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Home » Dr. Sanjana Phlananthachai Gulati invites you into the world of a Medical Science Liaison, where medicine, science, and industry converge

Dr. Sanjana Phlananthachai Gulati invites you into the world of a Medical Science Liaison, where medicine, science, and industry converge

by Niranjana Mittal

Behind the white coat.

By: Ayush Madan

Have you ever stared down a shelf overflowing with medical journals, muttering a silent prayer that you’ll understand the latest research? As a biomedical science student, I have been in that daunting position too many times. Dr. Sanjana Phlanthanachai Gulati, however, was not fazed. Raised by a Sikh family and instilled with values of compassion, dedication, and seva (service), Sanjana always knew she wanted to care for people. She dove headfirst into the intricacies of healthcare, driven by a desire to bridge the gap between research and practice, starting by shadowing doctors in the US, before pursuing medicine herself in the UK. After medical school, she was accepted for a residency at BMA General Hospital in Bangkok, a hospital which only accepts 20 out of every 1,000 applicants. Now, as a Medical Science Liaison (MSL), she’s not just deciphering those medical journals; she’s publishing her own, and using her knowledge to educate and inform other healthcare professionals. Sanjana delves deeper into her role as an MSL with Masala.

What are some of your main responsibilities as a Medical Science Liaison?

I work as a Medical Science Liaison for Grifols Asia-Pacific in alliance with IQVIA, a company focused on health information technology and clinical research. As the primary mode of contact for Albumin, which is a blood plasma derivative product, I have to stay updated on the latest research, clinical trials and any data available in my therapeutic area. I then relay this information to Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) – healthcare professionals and researchers – serving as a scientific expert in my company’s products. Additionally, I am also responsible for training teams of medical sales representatives, advising clinical research, and collaborating with the government’s regulatory body to get new drugs approved for the market.

Can you tell me your educational journey up to this point?

I attended NIST International School, where I received my IB diploma. I went on to pursue medicine in the UK at the University of Central Lancashire, where I got my Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree in 2022. During my studies, I was also involved in clinical research which was published in the British Medical Journal. After completing my degree, I came back to Thailand and interned in a government hospital called BMA General Hospital (Klang Hospital) for a full year, completing my foundation. Currently I’m working on getting my full license, so I am gearing up for my license exams.

How does your background in medicine contribute to your effectiveness as an MSL?

My medical school education and foundation as a doctor equipped me with a deep understanding of clinical practice and patient care. While I thrived in the clinical setting, I was drawn to the convergence of medicine, science, and industry. Transitioning to an MSL role allows me to leverage my clinical expertise while pursuing my passion for research, education, and collaboration. Moreover, my prior research experience at university honed my ability to communicate complex scientific findings. This, combined with my patient interaction skills, enables me to effectively engage with KOLs, and build trust through shared knowledge and a deep understanding of their research needs.

How do you establish and maintain relationships with healthcare providers (HCPs) and other stakeholders in the medical community?

Qualifying as a doctor was driven by my love for interacting with people, whether in the role of a caregiver or as a patient advocate. That human connection has always been at the heart of my professional journey. The main factor in establishing a relationship in healthcare is building trust, integrity and maintaining professionalism. I believe that my background as a doctor helps instill credibility with HCPs, as they recognise that I have walked in their shoes and can relate to their experiences. Thus, we have a mutual understanding that helps with building relationships and allows for open communication and collaboration.

Do you prefer the flexibility of your current hybrid research job to the more physically involved years of your training?

While the transition has been a shift in focus, and I may not be directly involved in patient care, I believe that working a hybrid role enables me to have a work-life balance as well as an opportunity to interact with healthcare professionals and engage in meaningful discussions that ultimately impact patient outcomes. I believe taking on the role of an MSL has been instrumental to my self- development before I eventually go back into clinical practice in the future.

How does Grifols Asia Pacific support your professional development and growth as an MSL? Are there any training or learning opportunities provided?

Grifols Asia Pacific and IQVIA provided me with a month of training in December 2023 before starting my role in hepatology and critical care. This was done in the form of mentorship programs and field rotations, where we were given market access strategies, and insight into regulatory affairs and framework. Of course, the key thing they educate you on is the clinical data relating to the drug they want to launch or promote. We also have access to continuous support and information regarding the latest medical advancements at our fingertips. They have been very supportive, and still provide me with many opportunities to grow and climb the corporate ladder.

What do you find most rewarding about your role as an MSL?

The most rewarding aspect of my role as an MSL is the opportunity to continually learn and grow. Every day brings new insights, challenges, and opportunities for professional development. I feel proud that my work contributes to the advancement of medical knowledge, patient care, and public health.

What challenges do you face in your day-to-day work?

Since I joined medical school at a young age, this is my first corporate job. Adjusting to the norms, policies, and dynamics of a corporate environment can take time, especially since it differed from my previous clinical setting. Balancing all the responsibilities, adapting to and learning new information, as well as trying to navigate regulatory advancement for new drugs, were all things I had to figure out on the fly. Moreover, going to an international school and a university abroad created a cultural barrier for me when I entered the Thai workforce. I think you have to be a little bit more cautious, and a bit more mindful to prove yourself, in a way. But now, I feel fully confident in my ability to not only do my job but excel at it.

It’s no secret that being in the medical field is a demanding job. On a more personal note, how do you like to unwind?

I love listening to music, traveling to exotic places, and spending time with my loved ones. Years ago, I regularly practiced taekwondo, earning a black belt before enrolling in medical school. I still do boxing classes from time to time, as I think martial arts are a great way to blow off steam and stay active. That said, these days I have been playing more tennis than anything else.

Looking to the future, what specialties in medicine are you most interested in pursuing? What is on the horizon for you?

Currently, I am eyeing dermatology, internal medicine, and psychiatry, which are my top three specialities. But I would also love being a General Practitioner, because as a GP, you see a little bit of everything, and to be honest, that’s something that appeals to my insatiable desire to keep learning more!

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