Apr 24, 2014
Amreen Husain, MD, is the Senior Medical Director and Global Clinical Lead for Avastin Gynecologic Cancer, Product Development Oncology, at Genentech, Inc., in San Francisco, CA, where she has worked for 3.5 years.
How did you choose your current career path?
AH: This role offered unique new opportunities for growth and development—the opportunity to develop acompletely different set of skills and, most importantly, the opportunity to make an impact on the treatment of gynecologic cancers on a much broader and global level.
Is there a personal experience that shaped your professional journey and led you to where you are today?
AH: My most important mentor inspired me to become a gynecologic oncologist and helped me learn to challenge myself at all levels. He was a superb surgeon and clinician, and after many years training fellows and looking after patients, he decided to pursue other avenues. I asked him how he could give up what he did so well and was so well respected for and his words were, “No matter what you do, as long as you pursue and strive for excellence and maintain your integrity, you will be fulfilled and respected.” These words continue to inspire me.
Describe your typical work day.
AH: Since I work in a global environment, my day starts early, at about 7:00 AM (almost as early as when I had a busy surgical practice), with team meetings and teleconferences that take up most of the morning.The afternoon usually is taken up in reviewing documents, reviewing or preparing presentations, and meeting with individual team members. I spend a fair amount of time in airports and airplanes to attend congresses, health authority meetings, and meetings with external clinical experts. The breadth of the people I have the opportunity to interact with is one of the best aspects of this career.
What aspect of your job is yourfavorite? What aspect is the mostchallenging?
AH: My favorite part of my job is the opportunity to take the clinical data from a pivotal trial and deliver it as a compelling dossier to health authorities to help get medicines to women who really need them. This is also the most challenging part, as it involves engaging in a dialogue with individuals and groups who have a different perspective and mandate over what is considered clinical benefit. Grappling with the difficulties and the high regulatory bars that have to be addressed in getting drugs approved is a daily challenge.
The most frustrating part is that sometimes the process is slow. It canbe frustrating when clinical questions have to be prioritized and some may not get answered in the selection and design of clinical trials, at least at the industry level.
What do you wish you had known before you chose your career path?
AH: I was surprised by the time needed to gain an understanding of the structure and functioning of a corporate environment which, for those of us who have been in academic medicine for many years, is quite foreign. The decision-making processes are quite different from what clinicians are used to, and I had to learn to think differently.
I did not expect the degree to which decisions are made as a team and how important a well-functioning team is to the success of any project. My expertise as a gynecologic oncologist was greatly welcomed, but I needed to learn how to fit this into the way the company functions and the importance of team dynamics.
I did not anticipate how much I would miss the day-to-day interactions of a training program—I enjoyed working with residents and fellows so much while on faculty at Stanford. I continue to practice on an increasingly limited scale due to time constraints, but luckily I still get to follow some of my patients.
Why would you recommend this career path to someone starting out in oncology?
AH: There are many new agents in pipelines across the industry, and it is a very exciting time for cancer therapeutics. However, this does require (for the most part) giving up the daily patient interactions that are so rewarding and the reason most of us chose the profession of medicine.
What kind of person thrives in this professional environment?
AH: Someone who likes to be continually challenged, who wants to continue to grow and develop new skills, and learn about what it takes to get drugs to patients. Someone who really enjoys being critical, analytical, and has the ability to see and wait for the bigger-picture impact of their work. Someonewho really enjoys writing and developing presentations and documents that tell a story. I was a philosophy major and those skills have served me well in this career choice.