Mary Pinder-Schenck MD went from being a busy academic oncologist to developing clinical research infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa. A clinical research director at Glaxo Smith Kline, she started as an oncologist specialized in lung cancer. For 6 years after her fellowship training, she was extremely busy with patient care and tried to squeeze in clinical research projects – with scarce support in terms of funding, clerical help and administrative staffing. A successful doctor and a mom of 2 young boys, she had a breakthrough moment when she couldn’t make it to a party at her son’s school- a party that was very important to him and that most other parents were able to get to. She realized that since she wasn’t doing as much research as she wanted to do and since she wasn’t available at home as much as she would have liked, that she wanted to make a change.
Recognizing that she held an esteemed and valued position, and having developed strong years-long relationships with many of her patients, she carefully and meticulously looked for a job at pharmaceutical companies that she had worked with, waiting to find something that was really right for her.
She did find the perfect fit. She found a job at Glaxo Smith Kline, working on funding research projects and helping emerging researchers in sub Saharan Africa build the capacity for clinical drug testing, with the plan of developing new drugs to treat chronic diseases endemic to the region. Her day-to-day work involves reading research proposals, meeting with investigators, training researchers and teaching the facilities how to ensure quality in clinical trials. She schedules Skype meetings to stay in contact and doesn’t travel often, but has a trip to Uganda coming up to visit a research site. She loves her new work culture, explaining that is ‘normal’ to work regular hours and that her colleagues, male and female, acknowledge that everyone need work-life balance.
Dr. Pinder-Schenck says that is was tough for her to leave her patients and describes some of her patients as being anxious about what would happen to their own health care once she was no longer their doctor. But after she had developed such a caring rapport with her patients over the years, they were sad to see her leave, but supportive of her new opportunity and the fact that her new job would give her more time to spend with her family.
Dr. Pinder-Schenck says that the medical students and residents are not aware of the multitude of jobs available in the pharmaceutical industry. She explains that there are jobs for all specialties, including primary care and anesthesia, not just specialties that use complex medications in patient care, like oncology. There are even positions for doctors who do not consider themselves ‘research people.’ Jobs are listed on the career page of pharmaceutical company websites and recruiters are always looking for doctors to fill a variety of roles. In fact, Dr. Pinder-Schenck advises that once you start applying to jobs or contacting recruiters, you should be ready for many interviews, so she suggests waiting to make that initial contact until you are really ready to make the move.
Physician Success Stories