton is an RDS. He has always enjoyed the challenge and mastery of selling in highly technical markets.  “Rare disease is outside the normal rhythm of a typical medical practice, so it is critical for us to be an advocate for the patient. We have to collaborate with the providers and their staff to help them through the unique process of managing each patient. Our efforts focus on one patient, rather than trying to get a share of a large chronic disease market.”

Anthony Caggiano, VP of Business Development at Ashfield has overseen operational aspects of recruitment and knows the special type of person required for the job. “A rare disease specialist is clinical, patient-centric. Their tenacity comes from getting results for the patient. Intrinsically, they’re all about serving.”

Serving is another key aspect – when a patient match is discovered, the RDS reacts quickly by traveling sometimes thousands of miles to meet with the healthcare provider and the patient. One can imagine the satisfaction of searching tirelessly and finally locating a patient that can benefit from your product.

Partnership for patients

“As a rare disease specialist, patients are our main concern and focus. We never forget, what we do matters,” said Barbara Wener, an Ashfield rare disease specialist. In her experience, she sees how the degree of partnership between client and Ashfield ultimately benefits patients.

“Rare disease is rare, but it’s not rare to us,” Julie Kelly, VP of Business Development for Ashfield Commercial & Clinical.  “All patients and all clients matter to Ashfield.  We design solutions to meet the unique needs of the rare disease client, and we staff these programs with talented RDS representatives that can build lasting relationships with the treating physicians,” Kelly continues. “The RDS must be intrinsically motivated to get results for patients and be tenacious in the pursuit.”

Rare disease specialists have the altruistic motivator of creating immediate impact on the life of a very unique individual.  The “needle in the haystack” patients may not even know they’re needles – they’re seeking care and diagnosis to no avail – while the RDS is out there looking to help people just like them.

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