Beyond the Lab: Molly Seale, Medical Science Liaison

Kate Stuart
April 27, 2016

In the month of April, the Office of Career Development is featuring a Beyond the Lab video each day of the month, highlighting awesome alumni in the video series. 

Today we highlight Molly Seale, PhD, a Medical Science Liaison, now manager, at Amgen. Dr. Seale presented at a PhD Career Connections seminar in December 2014.

This video is supported by a BEST award from the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health* (DP7OD018423)

Check out the video! Can't watch the video? Read the transcript below!

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Molly Thoreson Seale is a Director of Regional Medical Liaisons at Amgen. She leads a team of medical liaisons who engage health care professionals on Amgen’s science, clinical trials, and product value. While at Amgen, Molly has been a part of the launch of seven new oncology molecules. She also leads special projects for Amgen Research & Development related to development of oncology therapeutics, congress participation, and product and skills training. Molly previously served as a medical liaison for eight years and has been managing teams for the past five years. She earned her doctorate from Vanderbilt in Cancer Biology where she worked on cell adhesion and signaling pathways. She still lives in Nashville where she and her husband raise four young children, support local agriculture, and travel often to support their hobbies of snow skiing and scuba diving.

 

[KATE] Welcome to Beyond the Lab, a series by the Office of Career Development within the Biomedical Research Education Training Department of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. I'm Kate Stuart and I'm here today with Molly Seale. Dr. Molly Seale, we are so glad to have you back, you graduated in 2002 in Cancer Biology Department.

 

[MOLLY] That's it!

 

[KATE] Thanks for coming and tell us a little bit about what you did here at Vanderbilt.

 

[MOLLY] Good thanks Kate, great to be here. When I was at Vanderbilt, I did my PhD program here. I was in Al Reynold's lab in the Cancer Biology department. When I was in his lab I studied the protein P120. So P120 is a protein that is involved in cell adhesion and I was specifically looking at the interaction between P120 and e cadherin and uncoupling that interaction to try to understand how that affected some motility and some metastasis in cancer cells.

 

[KATE] Okay great. So what have you done since?

 

[MOLLY] I stayed on in the same lab that I did my PhD on for a short time and did a short postdoc there, just really to finish up some projects. And then I took a position with a contract medical liaison company. This is my first job outside of the lab and it was an industry type position where I was hired as a medical liaison and somewhat of a temporary basis.

And I worked out of my home right here in Nashville and took this position as really representing in the field a research and development person to be Amgen's representative to talk about the research and the products that they are developing

 

[KATE] So your current role now is more of a managerial role, so what are the differences between the medical science liaison role and now what you are doing?

 

[MOLLY] Good, shortly after I took this contract liaison role, I was invited to apply for a permanent position with the company with Amgen as a medical liaison. And I did that for the next eight years actually. And then for about the last six years I have been a regional manager of medical liaisons. As a manager I actually get on a plane every single week, and fly somewhere, so that is a lot of traveling involved. But my main responsibilities are working with, coaching and developing a team.

I have a team of about eight medical liaisons across the country. And I do kind of half and half of working directly with them to help them with their job, and their performance, but also working internally helping create strategic plans around what our medical liaisons do, helping with the training for them and really helping set goals and helping them achieve those.

As a medical liaison the role was a little different, I was really on the ground as a medical liaison, lots of the time it's called a medical science liaison. So MSL type of role. In that role you're really on the ground going into clinics and hospitals for the most part. Meeting one on one with physicians mainly also sometimes pharmacists or nurses, especially nurses that are involved in research studies, and having one on one discussions typically across their desk about, sharing information about the molecules that your company is developing.

Sometimes, it's also speaking about products that are already on the market especially if there is a new data update, if there is new research going on, or if there's some major safety update with an already approved molecule.

 

[KATE] Okay so you had to have a very specialized set of skills that you probably did not gain from medical training. What were some of those skills that you had to gain to be in that role?

 

[MOLLY] So the two things I would say that I had to learn once I started in this role was about business and about clinical medicine. I didn't really have any exposure to the business side of things in the lab, and just learning how a biotech company works, understanding kind of the business savvy piece of who does what and what the order of things need to be.

