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Miguel Santiago-Medina, Ph.D.

Medical Writer | Carling Communications

Interview by: Alexandra Bortnick
Interview: February 2018
Transition: November 2017

1. Please list your previous department at UC San Diego and provide a brief description of the research you conducted?

I was a postdoc in the Pharmacology department. I studied cancer cell metastasis, specifically how a subset of cancer cells use specialized structures known as invadopodia to remodel tissues and facilitate cancer cell metastasis.

2. Please describe your current job profile?

I am a medical writer at a biotech / pharma advertising agency. No day is the same, which fits my personality. I may have a full day of meetings with potential clients, in which they explain their scientific and medical writing needs. On other days, I may be confined to my desk, preparing the jobs my team has agreed upon with the client. My job is centered on the creation of promotional and educational science write-ups for different pharmaceutical drugs. I assemble drug competitor sheets, physician and nurse education modules, drug promotional speaker decks, mechanism of action speaker notes for videos and everything in between. 

3. What made you decide to transition into your current position?

I was no longer enamored with bench work and wanted to put my science writing and presentation skills to better use than one scientific paper and presentation a year.

4. Apart from the research you conducted, do you feel like anything in particular has helped you acquire your current position?

I was always proactive about becoming a better writer and science educator. I always made an effort to present my findings both at UCSD events as well as national conferences. I also served as a moderator for different research symposia and attended many different research presentations to experience the diverse presentation styles of scientists and physicians. If I ever came across a style or a feature that I thought was useful, I would adopt it in my own writing or presentation skills. 

5. Please list some of the most striking similarities and differences between your postdoc and current position?

Differences: I work on many different areas of science, not just cancer but also dermatology, neurology and immunology. I work well under 50 hours a week as opposed to the 50+ hours as a postdoc. At the end of the day, I have something to show for my work, which will be submitted to a client. The pay is close to twice as much. My coworkers have basic social skills and are all mature respectful and courteous adults.

Similarities: Scientific literature reading and writing. Thinking critically about molecular mechanisms and clinical trials.

6. Is there any specific challenge (during the entire process of transitioning) that you would like to highlight and, if so, how did you overcome it? 

Advocating for yourself and learning how to “sell” yourself.  I overcame many failures by repeatedly failing. Trial and error in a sense. I was also proactive about asking recruiters, interviewers and hiring managers about things that I could have done better to present myself and my experience in a more suitable fashion. I continued to fail until I finally succeeded due to persistence and being open to feedback and improvement.

7. Please describe your goals and ambitions for the next 5 years?

I want to continue in my current position as a medical writer for the next one to two years, and then transition to medical writer director or medical science liaison.

8. What do you feel you could have done more, as a postdoc, to help prepare you for or acquire your current position? 

Networking and getting more involved with clinical trials and pharmaceutical companies.

9. What do you feel is the most important advice you can give to a current UCSD postdoc in order for them to obtain a position such as yours? 

Start actively searching a year before you expect to leave. Make everyone that you think can help you aware of your goals, and don’t be shy and timid about it.