THE WRITING’S on the WALL
Maria Vinall and her husband, Phil, run a successful communication company specializing in the medical sector. Maria talks to us about the industry and how the company has grown over the years.
Medical Communications Depot, Inc. is a boutique communications company that specializes in preparing documents for companies and/or individuals with a need for life science, medical, or pharmaceutical information. Besides the pharmaceutical industry, the firm’s clients have included physician groups, educational institutions, advertising agencies, basically anyone with a need to communicate about health and medicine.
Managed by a husband and wife team, the company works with individual scientists, physicians, other medical communications companies, as well as directly with small and large pharmaceutical companies, and has been providing these services for clients worldwide for more than 12 years.
Maria B. Vinall is president of Medical Communications Depot and one half of the successful husband and wife team that runs the firm. She describes in more detail what her role entails.
“As with any small business,successfully running MedComDepot requires multiple skill sets. In our case, business is pretty evenly divided between doing the work and getting the work. Writing, science, and research are skills needed to do the work. Time/money management, networking, and marketing skills are needed to get the work and manage the business. We’ve always functioned as a team and this area is no exception – each of us does what they do best with support from the other. When we need an extra pair of hands we have a small group of colleagues on whom we can call.”
The firm was incorporated in 2004. Maria states that it hit its stride in 2006 and has continued to move forward ever since. “Neither of us can remember the day we decided we wanted to have our own business but we always find ourselves asking ‘Why didn’t we do this a lot earlier?’” she laughs.
Both Maria and her husband Phil started out on very different career paths that somehow merged to form the firm.
“Phil had been working in the field of medicine and science most of his adult life,” she explains. “He’s been a bench scientist where he has won awards and grants in the field of neuroscience and has published numerous manuscripts. He has received recognition and support for his work from the Rolex Foundation, the Sharpe Foundation, and Pennsylvania Hospital. As head writer at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals he led the development of a small group of writers whose responsibilities included developing clinical manuscripts, publication planning, writing SOPs, maintaining databases, liaising with outside vendors, and managing submission and compliance issues.
“l started out to be a nurse but quickly found that it just wasn’t for me. Reluctantly, I left the world of medicine and science to become a project manager in such diverse settings as law, insurance, and publishing. Eventually I joined Phil at Wyeth where I developed my skills as a publication specialist. During my 10 years there, I assisted in the preparation of numerous conference submissions and peer-reviewed manuscripts in addition to developing and managing publication plans for a diverse product portfolio. MedComDepot gives me the opportunity to combine the things I love – project management and science.”
The couple ensure that they stay up-to-date with the latest technology in order to keep ahead of the curve.
“We’ve invested heavily to be sure that the technology we use is current and flexible. We also stay abreast of changes in government regulations, particularly the FDA, but also the guidelines endorsed by professional organizations such as the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the International Society of Medical Publications Professionals (ISMPP), and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). We scan the horizons for new breakthroughs in drug and device development, as well as changes in healthcare in general.
“With regards to following industry trends, membership in AMWA and NASW goes a long way to help us stay current. We attend the local and national meetings of both organizations where the latest industry trends are shared. In addition, we participate in online webinars to stay updated on existing areas of expertise and to grow our knowledge in new areas. Finally, because our work frequently allows us to attend major medical conferences worldwide, we are exposed to the latest in medical treatments and technology across a broad range of therapy areas.”
Maria and Phil have aspirations of growth for MedComDepot and Maria elaborates on a new service which should help them realize their goals.
“We are in the early phase of expanding our menu to provide a specific set of services to small/start-up pharmaceutical companies. These start-ups often have only one product in development and frequently they are looking for investors to fund the needed early clinical studies and/or for another company to take the product to launch. These companies, as well as many small pharmaceutical companies, rarely have and generally cannot afford a publication staff, yet publishing and presenting trial results are critical to a successful launch. Our low overhead, project management skills, and the depth and breadth of our experience will allow us to provide the services these companies need without breaking the budget and while allowing them to do what they do best.
“The number of individuals and companies looking for good medical writers is
enormous. There are all kinds of opportunities if you know where to look.”