Skip to main content
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.

Developing Future MSL Leaders: Strategies for Mentorship and Upskilling

Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) serve as strategic assets in Medical Affairs who not only execute but also influence medical strategy through their unique blend of scientific expertise and external stakeholder engagement skills. To maximize their impact, it is crucial for Medical Affairs leadership to foster an environment conducive to continuous learning and leadership development. Here’s how to create a robust MSL development program that creates leaders and keeps them loyal to their team and company.

1. Tailored Mentorship Programs

Mentorship is a cornerstone of effective MSL development. Pairing experienced MSLs with newer team members can provide a structured pathway for professional growth and skill acquisition. These relationships help mentees navigate the complexities of the industry while gaining insights into strategic decision-making processes. Importantly, mentors serve as role models, exemplifying the blend of soft skills and technical knowledge necessary for success in the field.

2. Focus on Soft Skills Development

While MSLs are highly educated in their scientific fields, the soft skills required to effectively gather and disseminate medical insights are equally vital. These include relationship building, body language, conversational (ie, improvisation), dressing for success, congruence, storytelling, and information gathering, all of which are essential for building and maintaining strong relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and other stakeholders. Training programs should incorporate the value of Medical Insights compared to other forms of information, so the "why" is understood. Equipped with these skills, and understanding of why Insights are so important are the cornerstone of Medical Excellence.

3. Regular Training and Practice

Soft skills are actually pretty hard. They require initial training, but also constant practice because they are "perishable" skills. To ensure MSLs remain at the forefront of their field, encourage MSLs to practice their soft skills in their everyday life, that way it becomes natural during their MSL-HCP meetings. This will boost their credibility but also ensure they are well-practiced to discuss complex scientific topics in an engaging way.

4. Leadership Development Opportunities

To cultivate leadership within the MSL team, provide opportunities for MSLs to lead projects (ie, medical insights, investigator instantiated trial monitoring, expanded access initiatives) or initiatives that align with the company’s strategic objectives. These opportunities allow them to demonstrate and hone their leadership skills, decision-making capabilities, and ability to drive medical strategy. Over time, these experiences build a pipeline of talent who are ready to step into more significant roles within the organization.

5. Utilization of Advanced Tools and Resources

Incorporating advanced tools and resources, like the Medical Excellence Application, enables the MSL training and development programs. These tools facilitate a deeper understanding of the impact and value each MSL is providing to their organization through a qualitative metric. It provides MSLs and leadership with the data-driven feedback necessary to refine their strategies and approach. This turn-key integration of such technologies not only streamlines processes but also elevates the overall performance of the MSL team.

6. Feedback and Continuous Improvement

Finally, a culture of feedback and continuous improvement is vital for the ongoing development of MSLs. Regular assessments and feedback sessions help identify areas for improvement and success, fostering a proactive approach to professional development. Additionally, this culture encourages MSLs to continually assess their impact on the medical strategy and adapt to changing industry needs.

By implementing these strategies, Medical Affairs directors can ensure their MSL teams are not only well-prepared to handle the demands of their roles but are also evolving into future leaders capable of steering the company through the ever-changing medical landscape. Investing in robust mentorship and upskilling programs ultimately enhances the strategic value MSLs bring to the organization, ensuring sustained success and innovation in medical affairs.


Nicolas Georgiades

Published date

April 15, 2024