February 7, 2024, by Mei Kee Lee
Experience Sharing: Summer Internship at AstraZeneca Malaysia
By Denise Gan Wei Suan, who is currently a Year 3 BSc Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences student
Disclaimer: Everything I’ve mentioned in this article will be my words and my opinion and is not meant to represent any party including AstraZeneca, take it as a light-hearted read and I hope you would enjoy it!
Where did you do your summer internship? How long was it?
I completed my 3 months internship with AstraZeneca (AZ) in the Medical Affairs department, specifically the CVRM (Cardiovascular, Renal & Metabolism) division with a focus on Renal and Metabolism subdivision.
What did it involve?
In this role I’ve worked closely and shadowed Medical Scientific Liaison (MSL), Clinical Scientific Liaison (CSL) and Medical Affairs Managers (MA). The job scope for these roles is highly overlapped and correlated and the range of tasks are very wide for these roles.
First and foremost, I participated in national healthcare conferences such as the Malaysian Nephrology Society (MSN) National Congress, in which MSLs, CSLs and MAs, running a booth to attend to any medical related questions towards our brand and our products. This crucial role requires very high level of professional knowledge, and it was fruitful to observe my managers and colleagues interact and engage with healthcare professionals (HCP). I also had the opportunity to help out our Marketing department to give out flyers, share our upcoming events and also hold conversations with HCPs. On top of that, I attended the Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Masterclass organised by MSN in Kuantan. It was a long drive over and the session was tailored for doctors and specialists so I would definitely admit that I wasn’t able to capture and understand every part of the session, but it was a very fruitful experience, observing and learning from the people I met and engaged with there.
I’ve also done a lot of medical material review and research analysis and interpretation. The medical team is constantly taking turns to do presentation on new clinical trial publications. This presentation is known as a Journal Club presentation. I’ve done my final presentation on Effect of Dapagliflozin on Hospitalisations in CKD patients and Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) patients. Furthermore, I’ve also done medical material reviews throughout my internship, in which I am supposed to compare the materials prepared by medical writers to the original research papers, i.e. the references of the materials to ensure that the information and data entered is accurate.
One of the most interesting tasks I’ve encountered throughout this internship would definitely be contributing into 2 clinical studies. The first one being an established and ongoing study which is DISCOVER CKD which studies various measurements on CKD patients to provide more real-world insights for future medical practices and studies. I was assigned to compile, analyse and interpret the data received in this study for our internal viewing and reporting. The second study that I contributed in is not published as of date, hence I won’t be able to disclose the content of the study but I was able to participate in meetings with Principal Investigators (PI) and Study Coordinators to run through the protocol of the study and exchange ideas and suggestions with a group of experienced PIs and coordinators. It was ultimately a very insightful experience and definitely gave me great exposure to the insights of what happens behind a clinical study.
Last and definitely not the least, that one task that actually ended up being one of my best achievements throughout this internship which was the involvement in CKD CPG WebApp data analysis. The CKD CPG WebApp is a website that provides Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) for CKD in an engaging format. This app is a collaboration between MSN and AZ and I was assigned to compile, analyse and report the back-end data on this website in terms of registration, engagement and other relevant measures. It was a freshly developed website hence there was no established system on how to collect the insights on such data and no systemic approach on how to properly report the data analysed. I was assigned to do a monthly report on this data set and it is safe to say that I did spend a fair amount of time on this task but I did eventually came to a point where I’ve properly established a system and even wrote a guideline to handover this system to the next person in charge to continue this pipeline of systemic data compilation and reporting. I received an Ignite Award upon completion of my internship in recognition of my contribution in this task and I was beyond happy to have been recognized and awarded by my manager and my team lead. It was definitely a tedious and mundane task but it was all worth it in the end.
What did you find interesting throughout this experience?
One of my colleague came up with an interestingly accurate phrase to summarize her role and a CSL/MSL, which is that her job is to make friends and chat with various HCPs. It is indeed one of the main tasks for an MSL/CSL to actually go on fieldwork and visit various HCPs on a day to day basis, sometimes they do actually have a discussion or proposal to raise to the doctors but most times, they actually do not have an exact ‘purpose’ to visit the doctors. The logic behind these fieldwork is to engage and befriend the doctors so as to establish a relationship with the doctor or the hospital for the ease of their future jobs such as engaging speaker for Continuing Medical Education (CME) events or for congresses, engaging PIs for studies and many more. This was something that I did not expect and ultimately found very interesting when I tagged along to go on fieldworks.
How did the summer internship support your learning and future career development?
This summer internship gave me insights on what it’s like to work in an office-based medical role and definitely taught me several other useful skills such as data compilation and reporting which I find to be possibly useful for my final year project and of course, my future career prospect if I were to work in such roles. It also expanded my connection and horizon with all the colleagues that I met in AZ from various department and team. I managed to gain some insights on other roles as well such as marketing and sales that we work closely with. And lastly of course, I can now safely say that I have a decent amount of understanding in CKD and sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 inhibitors (SGLT2i).
What is one take home message you obtain from this experience?
I will definitely say that this internship experience has revealed to me there is much to learn in the medical field. Most of my colleagues were Ph.D. holders and some even hold an MBA degree. It was such an eye-opening experience engaging and talking to them and it definitely showed me that there’s still a lot of opportunity and experiences that I lack and need to work on. I don’t view this as a discouraging setback; instead, I see it as a source of motivation and a catalyst to push myself even harder to achieve greater heights.
What is your advice to current or prospective students on signing up for summer internships?
My advice would remain the same as the one I wrote in my previous article which is to just go for it! Summer break is definitely a long and precious period of time for students to go for internships and gain more industrial insights, medical or non-medical related. It is definitely important to explore and identify what you like and dislike in your future career options. It is important to realise that interns are always easily forgiven and tons of patience and guidance are given to interns so it’s the perfect time to learn and grow! If you work hard and show great performance throughout your internship, you might even be able to secure your job offer before graduation, giving you a great leap before your peers!