Community Spotlight

What’s In a Name? The Medical Science Liaison Community Is on the Move

Lynn Bass
Medical Science Liaisons, Americas
Santen, Inc.


he Medical Science Liaison, the MSL, or the Field Medical Team? Regardless of the title, the critical role this function serves within both Medical Affairs and Research and Development (R&D) teams across the pharmaceutical industry is becoming more evident with each passing year.

Our DIA MSL Community demonstrated that 2018 was no exception as we witnessed continuing expansion of current MSL teams, along with the appearance of new teams across the industry.

In years past, MSLs have served as a bridge of communication between R&D/Medical Affairs teams and both their internal and external stakeholders. However, the emergence of sophisticated science drugs with complex and even unknown mechanisms of action have increasingly demonstrated the need for MSL team expansions.

To meet the needs of both new and tenured MSLs, the DIA’s MSL Community once again sponsored a successful 2.5-day track within the Medical Affairs and Scientific Communications (MASC) Forum in March 2018. In year five of the stand-alone MSL track, a core team of industry leaders developed a robust program covering a wide range of topics, including positive disruption within the MSL role, gathering medical and scientific insights, regulatory changes and updates, appropriate metrics for MSL teams, and other topics relevant to the MSL role.

In addition to the topics above, one discussion that is often raised within the DIA’s MSL Community of experts is the approach to training for MSLs. In other words, does the role require a set of ‘standard skillsets,’ or is there a need for further credentialing? Currently, there is no governmental or industry requirement for an MSL to be officially certified in specific MSL skills. Those of us who have been in the industry for decades realize that we learn daily from each other and from a variety of sources, such as thought leaders and healthcare professionals we interact with daily, assigned mentors and MSL trainers at our respective companies, shared best practices, as well as through our own self-educational efforts.

The DIA and the MSL Community at DIA offer a variety of opportunities to support MSL continuing education efforts, both through our live and virtual meetings as well as with a new eLearning program specific to MSLs new in their role, which was launched in 2018. The eLearning program is unique in that it was developed by MSLs currently employed within the role specifically for MSLs. As a self-paced program, the curriculum provides individuals with a certificate of completion from DIA, which is recognized both across the industry and around the globe.

As we approach 2019, the MSL Community is working diligently to once again bring several programs to the community, the first of which will be our live 2.5-day MSL track at MASC19. The program will be held in March in Orlando, FL, and we hope to see many of our colleagues from across the industry. 2019 promises to be another exciting year for the MSL Community at the DIA!


“The annual DIA MSL Forum gathers industry medical affairs MSL leaders who provide a current snapshot of real-time issues MSLs are facing. The program provides education around developing regulatory trends, providing opportunities to dialogue with industry and regulatory experts. It is excellence and cutting edge in real time.”

Kathleen Guindon, Director

Medical Science Liaison Team at Puma Biotechnology, Inc.

“The 2018 DIA MASC meeting provided an excellent opportunity to network with MSL Leadership, MSLs, and those associated with Medical Communications, and to review best practices, current issues, and practical considerations that impact the MSL role. The information presented at this meeting is always non-biased and relevant. Having attended DIA meetings over the last 15 years, I always look forward to learning the latest trends and applying pearls that I can only get from DIA.”

Ed Cunningham, Senior Director

Neurology Medical Science Liaison Team Lead, Sunovion