June 26, 2017

Considering Pharma? Check out the DIA 2017!

pharma reseracherLast year was a big year for pharma at the Doctor’s Crossing. Four of my clients landed great jobs in pharma and I attended the inspiring world-renowned pharmaceutical conference – The DIA Global (DIA – Drug Information Association).

One of my four clients had no prior pharma experience and she is now working happily as a Drug Safety Officer for a large pharmaceutical company. She is proof that you can get into pharma without having experience in clinical trials or research. 

In my on-going efforts to learn more about pharma, scout for opportunities for clients, and get a better feel for the community, I attended the DIA’s annual conference in Philadelphia last year. I was one of 6,454 participants and I loved every minute. There was an electricity in the air which I attributed to being amongst so many bright individuals who are passionate about improving the health of patients in profound ways. Before I share specifics about the conference, I want to give you an idea of positions open to physicians in pharma.

  1. Drug Safety Officer  (Pharmacovigilance)– involved with reported side effects from drugs, labeling, SAE’s (serious adverse events). Can include involvement in preclinical studies. clinical trials and post-market stages. Public education.
  1. Medical Monitor – advises on clinical trials, planning, and implementation. Monitors patients enrolled in trials for safety, side effects and suitability for study enrollment and completion.
  1. Clinical Trial Researcher – participates in and oversees clinical trial design and implementation. Actively involved in running trials and design.
  1. Medical Affairs Director– bridge between drug development, marketing, and public education. Involved with medical information, communication, launch and post-market strategies.
  1. Medical Science Liaison –a knowledge expert in a therapeutic area, develops relationships with KOL’s (Key Opinion Leaders) externally, resource for physicians in practice; educational and communications role. Frequent travel.
  1. Medical Writer– prepares regulatory documents, slide decks, scientific articles, white papers, covers scientific and medical conferences, etc.
  1. Regulatory Affairs Director – knowledgeable about FDA regulations, prepares and submits regulatory documents, negotiates for market authorization for drugs and devices, keeps informed regarding legislative changes.
  1. Health Economics and Outcomes Researcher (HEOR) – concerned with the cost-effectiveness of drugs and devices, value, as well as the impact of treatments on patients.

 For a more complete description of these positions for physicians, please click HERE. (Note – the job opening links are no longer active).

Click HERE specifically for the Medial Science Liaison.

Sameer Thapar (PharmD), Director of Global Pharmacovigilance for Oracle, and one of the speakers at the DIA, shared a simple way to think about the complex array of jobs in pharma. He said, “There are the Makers, the Sellers, and the Defenders.”  The Medical Affairs and Medical Science Liaison positions help to bridge these three areas (my addition).

When considering a transition to pharma, you may wonder whether or not you would miss patient care and if you’d feel like you were making a difference in a meaningful way.

Dr. Kelly Curtis, my former client who now works remotely as a Medical Director and Medical Monitor for INC Research said this about his transition, “I find non-clinical work very rewarding and feel like I make more of an impact on the future of oncology in this role than when I was in academia.” 

I personally know a pediatrician who works remotely for pharma and he does a few pedi-urgent care shifts a month to keep his clinical connection to patients.  Although maintaining some degree of patient care while working in pharma is not the norm, some doctors find ways to do this through volunteering, medical trips abroad, or attending in a teaching setting.

The satisfaction from helping an individual patient can shift to helping entire populations of patients. Dr. Larry Brilliant, who gave the DIA 2016 Keynote address, recounted his fascinating involvement in eradicating smallpox and his on-going efforts to prevent and treat blindness in millions of individuals in developing countries. You can read about his amazing life’s work intertwined with his spiritual journey in his hard-to-put-down new book, Sometimes Brilliant

Here are some of the Hot Topics on tap for DIA 2017:

  • Data/Big Data/eHealth – informatics, data integration, bioethics
  • Disruptive Innovation – innovative science, technology and therapies: stem cells, regenerative therapies, gene therapies
  • Medical Affairs – MSL (medical science liaison), medical writing, medical affairs roles throughout product lifecycle
  • Patient Engagement – patient-centric practices, advocacy, culture, tools
  • Safety – best practices, post-market safety considerations, monitoring
  • Regulatory – advertising and promotional laws, regulatory writing, document management, compliance
  • Special Populations – Rare diseases, pediatrics, women’s health, aging
  • Preclinical and Clinical Development – discovery, clinical research, recruitment, clinical trial data disclosure, outcomes, statistics
  • Value and Access – drug pricing, reimbursement, access, real world outcomes

For additional information on the Hot Topics for DIA 2017 please click HERE.

For the Agenda for the DIA 2017 please click HERE.

