Dr Marie McKenzie-Mills

Applied Biology (Biochemistry & Human Physiology) 1980

Medical Information Professional supporting healthcare professionals in the NHS.

Marie McKenzie-Mills 680

Tell us in more detail what your role entails, what challenges you currently face, and how you are finding ways to cope.

For the past twenty-four years I’ve used my specialist skills and knowledge to provide Medical Information Services on behalf of pharmaceutical industry clients to NHS healthcare professionals (HCPs) i.e. doctors, nurses and pharmacists. The work involves giving accurate and up to date information about licensed medicines to help HCPs make decisions in the best interests of their patients. 

In the last few weeks, I’ve addressed questions that concern the welfare of patients with mental illness who’ve either contracted COVID-19, or who are afraid they might. Even at the best of times, HCPs need reliable and pertinent medical Information to support patients with mental illness, so now more than ever, we need to reassure HCPs that we’re ready and still able to answer their queries about medicines.  

Helping HCPs with their complex questions is challenging because they often want definitive answers where none exist. Often there are many unknowns, and all a Med Info professional can do is provide the facts about what’s known concerning risks versus benefits of medicines, the rest is up to a clinician’s judgment. Last week a psychiatrist asked about the potential for interactions between antidepressants and possible antivirals for treatment of COVID-19. That was challenging since as yet, antivirals are unproven for use in these patients. Even so, I provided the best info I could using basic principles to work out a useful answer based on what’s known about the pharmacokinetics of each drug.

Do you have a top tip for coping at a time of crisis? Or a few words of advice or support for fellow students and alumni on the front line?

Our challenge as Med Info professionals in the current crisis is to keep doing our best work. At the moment that’s my coping mechanism, because work is a welcome distraction and a privilege, given how many others have lost their livelihoods. 

My advice to others on how to cope in times of crisis? Believe in the value of your contribution - however large or small and however visible. Medical Information isn’t well known as a career path, but you can enter it via several routes, either as a pharmacist in the NHS, or as a biomedical scientist in the pharmaceutical industry. Most of us don’t do what we do for recognition, but for the quiet satisfaction of knowing we make a difference in our own way. 

Kind regards and stay safe,