Health Economists - science or economics degree?

Recently I had an interesting conversation with an analyst at a biotech company seeking my advice as to career changes towards the area of health economics. The basic question many students or young analysts have is wether to persue an additional degree, stay in science (pharmacy, biostatistics, medicine etc.) and add on, do economics instead or both. I feel that is an interesting question for the readers as well as many of you are hiring managers - some feedback would be interesting. Now, my view is it depends where you wanne be. Headquarters based, "pure", early phase outcomes research positions may do better with scientist experienced in trial design and observational research, instrument development etc. whereas more market focused jobs clearly require thourough business knowledge and personalities. I often - granted am quite biased having graduated as a political economist - find it quite difficult to discuss certain aspects with the very science driven outcomes researchers as some of them seem to struggle with the "big picture", especially when it comes to linking health economics concepts with strategic pricing and/or general financial considerations in the market place. Here I find the pure economists/MBAs to be more pragmatic and knowledgable. I think in any case it'll be key to break down the silo mentality still existent in some places in order to maximize the skill sets available in Medical, P&R, Health Economics in order to arrive at a sound market access strategy.
So maybe it doesn't really matter which degree you have as long as you are open to learn, listen and proactively exchange knowledge with everyone at the table...


Anonymous said...

Having a science background with complementary studies (MSc) in Health Economics, I can’t say I completely agree with you… but I also can’t say I definitely disagree. As in everything, I believe personality goes a long way and normally “life-sciences people” who take the economics/managerial path are already strategic thinkers in their essence because they see as fundamental (and they are willing) to take that step. I do believe that it is easier for people with that kind of mentality to cross the fence and take a holistic view than managerial people to get into a scientific mind frame and understand the raw information that should drive an optimisation strategy. I’ve had this kind of problems with people from less scientific areas (e.g. corporate affairs) who, in my view, fail to get a clear picture of what truly happens in the mind of the stakeholders who often are technically driven people themselves… but as you state, personality plays a major role and some people do manage to minimise their difficulties and, having an open mind, build on their strengths.

All the best,

ustaginnus@hotmail.com said...

thanks very much, great comment agree, you need the technical skills first otherwidse you are lost.. happened to me as well with the same folks you mentioned ;)