I particularly enjoyed a panel presentation on “Big Data” with oncologist Dr. Brad Hirsch, CEO at SignalPath Research. Dr. Hirsch continues to see patients as well as work in pharma in the areas of informatics, innovation and gene-based therapies. You can tell he loves caring for his patients, and also being at the cutting edge of finding cures for the cancers that threaten their lives.

If you’re considering pharma, attending the DIA will give you a deep dive into this area, as well as the chance to make helpful networking connections. And your attendance would be an undeniable indication to any hiring authority of your genuine interest in this career direction. This is just one of a number of ways to increase your chances to land a pharma job.

Even though my time at the DIA was beyond busy, especially since I made a point to network at all of the exhibitor booths (pens anyone?), I left energized and uplifted. Call me pollyanna, but I felt that I was among a large group of people who really care about giving patients the chance for healthier and longer lives.  As physicians, and as individuals with loved ones, we know personally how devastating having an untreatable condition is, or having a poor quality of life due to illness. Pharmaceuticals are, of course, only part of the answer to good health, but when nothing else works, the right drug is truly a miracle.

The DIA 2017 will be in Chicago, June 18 – 22. 






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Using Your Internal GPS for Career Change

Is your internal GPS telling you it’s time to change your career direction? Is it saying “Recalculate! Recalculate!” but leaving you stranded at the crossroads, failing to provide any further instruction?

If so, it can feel overwhelming, daunting, and confusing.



Uncertainty is uncomfortable. It’s natural to wish for some kind of roadmap to guide us through a process of change.

It makes sense that we feel this way. To become a physician, we had every step mapped out for us. Yes, it was quite a climb, but even Everest has a summit and there is one way up. If you don’t give up and make it to the top, you win. There is guaranteed employment, a career with status, and a paycheck.




There is a sense of security in such a well-trodden path where the finish line is visible before you even start. However, as our high physician burnout rates reveal, there is no guarantee of happiness. There is no certainty that the rules of engagement won’t change or that expectations will be met.

The shifting sand at the top of the seemingly sturdy staircase has left many considering other options. Instead of using the staircase that guided us, we now have to create our own path.

If we were wired like Lewis and Clark, we wouldn’t have gone into medicine. We’d be bushwhacking with Sacajawea by our side, discovering new lands – not practicing evidence based medicine.

But in spite of our predilections, we may find ourselves staring into a great expanse of non-clinical career terrain, wondering where even to take the first step?

Since we don’t have the prefab staircase outside of traditional practice, we have to use a different approach. Siri had the right idea. We need to use our internal GPS. We need to be able to listen to ourselves and hear our own guidance.

The connections may be a bit rusty if we’ve had to push down that inner voice in service of our career. It may take time to start hearing our true inner voice and what we need and want. When we start to listen, we might be confused by the presence of two voices, one coming from fear-based thinking (The False Self) and the other coming from trust-based thinking (The True Self). Here are some identifying characteristics to distinguish the two:

The False Self – fear-based and self-doubting

  • Sees problems rather than possibility
  • Jumps to the “What if’s” – what could go wrong
  • Is accompanied by anxiety
  • Sells your abilities short
  • Has to see all the steps before starting

The True Self – confident and trusting

  • Focuses on possibilities rather than problems
  • Is able to imagine success
  • Creates a sense of calm internally
  • Does not over or underestimate your abilities
  • Is comfortable taking steps without having all the answers

How do we turn up the volume on the True Self and mute the False self?

1. Start noticing anxious, fear-based thoughts. Write these down and note the frequency.
2. Look at the fears objectively and see if they make rational sense.
3. Take stock of all you have already accomplished and the challenges you have met.
4. Give yourself permission to accept whatever feelings you are having. Get curious about their origin, rather than judging them.
5. Practice mindfulness or meditation techniques to help quiet and train the mind so it is not so reactive.
6. Do things you enjoy and love. This will awaken the heart, which is part of the internal GPS
7. Believe in the value of your individual uniqueness. Embrace your path and don’t worry if it doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

Our Internal GPS = an awakened heart + rational, non fear-based thinking

To get started on your career transformation, you don’t need to enter a specific destination into your GPS. You can start with a commitment you make to yourself. It can be a simple statement such as:

“I want to enjoy my work.”

“I want my work to be fulfilling.”

“I want to have quality family time.”

“I want to make a difference in a way that is meaningful.”

“I want to use my creativity.”

“I want to use my brain more and be challenged.”

Your internal GPS will start to work on the initial steps, and as you gain more clarity, keep refining the destination. Staircase or no staircase, it’s OK to “recalculate” so you end up in the right place – for you.

Thanksgiving Wishes To You

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To my dear clients and readers,

I send my sincere wishes that this time of Thanksgiving be a very special one for you and your loved ones.

I am immensely grateful for your support, your contributions to this blog, for the hard work you do, and your commitment to making this world a better place.

May you enjoy good company, good food, peace in your heart and a joy that is forever yours.

