Mayasah, a pharmacist with a PhD, shares why the twists and turns of her career led her on a path to medical writing, the people that helped her along the way, and where she is now.Virginia Chachati – Editor at Write Clinic
Searching for a career path can be a challenging process, especially after completing a high level of education and achieving significant success.
Despite obtaining a PhD, I found myself feeling lost and struggling to find a career that truly excited and fulfilled me. Unfortunately, my job-searching journey has been very tough due to living abroad. Whenever I apply for a job, I receive the same answer:
“we don’t hire internationals” or “we don’t provide visa sponsorship”
It All Started at A Young Age
Ever since I was a small girl, I always wanted to study pharmacy not to work as a pharmacist but to be a pharmacy lecturer due to my love for teaching and medications. Thus, I started teaching on a small scale, which means teaching my friends and colleagues.
I found great joy in reading scientific books and simplifying the information for others. I was getting positive feedback about my writing and teaching skills from my peers.
After some time, my notes became an essential resource for certain subjects, like medicinal chemistry and toxicology, and even the university’s bookshop requested copies to be made available for junior students in the coming years.
As I progressed in my academic journey, my passion for writing increased, particularly after starting my master’s journey at UCSI University, where my first task was to write a research proposal – my first step into the world of scientific and medical writing.
Breaking the Ice of Fear
Writing a research proposal was not an easy task back then since I was not yet familiar with the process of conducting a literature review and citing reliable references. Thankfully, my supervisor recognised my struggles and offered to help me improve my writing skills by inviting me to contribute to a book chapter he was working on.
In the beginning, I hesitated to accept his offer because I felt underqualified, but my mother and sister (who are always my number-one supporters) encouraged me to accept the opportunity. When the book was eventually published, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment since it was my first published work.
It gave me the confidence to believe that I can write scientific books/articles and become a qualified author by continuously working to improve my writing skills.
Evaluating Career Options
As a postgraduate student, I found myself immersed in the world of research, reading, writing, and publishing. Increasing my citation score was crucial in becoming a recognisable researcher, and serving as a peer reviewer was a great way to expand my knowledge and network.
Through my postgraduate studies, I gained extensive experience in writing, editing, proofreading, peer reviewing, and publishing. As I approached the end of my studies, I had to ask myself the important question:
“What career path do I want to follow?”
After evaluating my options, I found that working as a pharmacist wasn’t applicable to me since I live in a foreign country where foreigners are not allowed to work as pharmacists. I also was not interested in working in a community or hospital pharmacy. Similarly, working as a university lecturer did not fit me well.
I worked as a teaching assistant for three years. I loved the job for the first year, but then I realised that teaching is routine work where I have to teach the same subject to different students, so my passion was vanishing with time till I lost interest in teaching.
Then I explored the option of shifting into the pharmaceutical industry, where my experience in conducting research made me a suitable candidate. However, the limited availability of pharmaceutical companies in my area made the path of becoming an R&D (research and development) scientist difficult for me at present.
Getting into Medical Writing
Following the PhD, my thinking was limited to the three above mentioned career options till I was introduced to Virginia Chachati. She asked me about my interest in medical writing and offered me the opportunity to join her medical writing group. At that time, I wasn’t aware that medical writing is an actual profession, and I was excited to explore this new career option.
Starting a career in medical writing can be a challenging feat for many aspiring writers. Among the main challenges that every medical writer faces in their early career are finding job opportunities or clients and determining the appropriate rate that reflects the quality of their work. I experienced this firsthand as I struggled to secure a job as a medical writer, in addition to other obstacles such as the geographic location, even when applying for remote work.
However, I did not let this discourage me from pursuing my dream career. Instead, I joined a health tech company as an intern medical writer, even though it was an unpaid position. The experience has been incredibly helpful in enhancing my skills and learning new types of medical writing, and I am hopeful that it will lead to a job opportunity in the near future.
Starting a career in medical writing can be a challenging but rewarding journey. By being persistent, continuously improving your skills, and seeking out opportunities to gain experience, you can overcome the challenges and build a successful career in this exciting field.
About the author
Thank you Mayasah Al-Nema for sharing your story! Connect with Mayasah Al-Nema on LinkedIn.