Professor Ronald Dahl at GSK House

From academia to the pharmaceutical industry – one year on

Professor Ronald Dahl recently joined GSK as a Global Medical Expert in the GSK Global Respiratory Franchise. Here he talks about his career journey one year on and how the pharmaceutical industry continues to evolve.

Through a lifetime of our professional career we all go through evolutions, revolutions or sometimes set-backs.  We make many choices about our career paths – it is inevitable that we make these choices in the moment and only in hindsight do we fully understand the reality of how those career choices play out.  

I joined GSK as a Global Medical Expert in December 2015, as part of their new internal scientific faculty of respiratory experts. I joined after a long journey in clinical respiratory medicine, based mostly in Denmark. With all the congresses and international travel that comes with the profession, I felt like it was time to make a change.  I felt I had had a productive academic career and had contributed to a wide range of areas, working in everything from clinical and experimental medicine in allergy to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It was time for a new challenge.

Looking back, I’m pleased to say I saved the best for last.

Working with the pharmaceutical industry

I have always worked closely with the pharmaceutical industry as a speaker, member of advisory boards or investigator in research programs and clinical trials. The industry is constantly changing and now more than ever there are increasing needs for new demands on knowledge and understanding about respiratory disease in real time. Our connection with the wider academic world and healthcare professionals is as important as ever.  

This growing demand for unbiased, independent and honest information about diseases and their treatment in real time is a challenge to the pharmaceutical industry and one that we are working on improving. Large amounts of scientific data are generated by the industry, and it must of course be communicated and discussed with the healthcare professionals in clinical and academic positions, to set the knowledge into practical and scientific perspective and viability. This makes communication of our data key and this is in part where I come into play with my colleagues.

It was revitalizing to have demands of new ways of communicating, knowledge and understanding

As part of the changes GSK has made to its operating model and the announcement to stop paying healthcare professionals to speak about medicines and vaccines on the company’s behalf, a number of new roles were created within the business.

My role is to communicate and discuss the data in a non-promotional way with healthcare professionals and academics to help understanding around respiratory disease and our medicines that are available.

It is exciting to be part of a team of extraordinary calibre

It was revitalizing to have demands of new knowledge and understanding about respiratory disease. It is exciting to be part of a team of an extraordinary calibre, using both traditional ways of communication as well as new technologies such as webinars and e-learning.

Digital technology – it gives new opportunities for dialogue

By bringing the healthcare world together digitally we are able to share real time information about respiratory disease management when it’s most convenient for individuals - this will hopefully have a positive impact on those using this technology and introduce new skills and experiences to help with personal development.

For me personally, it has been fantastic to have a real time connection with colleagues and academics thousands of miles away, with excellent exchange of thoughts and discussions. And that this can happen without spending time and money with days on travel. The quality of transmission from webcams has improved and the good quality of audio and video make distant learning and communication an everyday activity. Society is functioning with higher speed because of this. I have seen that errors are corrected much faster, and that learning can be much more personal and relevant. These factors in the end improve patient safety and proper interventions.

What took years to disseminate is now happening in weeks

Sometimes we are familiar with developments even before they are available in practice. As an example I can mention that the clinical value of treatment with a new biopharmaceutical was familiar to a large part of practitioners long before the launch of the actual drug was available. This set a demand on both the sender and the receiver. We must make it a natural thing for all colleagues, healthcare professionals and academics to receive digital information, to ensure they don’t get left behind.

From my viewpoint GSK has provided me an environment where my insights are wanted and appreciated in research and development, and especially in education and communication of practical skills and information to my colleges.  I am surrounded by leadership, administrative and support staff of the best thinkable intentions to continue a good workplace.

Professor Ronald Dahl is a Global Medical Expert at GSK. He previously worked as Professor of Respiratory Diseases at Aarhus University Denmark and as Professor at the Allergy Centre, at Odense University Hospital and University of Southern Denmark, and now is adjungated professor at these institutions.