Blessings to you,

Heather Fork and The Doctors Crossing






Valentine’s Day Post: Why I Love My Work


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More often than not, when I’m working with a client, I hear a little voice in my head.  The voice whispers sweetly to me, “I really love this – I could do this forever!”

And it’s true – I love my work.  I feel very fortunate to be able to say this and have a career that is so fulfilling.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I thought this would be a good time to speak about why I love my job.

Why do I love my work?  It would be nice if I could have written a poem – something better than, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I love my job and let me help you…” But since that is quite pitiful, let me leave poetry to the poets, and share a few of the many reasons why I love being a coach:

1. AMAZING CLIENTS: I work with wonderful, bright, creative people who want to make changes in their lives.  Everyone has unique talents and I have the chance to help my clients use their gifts in ways that are most meaningful to them.  I don’t see how this could ever get old.

2. PROFOUND CHANGES:  Instead of just “rearranging furniture,” my clients make very profound changes. Some of the changes are obvious and external.  Others are the kind no one sees, the more internally based changes, but the effects can be huge.

3. HAPPIER LIVES:  When clients first start coaching, they are often unhappy, confused and uncertain how to proceed.  Before very long however, goals become clarified and a compelling path takes shape. It is very rewarding for me to be able to see someone’s life improve within in a relatively short time period.

4. SWEET SPOT:  While I liked dermatology, I love coaching and feel that I get to use my natural abilities and interests much more in my current work.  I have found my professional “sweet spot.” Because of this, I feel I can help inspire others to know this is possible for them as well.

Since my clients are from all over the US, I often do not have the pleasure of personally meeting them. I have this fantasy that in 5 years I am going to rent an RV and do a “client tour” of the US, going from state to state so I can meet everyone and celebrate their accomplishments in person.  Maybe I will rent a bus and folks can join in with me on the tour.  It may not be exactly like Willie Nelson’s tour bus, but it could be a lot of fun!

So it is with a happy heart that I’d like to take this chance to wish each and everyone one of you, a very HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!  And a special THANK YOU to all of you who have given me the great honor to work with you.


The Flying Trapeze: Facing Fears and Raising The Bar

trapeeze pixabay

In an impulsive moment,  I purchased a 2 for 1 Groupon deal for a Flying Trapeze lesson.  Part of me was excited and another part was scared.  The expiration date was getting closer and I had not booked the lesson yet.  I could just let that coupon expire and no one would know.  But although I had fear, I also hated wasting money.   So I called up my friend Misa to see if she would come with me.  Before I could yell “Tarzan” we were in trapeze class.  Ahhhhhhhh!

After a few basic instructions, we were cinched in safety belts so tight it was hard to breathe.  (Could this explain my light-headedness?)  Before I could think of a plausible exit strategy, I was up on the platform –way, way up in the air – holding on for dear life.  Russell (who used to be in the circus) was clipping me into the safety lines.  He told me once you are up on that platform, there is only one way down.  My mouth was getting really dry, and I had just inhaled a bunch of the white chalk powder we were supposed to put on our hands.  Now was not a good time to have a choking fit.

Russell started yelling out commands:

“Right hand on the bar! Left hand on the bar!  Lean forward!  Raise the bar high above your head! Squeeze your buns!


I didn’t move.  Was he talking to me?

“Jump!”  OK.  I guess he meant me.

I jumped.  And whoosh – I was flying through the air!

But this was no time for a jungle cry.  Russell was yelling again.

“Knees up!  Hook your legs. Hands off!”

All my attention was focused on hearing the commands and trying to respond as fast as possible.  Timing is everything in the trapeze.  If you do the moves at the proper time, the momentum carries you through and very little strength is involved.  Miss the timing by a few seconds and you are fighting against a huge force.  Once I was in the air, there was no time to be scared and no mental space to be anywhere else but in the moment.

“Reach forward! Look up!”

And there I was, being caught by one of the other instructors swinging upside down on her own bar!

I was kind of stunned – not really sure how it had all happened – a grateful ball of relief and exhilaration.

The second time was much easier.  I knew I was not going to die, and worst case scenario, there was the safety net.  The third and the fourth times were actually fun.

After doing this scary thing I could feel a power surge that was not only physical, but mental and emotional as well.  It made me want to “raise the bar” – so to speak – in my own life.  I wanted to do more, to be more, to experience more.  I was already thinking about what I could do next to stretch myself.

I see something similar happening in my clients as they face the inevitable fears that come with setting goals and expanding in new directions.  As the roadblocks of fear are pushed away, I see them discovering new talents, taking risks, living more fully and spreading wings that have been folded up.

Flying on a trapeze is fantastically exhilarating.  Seeing my clients soaring to new heights in their own lives is even better.

To see a short video clip of me on the flying trapeze, click here, and of my friend Misa, click here.