Building bridges: A good marriage between the industry and academia

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There is no deny there is a gap between the industry and academia in all fields and disciplines. This can be reasoned by most industries being more resource efficient, and heavily reliant on strong, collaborative teamwork in comparison to academia-the kind of quickly changing, tense atmosphere that is very difficult to synthesise in academic environments.

This does not necessarily take away from the value of academic education where cumulative knowledge is religiously sought. Instead, it speaks of the value of both the industry and academia, the dire need to build bridges between the two.

Hello, my name is Mostafa, and I am going to share with you how I tried to bridge this gap in the first year of my master’s studies at the University of Turku. I believe it was early September when I first learnt about the Job Shadowing elective course at the university. It was also the same time when I had my first interaction with Juha Laine from Roche Finland, right after his lecture on ‘The Economics and Market Access of Novel Health Technologies’.

Seeing and feeling the gap

Before this point, I had spent most of my time post-bachelorgraduation working as a clinical pharmacist in the healthcare industry, which I missed so much. Classes started here at the university, then I began to clearly see the gap between academic life and the industry where I used to work.

But at the same time, my development demanded the long hours of studying, the sometimes mind-cripplingly boring journal articles, but most essentially the knowledge that was being offered in the safe space of academia. This quickly started a fight in my head, and I started to look for ways to let off steam. The Job Shadowing came to mind, and it was the start of a good story.

I began using this course as an excuse to approach all visiting lecturers we had from the industry about arranging a job shadowing at their place of work. No teacher was left alone, CVs were emailed to everyone, and LinkedIn invitations were sent with a short message saying, ‘I am interested’. Most importantly however, I approached the teachers after their lectures and spoke to them.

The shadowing day: intensive exprience

In person, Juha’s lecture marked my first formal introduction to health economics and the concepts governing new drug valuations. More strongly than other lectures, it sparked my interest that I think I sent Juha more emails than anyone else. 23 weeks and two days later, I was at Roche Finland shadowing a rather packed day of work.

The shadowing day began when I met CEO David Traub who kindly welcomed me to Roche, then with a meeting Karoliina Tanner, who introduced to me her current and previous roles at Roche in both market sales, and as a patient journey partner. I had never before heard about the job title patient journey partner, but after a brief explanation of what it entailed, I understood how it bridged different sides of the Finnish healthcare system, much as I was trying to connect both academia and the industry in this job shadowing.

After that I had a meeting with Anna Manner-Raappana – Access and Communication Director at Roche, and another meeting with Medical Director, Anssi Linnankivi. I then joined Juha for an introduction to his role at Roche, before a final real world data group meeting, where I learnt more about the challenges of collecting and accessing meaningful, real world health data. I might not have discussed the details of all these meetings here, but it really gives you an idea of how busy they were, and how informative a one-day job shadowing experience can be.

Different routes, same goals

The gap between academia and the industry will likely always be there, especially that both lines of work happen in different places and have different regulations and motivations governing them. But it is opportunities like this Job Shadowing course at the University of Turku that should be absolutely exploited by students and everyone who is looking to build bridges between the two ecosystems. You have no idea how both places have the same goals, even though they go different routes about achieving them.

Yes, a bit more than academia, the industry is really profit oriented. But no business is good business without the valid and scientifically sound expertise which exist within the walls of academia. That is one area where academia serves the industry well. Still at the same time, the academia could greatly benefit from the teamwork, and the resource efficient culture largely adhered to in all industries— areas where the industry outperforms academia. With this, I leave room for you to think about my words and wish you a good day wherever you are.

Mostafa Schaat

Master’s degree student at the University of Turku