University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy alum Dean Bowen (PharmTox ’16, PharmD ’20) returned to the School to share his career journey as a medical science liaison with PharmD students in the School’s student chapter of the Industry Pharmacists Organization. We caught up with him to learn what it means to be a medical science liaison, reminisce about fond memories from his time at the School, and hear what else is keeping him busy. Watch the full interview or read the transcript below.
Hi, my name is Dean Bowen and I’m a University of Wisconsin Doctor of Pharmacy alumni from the Class of 2020, and I’m currently a medical science liaison (MSL). A medical science liaison is the medical and scientific expert from the pharmaceutical company that meets with health care providers in the area. So we get to partner with a lot of the top thought leaders, in my case being neurologists, and be able to engage them in scientific discussions, work on them with clinical trials and new research, and ultimately try to bring new therapies to patients.
What I find about the role so interesting is I truly get to work with some of the smartest people in the world in the therapeutic area. There’s doctors I’ve met that I’ve never would have dreamed of meeting, you know, five years ago, and being an MSL is so unique and interesting because, you know, we’re bringing them new information and science when it comes to the drug development, but they’re also providing us insights of what is needed still. You know, where can patient care be improved, what is needed when it comes to the diagnosis of the disease to new therapeutics. Really, what can we do, how can we partner to help patients.
How did the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy help you to be successful?
I’ve worked with a lot of great people at the School of Pharmacy. I think first going back to the Shark Tank, working with Dr. Beth Martin and George Zorich; they were just phenomenal people and learned so much through them. Also, people that I did research with, such as Dr. Kevin Look. We worked on some review articles together. And then also Dr. [Amanda] Margolis, I was able to work with her on the Journal of the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin and also the drug literature and evaluation and class.
And then going back to when I was really young, even the PharmTox program, everyone in that program was top-notch and really set me up well to have success in the PharmD program with everyone that was involved in PharmTox. I think it goes back to the importance of networking because, you know, it’s just like a beat-it-over-the-head-with-you school, and you don’t realize the importance of it. But when it comes to your professional career, like, networking and friends are so important for your next job, or your job, you know, 10 years from now, you don’t really realize it when you’re a student. But once you get out into the field and you’re connecting with former classmates and friends, you get to see what they’re doing and what opportunities come up. It allows you to get involved with new jobs, new opportunities. And pharmacy’s a small world.
As a medical science liaison covering Wisconsin, I meet with some of my former classmates because they’re specialty pharmacists and they’re working on the MS product. So I meet with former classmates in a professional sense as well too.
Why did you choose the pharmaceutical industry?
So one of my former roommates from undergrad, he was in pharmacy school a couple of years above me. There was a previous Madison graduate who was a fellow that came back to campus to speak about their fellowship program. And he gave me the brochure and he said, “I think this is something you’d really like.” I was still in the PharmTox program at the time, and so I just started going to the industry pharmacy organization meetings, connecting with current pharmacy students that were interested in industry, and then started doing my own research as to what opportunities were available.
So it was something that, you know, I didn’t really didn’t know existed at the time. But then once I learned more about it and all that you can do with a PharmD in the pharmaceutical industry, I knew that was the, the route I wanted to pursue.
I think the diversity of the roles that you could have — you can work in regulatory, where you’re liaising with the FDA and other regulatory agencies, you can work in medical affairs, where you’re creating scientific information and communicating with health care providers about the newest scientific data, and then also, you know, clinical development as well. So I always knew I could jump into different roles throughout my career. I think that was really appealing to me, also, really, the flexibility I enjoyed as well. Being able to travel and worked with top opinion leaders too was something that was really exciting and to be really involved with the up and coming research and you know, the next thing that hit the market and it’s really exciting because there’s so much investment into new products and you know, that’s a great thing for patients because, you know, there’s a lot of very smart people working very hard to bring new therapeutics to the market and pharmacists can have a very pivotal role throughout that process through all the different stages of the drug development process.
If you weren’t working in the pharmaceutical industry, what do you think you’d be doing?
I love sports, really into sports. So I grew up a big Badger fan, big Packer fan. I’m from Chicago area originally, so a lot of my friends make fun of me, saying I pick and choose my sports teams because I’m a Cubs fan. So I love going to sporting events, was at a Badger game a few weeks ago. So I’d probably be a sports coach, maybe even more on the analytic side. You know, baseball is an analytical sport, football as well. So I think I would be doing something like a football coach, baseball coach.
I love, you know, giving back and working with students and kids, too. So I think that would be a fun job to have.
What else are you busy with?
I have a big, fun family. Next summer, we actually have three weddings, so I’m getting married, my brother’s getting married and one of my stepsisters is getting married, too. So next summer will be a lot of fun for us.