My Year in Industry provided me with valuable knowledge that will help me in my future career

Cordelia Heath
Cordelia Heath
Year in Industry role: Medical Affairs Department at Johnson and Johnson
BSc Biomedical Science with a Year in Industry
Cordelia chose to spend a Year in Industry in order to give her a better idea of what she would like to do after university. During her time at healthcare giant Johnson and Johnson, Cordelia worked with surgeons and other healthcare professionals who she feels will form valuable parts of her professional network after graduation.
Cordelia Heath

What made you decide to study your course in Sheffield?

Sheffield is a fantastic city to live in as a student with lots of green spaces, a great variety of cultural activities, and friendly people. Additionally, Sheffield was one of the few universities in the UK to offer such a broad range of modules within their Biomedical Science course, as well as being one of the only universities in the country that offers whole human body dissection for Biomedical Science undergraduates. 

What have you enjoyed most about your course?

As someone who was not sure what they would enjoy, having such a wide range of module choices available meant that I was certain I would find something that interested me at Sheffield. 

What makes the course even more enjoyable is knowing how supportive the teaching and administrative staff are. They are always enthusiastic to answer questions regarding course content, you have a designated tutor who can support you with academic and personal support, and there are numerous opportunities to get to know other biomedical science students with similar interests to you. 

What transferable skills have you developed during your course?

The course provides students with not only the cutting-edge scientific knowledge required to pursue a career in biomedical science, it also enables you to apply this knowledge to increase one’s employability - thus giving students ample opportunity to gain professional further skills. 

Throughout my degree, I have had the chance to develop teamwork and leadership skills through group projects. Students are also encouraged to think critically by evaluating evidence and discussing various interpretations of data with peers in tutorial sessions to come to justifiable conclusions, rather than taking evidence at face value. We also have help-sessions on academic writing and effective communication, which students are able to implement in coursework and exam settings. 

Where did you go for your placement and what was your role?

I decided to do a placement year after my second year because I was unsure of what I wanted to do after university. I thought it would be an excellent way to find out what I would and wouldn’t enjoy, as well as gain professional experience to help increase my employability. If you’re not sure what to do (and even if you are!), a placement is the perfect opportunity to see what sort of roles you might enjoy in a given industry, as it’s only for a year! 

During my placement, I worked for Johnson and Johnson, the largest healthcare company in the world. They manufacture pharmaceuticals, consumer goods and medical devices. I spent the year working in the Medical Affairs Department of their Medical Device companies, which manufacture orthopaedic implants, surgical systems, instruments and robotic solutions. During my placement, I met a huge variety of people and had the valuable opportunity to work with, and shadow, other departments.

What sort of things did you do on your placement?

The medical affairs team consisted of surgeons and other healthcare professionals with medical backgrounds. Working alongside them, my responsibilities included reviewing the scientific merit and medical aspects of clinical study proposals from external surgeons who were requesting funding from Johnson and Johnson. I found this so interesting as it gave me new insights into how clinical studies are conducted, and the complexities involved, including the financial, regulatory and compliance, as well as the medical aspects. It was amazing to gain a deeper understanding of how many people and job roles are involved in making these decisions. 

Throughout my time at Johnson and Johnson, I  also supported the commercial and regulatory teams within the company to ensure all product promotional materials for the products were scientifically and medically accurate. Another aspect of my role within the medical affairs team was to support the sales and marketing teams in demonstrating the clinical efficacy of their products, enabling hospitals and surgeons throughout Europe to make evidence-based decisions on the procurement of medical devices. This gave me a deep insight into how goods and services are purchased through the NHS procurement process and into the business-related aspect of the NHS. 

What skills did you learn from your placement?

As well as learning about the medical device industry, my placement year has helped further develop transferable skills that can only be gained from experience. I have learnt how to work proactively and adaptively, solve problems independently, and overcome obstacles, which are necessary skills in any career. My attention to detail has also improved as a result of my placement through project work. Working for a large company, mistakes can often lead to big consequences so being able to pay attention to small details is something I am grateful to have improved. 

How do you think the placement year will help your career?

I chose to do my placement year in medical devices rather than the pharmaceuticals we learn about at university. Learning something completely new from my degree was a major reason why I enjoyed my placement so much. The opportunity to gain knowledge through experience is extremely valuable and I’m astounded at how much I learnt in just one year. I also have met a group of wonderful new people who I know will form key parts of my professional network upon graduation.  

What do you hope to do after your degree?

After my time at Sheffield, I hope to pursue a Medicine degree. The scientific knowledge I have learnt through my Biomedical Science degree, combined with my industrial experience working with, and learning from, medical professionals has made me realise that a clinical patient-focussed career would allow me to apply my knowledge and skills.  

Having completed a placement year during which I have learnt about the commercial side of healthcare systems around Europe, as well as the processes of which medical devices are developed, manufactured, and sold, will certainly help my future career. If I am successful in pursuing a degree to become a medical doctor, understanding how the NHS runs commercially, and how it purchases goods and services from third parties is important knowledge to possess with regard to improving NHS services and patient care. 

What would you say to a prospective student currently on the fence about choosing the course?

I was on the fence about what I wanted to study at university, and I am so glad I chose Biomedical Science at Sheffield. The career options are endless, and it has set me up perfectly for the future. I feel very supported and prepared for whatever is next for me. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working for Johnson and Johnson and would highly recommend doing a Year in Industry to anyone considering it – there’s no such thing as having too much experience!

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