Also the clinical medicine piece. I was very pre-clinical in the lab, the first line of the grants I wrote, the first line of my articles always related to cancer. Big picture it related to cancer but I was talking about cell and mouse experiments. And so I really had to learn about how patients are treated, how physicians practice, what evidence based medicine looks like and get very comfortable with clinical trial design. And so there was a lot to learn and it took a while, that was a struggle in the job but that scientific foundation that I got at Vanderbilt really gave me a good base to work off of.

 

[KATE] Okay, so tell me how this role is a good fit for you personally.

 

[MOLLY] This role, my job is different every day, so there's a lot of fast pace in this job, things are changing often.

We may buy another company and suddenly have a new molecule we're about to launch. We may get disappointing results from a phase one study or a phase two or phase three study that we really had our hopes up for and all of a sudden that molecule has failed and it's gone and you switch gears and you focus on something else.

Well at times that can be disappointing, it's also really exciting and so there's always something new. I love the cutting edge science and there's no lack of articles and of information to learn about so I really like that pace. I also love the flexibility in this job. As I mentioned I work from home and, it's very different than coming to an office each day and having colleagues that you interact with but it gives you a lot more flexibility in your schedule and in just how you work so I've really enjoyed that.

 

[KATE] Okay, good. Would you think that a postdoc is required to do the role that you have done.

 

[MOLLY] Yeah I definitely do. In positions like ours, at my company we require a doctoral degree plus at least two years of some kind of postdoctoral experience. Now that doesn't have to be a traditional postdoc, but it needs to be some kind of related experience after a doctorate.

So it can be a research postdoc, it can be some kind of a clinical experience, whether that's more training or being involved in some kind of a actual role being involved in clinical research.

 

[KATE] Okay, great. So I'm sure there are some skills you had to gain after you left Vanderbilt to be prepared for this job. What are some of the skills that you would tell graduate students now, or postdocs now that they need to gain in order to be best prepared for that type of role?

 

[MOLLY] I think communication skills is the number one thing. All of those times that in grad school you spend presenting at lab meetings, preparing for journal clubs, writing grants, writing articles, it seems kind of tedious at the time but all of those hours really pay off because communication skills is probably the most important thing in this role.

We do a lot of one on one meetings with people but we also do a lot of large presentations and because we are field based, we have a lot of e-mail communications and many many phone calls and web access and so those communications skills especially when you're not meeting with someone in person are even more important.

So I'd say that's something that it's really important to focus on and to and get as much experience as possible with.

 

[KATE] So in your role I'm sure you've done a lot of networking either through your career path but also just in the role that you have, what are some of the strategies that work for you personally to network?

 

[MOLLY]  So again coming back to the way that this position is rare, I don't see the people that I work with very often. I really try to make the most of those times that I can see them in person. So if we're at our headquarters's office for a meeting or if we're at a large congress somewhere, I try to connect with folks. So that I can understand what they're doing, they can understand my role and the goals of my organization.

So that we can potentially look for some synergy, I find it really fulfilling when I meet someone in different department in my company and we can connect the dots to figure out how it is that we can help each other across our groups. So I'm looking for opportunities all the time to do that.

And honestly just keeping in touch with people, the relationships that we build in grad school, the relationships that the folks will build along the way in their postdoc or in other training will be with them forever and making sure that you keep those connections over time I think it's really important.

 

[KATE] Is there a preferably memorable experience while were here at Vanderbilt that has really stuck with you that you would wanna share?

 

[MOLLY] I think actually one of the most significant things for me being at Vanderbilt was just the relationships I made. I made some of the best friends of my life here, I met my husband and I have mentors and friends here that I still keep in touch with. And so the people, maybe even more than the science was what I still hang on to and has been so important for me even many years later.

 

[KATE] So if you have any words of wisdom now for graduates students or postdocs what would that be?

 

[MOLLY] Um, I hope that they will know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. When you're in graduate school, when you're in your postdoc, I know it seems, like it will never end, you don't know when or if you will finish and there's still much more after you're done beyond the lab, there's so much more out there. Whether that means time spent with family and friends, maybe starting a family, may be getting more involved in your community.

There is so much out there left in life and I think if I had a little glimpse of that and how amazing that that could be at that time it would have made trudging through some of the days in grad school a little bit easier. And so I hope people can look forward and know that there's better things to come if they're having a tough time and again that they're getting a great foundation in their training that will stay with them forever.

 

[KATE] Very nice. Thank you so much for coming back we really appreciate it. You're welcome.

 

[MOLLY] Thank you for having me.