Dr. Saman Khaled is our special guest at STEM Youth Camp 2022, and her career story is below:

“I work at AstraZeneca as a medical writer where I am involved in the development of a new drug. I write protocols (which describe how a study is run), clinical study reports, and prepare submissions to regulatory authorities (like the FDA or EMA) presenting a case as to why a drug should be approved for use.  The most exciting part of my work is getting a team of amazing scientists to sit down, discuss their work, and think about how it should be presented from a strategic perspective. (It feels a bit like calling up your friends to go play a game.) 

Since the pandemic I’ve worked nearly 100% remotely. Most medical writers have a flexible working situation where we can choose to come to the office as often as we want/need.  

Medical writers need to have excellent communication skills, both spoken and written. Most medical writers have a higher level degree in life sciences. If you can analyze information, you can do this job. 

Excellent communication skills and organization skills are crucial for this job. While the job title implies that most of your time will be spent alone writing, in actuality, I spend most of my time managing a program to anticipate the documents needed for that program in the future. At the moment, I’d like to further progress in my role as a writer although many medical writers use the position as a stepping stone to other pharmaceutical areas.

 Artificial intelligence will transform this industry, and will definitely take the pressure off the more detailed, writing components. Therefore, I see medical writers eventually becoming ‘information strategists’, where we must have  a deep knowledge of the investigative medicinal product and can evaluate and edit reports. 

I went to a massive public highschool in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, where we were known for our American football program more than our academics. However, I had access to an excellent education and graduated with an International Baccalaureate degree. I joined a small liberal arts college in Alabama. There, I had the freedom to explore many different topics and eventually graduated with a BA in English Literature and  minors in Biology and Chemistry. The expectation was to become a very well rounded medical doctor, but after working as a physician’s assistant after college, I decided to defer taking the MCAT and instead enroll in a PhD program at the University of Alabama Birmingham in Molecular and Cellular Pathology. 

I had very little career advice from my academic institutions, instead I was encouraged to study whatever I found interesting.  I wish my high school and college had better prepared me for the future and  provided counselors that could give access to different career paths based on my academic interests. 

American universities require 1.) Excellent scores in the SATs or ACTs, 2.) a high Grade Point Average (GPA), 3.) a well-written personal essay, 4.) great recommendation letters. I took SAT and ACT classes before sitting for those exams. I also met with my high school guidance counselor for help writing my personal essay and gathering all the material needed to send in my applications. My college offered me a scholarship based on my academic performance, however there are many opportunities to apply for scholarships independent of colleges. Unfortunately I did not apply for them as at the time as I wasn’t aware of them. The US offers financial aid in the form of Sally Mae and Pell grants, however these student loans will sit on your shoulders for a long time after college and you will end up paying much more than the original amount of the loan. 

I began preparing for college in 11th grade when I started exploring my college options and began taking SAT/ACT preparatory classes. I then took my SAT/ACTs over the summer and applied for colleges in my senior year of high school (first term).  The SAT/ACTs are extremely long exams, and so if planning to take them, start practicing them early. “

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