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  • Writer's pictureEmma Iovoli

Are we still true to our purpose?

Why did you join a pharmaceutical company? Was it to escape the pressures of the front lines of the healthcare system, or was it because you believed that you could make a difference?

I remember writing an article in BMJ careers around the time I switched careers from clinician academic to MSL. I fiercely justified the choice I made, confident that I could act as the ethical voice for the organisation and impact public health at scale for the rest of my career.

Over a decade later, I realised that I had failed utterly in my mission. I had been caught up in organisational politics, commercial strategies and business acronyms. I talked about patient centricity, but did not really know what that meant. I had the posture of a medical leader, but I usually did what I was told. I believed I had the power to change things, but spent a lot of time agreeing with people around me.

Yet as medical affairs leaders, we do have far more power than we give ourselves credit for. Through our wide network of established relationships we can influence not only the pharmaceutical company itself, but also the wider healthcare system. So why don't we?

Right now there are two huge movements happening in healthcare. One is the process of system wide decarbonisation, within the healthcare sector itself and across the pharmaceutical industry. Every unit of carbon saved also improves public health globally, especially for the world’s most vulnerable communities and neighbourhoods. The other is an increasing focus on health equity. Medical affairs naturally sit at the intersection of both of these movements and are well positioned to create huge system wide impact.

So what is stopping us? Have we got lost in business bureaucracy? Or are we still holding true to our original purpose?

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