Doctor Succeeds in the Pharma Industry Straight Out of Medical School

Many junior doctors in their House Officer (HO) training phase are thinking about quitting to pivot to other fields. What’s holding them back is the fear of failure and wondering if they ought to obtain their APCs before quitting the service.  Here’s a story of a doctor who succeeds in the pharma industry straight out of medical school.

 Dr VP Puvaneswaran pivoted to the pharmaceutical industry as a Product Specialist without ever setting foot in the House Officer (HO) training. He says success is entirely possible without HO training and he’s living proof of it! He completed his medical degree at the Universitatea de Medicina si Farmacie “Grigore T. Popa” lasi in Romania categorized as a second schedule university. He then returned to Malaysia to fulfil six weeks of training required of him by the Ministry of Health before formally undergoing his HO training.

Dr. VP Puvaneswaran

How his journey began

As Dr. Puvan awaited news of his six-weeks training placement, an ad in the papers caught his eye. It was for the position of Product Specialist at Servier, a French-based innovative company. He applied for it and was offered the position. His then manager whom he regards as his mentor had absolute confidence in his ability.

I’ve never looked back at clinical medicine…because of my manager at the time. He told me I could make it in the field of product management“.

They also had an excellent staff development program and two weeks into the job, he was sent on a work trip to Myanmar. His pivoting experience and the corporate culture at Servier was such a breath of fresh air to him that he never looked back. “I’ve never looked back at clinical medicine probably because of my manager at the time. He told me that I could make it in the field of product management in the pharma industry if I wanted to” adds Dr. Puvan.

Currently, Dr. Puvan is the Senior Manager of Marketing and Business Development at AJ Research & Pharma  (AJRP) Sdn Bhd. a multi-regional pharmaceutical company based in Kuala Lumpur. He oversees a range of pharmaceutical products as well as engages in in-licensing to bring new pharmaceutical products to the Malaysian market. He also engages in business development for his company.

Dr. Puvan offers some priceless advice to junior doctors especially those considering quitting their HO training to make a career change.

A medical sales rep in a meeting with doctors

Don’t just Pivot to Medical Affairs, Consider a Career in Pharmaceutical Marketing

Equipped with a medical degree, doctors are well able to offer their services as Product Specialists or Medical Affairs Executives in the pharma industry. While most doctors head towards medical affairs, few tend to consider a career in pharmaceutical marketing and product management. Increasingly however, more doctors have begun taking on these roles.

Doctors have knowledge of pharmacology which is understanding a drug and the know-how to position it in a doctor’s prescription which makes them suitable for these roles.  They are able to translate and clarify the value of a drug to the sales staff who in turn will communicate the product’s value to doctors.

An MBA Degree Will Do You Some Good

According to Dr. Puvan, a doctor who wants to make him/herself relevant and succeed in the pharma industry would do well in  acquiring an MBA degree. This degree will present doctors with the business acumen and product branding knowledge needed to further their careers in the industry. This is exactly what Dr. Puvan did for himself.

His years of working in various capacities at different pharma companies coupled with his MBA degree has equipped him to engage in negotiation, identifying potential products, and undertaking business planning.

All that’s needed is for doctors to set their egos aside and take time to identify what it is that they really want to do with their lives“.

Look Before You Leap

Dr. Puvan advises doctors against diving straight into private business because if things don’t work out, the venture becomes costly. Rather, doctors should invest some time by engaging in sales and marketing at the pharma industry even if it means carrying a bag and promoting products to doctors. This way, they will know the ins and outs of the industry. This will help them decide if they wish to own their own pharma business or opt to move ahead within the corporate ranks of a pharma company.

“All that’s needed is for doctors to set their egos aside and take time to identify what it is that they really want to do with their lives” says Dr Puvan. For this to happen, doctors must also engage in a certain amount of research as well as talk to mentors who have pivoted to the field ahead of them.  This preparation is needed BEFORE a doctor moves to a particular field as there is no point crying over spilled milk later, he adds. Making an informed and well researched decision avoids heartache.

Look before you leap, plan before you act

A Calculated Step in Managing Pivoting Fears

For doctors genuinely fearful about pivoting in case they are met with failures, Dr. Puvan strongly advises that they complete their HO training and then make the pivot. Should the desired career not work out, these doctors could return to the MOH, complete their MO training, gain their APCs, and still have a medical career to fall back on.

These will be difficult and probably lonely years, but it will be worth your while when you experience career-fruitfulness“.

That Awful Stigma

In his case, Dr. Puvan was never forced to study medicine nor was he dissuaded from leaving clinical medicine. He was fortunate enough to have an understanding family that trusted his decisions. But many doctors are forced into medicine by parents and others who would naturally feel let down and betrayed when their son/daughter leaves the profession. Further, there is a stigma from within the fraternity regarding doctors who leave clinical service.

At such times, transitioning doctors may feel pulled apart in different directions. Dr Puvan’s earnest hope is that doctors who have transitioned will declutter their minds, close their eyes and ears for a few years to the critics that abound, and make it a point to succeed in their chosen fields. “These will be difficult  and probably lonely years, but it will be worth your while when you experience career-fruitfulness” says Dr. Puvan. He should know as Dr. Puvan has done well in the pharma industry without ever entering the HO training.

Join our Diverse Careers for Doctors Webinar and find out how doctors who have transitioned from clinical medicine have succeeded in their chosen fields. Look at it this way, you’ll get to meet, listen, and speak to a couple of successful “mentors” at each webinar who will share crucial information to help you in your career change.

Book your spot here!

To find out more about non-clinical jobs for doctors in Malaysia check out our job vacancy and find inspiration from medical doctors who’ve made a career change in our case studies. Check out Medic Footprints Malaysia , and follow our MF Malaysia Instagram and Facebook pages to stay updated on our events, webinars, job vacancies and more.

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