Nerissa Kreher MD, MBA has always been true to herself, and that has kept her focused when it comes to career decisions. Her patience, and a restraint that has kept her from jumping at every job offer she has received over the years, has certainly paid off. She loves her position as Global Head of Clinical and Medical Affairs at Zafgen, a biopharmaceutical company. When doctors find out what she does for a living, she is typically flooded with requests for information about how she got her job. Dr. Kreher generously shares her experiences as well as her tips and advice for other doctors who want to work in the pharmaceutical industry.
Even when she was still a resident in Pediatrics, Nerissa Kreher knew that she wanted to focus on clinical research. She completed a Master’s Degree in clinical research as part of an NIH grant during her pediatric endocrinology fellowship. Then, she stayed on as junior faculty for one year, while also interviewing for jobs because her husband, who was finishing up his residency, was in the process of interviewing for a fellowship position.
But finding what she wanted- a clinical research job- was not easy. And this is where her perseverance and dedication to clinical research came in to play. As many doctors know, clinical research positions are few and far between in comparison to full time patient care positions. Things were falling into place and Dr. Kreher was set to move for her husband’s fellowship, pleased that she received an offer for a clinical research position in the same city. Until it fell through. She was offered an alternative position at the same hospital with 80% clinical time. This would give her no funding or time for research, which was what she really wanted. She was disappointed, and continued looking for the right fit, applying at another local hospital. She was offered a position there too, but again, not for the type of work she wanted to do.
At this point, networking and friendships served her well. A pharmaceutical representative, who was also a friend, encouraged her to send a resume to Serono, a pharmaceutical company. This time, the job worked out. She explains that she felt lucky to receive an offer for a position that was in line with what she had in mind all along. The position was Medical Director in Medical Affairs for the company’s recombinant human growth hormone product. She has worked in industry for over ten years now, having worked at several companies, both small and larger biotech, focusing on rare diseases and endocrinology. She also managed to get an MBA along the way, which was supported by one of the companies.
One of the approaches that Dr. Kreher has taken throughout her industry career is to concentrate on both medical affairs and clinical development, areas that are sometimes separated in the pharmaceutical industry. She explains that combining the two has been a good move for her, helping her to advance and to keep her options broad.
She encourages doctors who are interested in working in the pharmaceutical industry to network and to be creative with networking, She suggests connecting with people who have business experience and with medical directors and recruiters as a way to learn about the industry and as a way to build relationships and to make your name known, which can put you one step ahead. She explains that there are positions for doctors in several facets of industry. Medical Science Liason (MSL) positions usually require travel, but make it possible to live anywhere. Office based roles are more likely to be on-site, and are more available in major pharma and biotech regions such as New York City, New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego and North Carolina. And there are contracting roles from home, which can expand potential options.
Dr. Kreher has been happy with her industry career, loves her job and describes her day-to-day work as intellectually challenging in a different way every day.
Nerissa Kreher MD, MBA is a pediatric endocrinologist and Global Head of Clinical and Medical Affairs at Zafgen. You may direct questions for Dr. Kreher here.
Physician Success Stories