Scientific expert in the service of the patient

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Writing a publication and waiting for someone to read it – this is something Kai Dittmann was no longer willing to settle for after a few years involvement in scientific work. He wished to get direct feedback and that his projects have a measurable effect. But he nevertheless did not completely want to forgo scientific work. The solution? A change to Roche Pharma AG as Medical Manager.

You are working at Roche as Medical Manager. What tasks you have in this position?

The Medical Manager is a medical-scientific expert in his respective indication field and works cross functionally together with many departments at Roche. So he forms the interface within "Medical Affairs“, as well as also to external customer groups such as for example physicians.

My tasks are very diverse: I organise workshops and expert meetings with physicians, manage clinical studies and visit congresses. Apart from this I prepare communication materials for the field staff and office staff and release medical-scientific content in my indication area that is published in publications from Roche. And finally I carry budget responsibility. This amongst others includes the preparation of an annual plan with all costs for my area of responsibility, which I not only calculate but also present and defend.

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Dr. Kai Dittmann (43) studied biochemistry in Bielefeld and subsequently received a doctorate in the specialist field immunology in Bielefeld and Göttingen. After several years as Post-Doc, in January 2017 he changed to Roche Pharma AG in Grenzach as Medical Manager.

What is your indication area and what is special about it?

My indication area is haemophilia A, which is also commonly known as bleeding disorder. Roche is not yet represented in this market. As new player we first need to learn how the indication area functions and what physicians and patients desire from new therapy options. For this we for example organise so-called Advisory Boards, where we discuss our questions and issues with the doctors: How is our active substance different from those already available on the market and what effects could these differences have on the work of physicians and specialist medical personnel? How would a new therapy change the relationship between physician and patient or haemophilia assistant and patient? What training materials do the medical personnel require, what information do the patients require?

And how do you find these physicians? Can you draw on a Roche network for this?

Differently from oncology where Roche is already active since decades, no network has yet been established in the area of haemophilia. However in Germany the field is relatively small, we are talking about a range from 100 to 150 physicians with 4,800 patients.

What do you like most about your work?

I find it very exciting to engage in exchanges with the physicians and to learn from them. At the same time I have the feeling that my work is really helpful. As team we are in contact with diverse interest groups and try to bring their perspectives together. I find it great that we always try to place the patient in the centre of our considerations – only through this can we ensure that we develop what is optimal for them. In a meeting room we can play through various scenarios - but in the final instance only our stakeholders can say whether these are also helpful.

Which characteristics are especially important in your job?

The foundation is certainly the scientific expertise and the willingness to maintain this up-to-date, which means reading publications and following congresses. Apart from this in a cross functional position it is of great importance to be a team player and be well-organised: As Medical Manager one participates in very many different meetings, in which enquiries and tasks from diverse departments are presented. And if one then does not observe the time schedule all the others cannot continue working. For this one must of course also bring a certain ability to work under pressure: There are always phases where the working days are somewhat longer, for example when we are developing the medical plan or preparing a congress. But nevertheless, at the end of one of these days I return home satisfied - because I have really enjoyed the work.

Before you came to Roche you had already been involved in scientific work since several years. Why did you decide to embark on a change?

My work group in Göttingen was very much involved in fundamental research, but as part of the University medicine also had several interfaces to clinical work. At that time I noticed that I above all found projects with relationship to the patients to be exciting. For example we were involved in cooperation’s in which we analysed patient materials and looked into the genetic background of a disease. At the same time I had arrived at a point in which the development possibilities were limited. Therefore I decided to venture the step to the pharmaceutical industry. Although writing publications is very enjoyable, one does not however receive direct feedback. In my job at Roche I can directly see what I am doing for the patients, and this is of course a large motivation for me.

What you say principally applies for all pharmaceutical manufacturers. What makes Roche special?

Roche is a very innovation driven company that always aspires to be at the cutting edge of developments. Therefore here no generics or bio-similars are developed. This also reflects the guiding principle of Roche: "Doing now what patients need next". Our goal is to make the newly developed therapy options available to the patients as fast as possible. Through this there is a permanent advancement, we continuously respond to the market and try to optimise the therapy. Apart from this Roche was also interesting for me because it is a worldwide leading and involved company, whereby Germany is an important location. As Medical Manager I am greatly involved with our main office in Basel and also participate in the global telephone conferences.

Did you find it difficult to change from scientific research to industry?

It is repeatedly claimed that the change from scientific work to the pharmaceutical industry becomes increasingly difficult the longer one stays at the University. With me this was not the case. On the contrary: I had more the feeling that I learnt a lot in scientific work that helps me today in my job. For my publications I also had to work extremely well organised and was already used to presenting data, whether it was at internal workshops or at congresses. Therefore, I did not find the job adjustment at Roche very difficult.

Although you have only been at Roche since the beginning of the year – nevertheless the question: What long-term development possibilities does a Medical Manager have in the company?

One possibility would be a change to the headquarters. Anyone preferring to stay in Grenzach can aspire for a position as team leader or change to a different department. This could for example be the department Market Access, which accompanies the market access of new medicinal products.

Many thanks for the interview Mr Dittmann.

© Roche with, September 2017

Tags: Career Blog, Germany