Learn more about Sam Bestall, who has been working as an Associate Medical Writer for Watermeadow Medical, an Ashfield Healthcare Communications agency, for 6 months.
During my undergraduate veterinary training, I developed a severe animal allergy which prevented me from practicing as a veterinarian. I was approached by a lecturer and we discussed what career options would align most with my strengths and goals; medical writing and medical research were my top two most interesting options, and both enabled me to apply my medical knowledge. With these careers in mind, I expanded my skillset by working in a laboratory and pursuing (and recently completing) a PhD in medical science. I enjoyed my time as a research scientist, but in 2015 (about halfway through my studies) it was apparent that my passion was communicating my research findings to the scientific and medical community, rather than conducting the research itself. It was then that I knew that a career in medical communications, or becoming an amateur stand-up comedian/YouTube reality star (a completely different back story that is not further discussed here), was the right choice for me. As you can gather, I chose the former and I’m now employed with Watermeadow Medical as a medical writer.
After getting through university and then spending a few years collecting, analysing, and writing up scientific data, I genuinely thought I’d mastered the Microsoft Office software. I was wrong. Very wrong. Since my first day as a writer, I’ve been exposed to new ways of communicating information more efficiently and effectively. I’m amazed by how much my colleagues know about how to best navigate and utilise word processing systems, and I’m constantly finding myself learning new tips and tricks. This is especially true for Microsoft PowerPoint. I’ve also become very familiar with the use of Skype, answering phones in a professional manner, and using headsets to speak to multiple colleagues and clients, often at the same time. Though, I do often find myself apologising to colleagues for my “Darth Vader” like presence, a result of me leaving the headset microphone too close to my mouth. It’s nice to have goals to strive for, though, even if that is using a headset correctly! In addition to becoming competent in a writers’ everyday “tools”, I’ve become acquainted to the other roles (in addition to the medical writers) within medical communications including, but not limited to: medical editors, scientific leads, client services, business managers, digital and creative designers, event managers, marketing managers, and recruitment specialists. It’s been great to see how all these roles contribute to the business development and delivery of medical communications of an excellent standard.
Medical writing is an extremely deadline-oriented role, so you find that most writers work at a fast-pace and are often involved in developing content for multiple projects at any one time. As you progress, the number of projects that you’re involved in naturally increases. If you’re from an academic background (like most writers), this change of pace may initially seem daunting; however, this isn’t initially expected of associate medical writers, and when you feel ready to take on more work, you’re fully supported throughout the entire training process. I’m only 6 months into my training, but I already feel comfortable working on numerous projects and most importantly, I’m really loving it. There’s not one moment where I’ve ever felt bored. Seeing projects from their beginnings through to their final client deliverable forms, and feeling the “buzz” in the office as the entire team come together to meet deadlines is an incredibly rewarding experience. Ultimately, everybody here at Ashfield are extremely talented and passionate individuals, and it’s great to be in a working environment where all employees, whatever their job title, come together with the ultimate goal of helping people and improving patients’ lives.
If you are interested in a career like mine, I’d urge you to read and write as much as possible, ideally scientific and/or medical related content. If you’re in a position to do so, try to get involved in writing scientific publications, technical writing (e.g. standard operating procedures, protocols, risk assessments etc.), and preparing conference materials, such as abstracts, posters, and presentation slide decks. Practice speaking about science and/or medicine to a lay audience at science outreach events, or present medical research at patient support groups, or even just to your friends and family. By doing these things, you’ll develop and enhance your oral and written communication skills, and will have a great foundation skill-set that you can expand upon when you enter the world of medical writing. It’s important to mention that many writers develop these mentioned skills by doing a PhD. However, a PhD is not a mandatory requirement to become a medical writer. If you’re looking for your first writing job, I’d advise joining LinkedIn and connecting with medical communications professionals and recruiters. Here, you will find advertised entry-level writer positions, and can research which company/agency aligns most with your values. I think the most important thing in landing your first job is being pro-active in developing your skills and persistently putting yourself out there for employers to see.
For more information about a career at Ashfield Healthcare Communications, please contact: AHCrecruitment@ashfieldhealthcare.com.