Director, Medical Science Liaison
Like so many of you, we at Acadia are sheltering in place as we confront COVID-19. We’re also still hiring. Before the pandemic, we spoke with Niccole about her work at Acadia. While life looks a bit different right now, we think it’s valuable for you to hear her story as you consider joining our team.
Because of what we’re doing. As a medical science liaison, I’m primarily focused on scientific education and research related to Parkinson’s disease psychosis. It’s my job to make sure the medical community is well educated and has the tools, resources, and answers they need to help find more solutions for a disease that, as of now, doesn’t have very many. So while our days are definitely fast-paced, it’s totally worth it because we’re working hard to improve people’s lives.
I think the biggest challenge is maintaining focus. Not on the tactical day-to-day stuff, but on a higher, “Why are we here? Why are we even in this business?” type of way. As medical science liaisons, we have to be receptive to feedback from the medical community—which is not always positive—while staying focused on the good we’re doing for the Parkinson’s community.
And we have a great team that helps us keep this focus. I’m lucky to be surrounded by amazing people that have the same focus, the same goals, and the same objective. We rely on each other and keep each other focused, moving forward, and feeling well-supported. We come from various backgrounds, but we’re all experienced, and we understand what our team needs to be successful. If our team succeeds, the individuals succeed. The key is to always stay focused on the patients and their caregivers—and everything else will fall into place.
Acadia doesn’t say “no” right away. They’re open to big ideas. They like being innovative. They really take pride in expanding the knowledge base and filling in the gaps. I’ve worked in a couple of startups and larger pharmaceutical companies before, so I know Acadia’s unique. They don’t mind taking on challenges so long as it’s the right thing to do to advance the therapeutic space we’re in.. And they encourage that kind of thinking from their employees.
I’m excited about a lot of things, but right now, I think it’s the expansion. We have this opportunity to create a culture that reflects who we are and who we want to be. A culture full of people who are hungry to fill in gaps—and who are really focused on education. There’s a real lack of education in the community and in the healthcare space along many different lines related to Parkinson’s disease psychosis. There’s a lot the community still doesn’t understand about this disease, whether that’s the care partners who manage the patient’s day-to-day care or the healthcare professionals responsible for treating them. The prospect of adding people to our team who are interested in providing education at all levels and filling in knowledge gaps is exciting. We have a real opportunity here, not only to build out Acadia’s culture, but also to become the authority on a lot of neurodegenerative diseases as a result.
After the pandemic hit, we caught up with Niccole to talk about life and work during these challenging times.
As a medical science liaison (MSL), I’ve always worked from home. But my fellow MSLs and I used to do a lot of traveling—to conferences, hospitals, universities. We’re holding meetings and conferences virtually, but we’re missing those unplanned interactions: we can’t run into key opinion leaders and start conversations, or even just check in and see how they’re doing. That’s been the biggest challenge so far.
Interestingly enough, though, the restriction has pushed things forward in other areas of my work. Telemedicine, for example, was not familiar to many healthcare professionals, but now it’s one of the main forums for providing care. So Acadia has been developing tools and best practices, and working with all sides—physicians as well as patients and caregivers—to make sure telemedicine is as effective as possible.
We’ve also developed newsletters on topics related to dementia and Parkinson’s to keep our networks updated on the latest research. We’ve sourced whatever literature is out there around COVID to share, too. So we’re still engaging in a scientific way, and we’re continuing to meet new key opinion leaders—we’re just adapting how we reach people.
Acadia instituted a COVID task force really early on, much earlier than a lot of the work-from-home policies were put into place. They were clearly monitoring the situation, and they’ve updated us on their thinking at every step of the way, along with being open to any suggestions or comments that we’ve had.
I’ve also been impressed by how seriously Acadia has taken our social responsibility. They’ve extended the work-from-home policy into early September; that may seem extreme, but many of my colleagues are still not comfortable with going back into the field. I know several pharmaceutical companies are trying to resume normal business, but Acadia decided that it’s not worth the risk—for the patients, for us, for everyone. I feel incredibly well-supported and valued, and I think the whole team feels the same. I felt that well before COVID, but it’s another example of how this company makes ethical decisions, and just how much they value their employees.