What makes an engaging Medical Science Liaison in the current environment?



Following lockdown measures put in place during the pandemic, all communication with Key Opinions Leaders (KOL) has had to undergo a transformation. Face-to-face interactions were, and will likely always, remain a more effective means for building relationships; however, the convenience of virtual channels now requires MSLs to demonstrate an unprecedented aptitude for remote communication skills.

So, how does the MSL of today remain engaging and maintain valuable relationships with KOLs?

Jeffery Vaughan, PharmD, Director of Field Medical Science at Ashfield Engage recently weighed in on this topic with The MSL Society in their July publication of The MSL Journal. Jeff’s role with Ashfield Engage and his career in Field Medical have shaped an innovative perspective on how to approach this wave of MSL demand against the new digital landscape.


In the article, Jeff shares his perspective on this influx of demand for MSLs, “Essentially, the pharmaceutical industry has grown to have a deeper appreciation for transparency and the value it offers to influencers, prescribers, and patients. In this regard, MSLs offer candid, transparent discussions on the science behind the medicines to Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs).” It’s about making influencers feel comfortable and confident via data and scientific discussion, rather than digesting linear marketing messages that lack dimensional dialogue.

To achieve this, the MSL profile has shifted from hard focus on medical and scientific knowledge to favoring the soft skills an MSL can leverage in a conversation. Making connections improves trust, which in-turn, improves the dialogue and relationship between MSLs and KOLs. It’s a simple concept, but moves away from a traditional expectation of this role.

Jeff goes on to say, “Having an advanced degree or coming from a clinical background doesn’t always translate into being a good presenter and conversationalist. Rather, successful MSLs need to be able to showcase their personality, their transparency, their likability and have their presentation and listening skills fine-tuned in order to present in a way that sounds genuine, not rehearsed or read from a slide deck.

And as the industry shifts toward innovative ways to track and understand impact through AI and digital technologies, Jeff does not expect a movement to replace human interactions. Rather, AI is a support tool that enables better human connections. By speeding up the interpretation of insights, medical teams can quickly align the right messaging for their MSLs to provide meaningful and relevant information to their KOLs.

Want to learn more?

Ashfield Engage provides global MSL programs, with access to experts in every therapeutic area. Find out more about MSLs in our Medical Affairs specialist area.

Find out more about MSLs

Connect with an expert

To find out more about our strategic engagement services, get in touch with our expert team. We’re always happy to help.

Click here to get in touch