Everything Barbara McKinnon does is for her patients. The director of business development at Med Communications, Inc., she holds expertise in strategic planning and program development, skills she uses when working with clients to tailor programs specific to their needs. “We don’t feel like we need to do anything in a cookie cutter way,” she says of her company’s efforts to constantly innovate. “We try to customize our services around that specific client and what they need.” Developing programs in order to ultimately help patients find the information they need makes everything she does worthwhile.
Dr. McKinnon has spent the last 15 years as a clinician, both in home care and home-infusion therapy. A board-certified nutrition support pharmacist, she is charged with several responsibilities at Med Communications, such as implementing service programs for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and handling medical information and medical writing for call centers. Additionally, she manages strategies for new service programs, contracts new business, and drafts letters on scientific materials. Before becoming a member of Med Communications, she served as a writer for Infusion Magazine, published by the National Home Infusion Association. She was also a product line director for Accredo Health Group, Inc., from which she received the Pharmacy Award in 2005.
Dr. McKinnon enjoys that she is able to explore new roads as a health care worker and continually reinvent herself. “Everything I have done, I have pulled from my past experiences and used to do something new,” she explains. She graduated with both a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and a Doctor of Pharmacy from The University of Tennessee. She is a member of the Tennessee Pharmacist Association and has been a member of the Drug Information Association since 2009. She attributes her success to her education and great mentors, who helped her to reach her current level of expertise. Dr. McKinnon hopes to experience continued growth as the years progress.
Conversation with Barbara McKinnon, Pharm.D.
WORLDWIDE PUBLISHING: On what topics do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Barbara McKinnon: I consider my area of expertise to be in working with clients and developing a program that is specific and customized to their needs. I also have expertise in the delivery of medical information, specifically in the areas of oncology, vaccines and orphan drugs. Orphan drugs are used to treat very rare diseases affecting a small number of individuals in the population. I have done a lot of work in business development in service programs for the pharmaceutical industry and I am currently working on medical information programs, medical writing, specialty pharmacy and reimbursement support, and patient registry support programs. I also have a big background in sterile products for in-home use and IV therapy in general.
What motivates you?
I enjoy doing something that I know will ultimately help a patient — that’s what matters — when we develop a program that is going to make it easy for an individual to get the information and support they need, and is going to help that patient get through that bad time with whatever disease they are facing. A couple of nights a week I take phone calls for medical information requests in order for me to stay on the cutting edge of inquiries from the patients.
What characteristics help to separate you from your competitors?
I really like what I do and I think having a passion for what you do makes a difference. I have a love of learning; I love it when a customer brings in a new drug and tells us all about it. I also like taking the clinical piece of it and putting it into a business setting. It’s a fascinating puzzle trying to figure out how all of these pieces are going to fit.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field?
I have learned to listen to my customers and my colleagues. I have also learned that you have to constantly evolve. We won’t just give a client the same thing we gave them last year; we have to constantly be moving forward to better use technology and the resources that we have. We always need to improve the services we offer. You can’t just sit still.
What short-term and long-term career goals are you currently pursuing?
My short-term goal is to better leverage technology in our services to help us do things more efficiently and help customers reach out to people.
My long-term goal is to help establish our company as the preeminent provider of medical information services globally.
How do you plan to achieve these goals?
We are working hard on the short-term goal right now, researching all different kinds of ways that we could use the Cloud or search engine optimization or other technologies. We are really looking at what the best area of technology is the best to invest in.
Long term, we are researching companies that want to expand to Europe and are looking at services that are there and how we can leverage those services in the country.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
Balancing business and family life.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
There are changing regulations not only in the U.S., but globally. There is a big debate about how to handle off-label information, and the FDA has issues some drafts. Depending on which way they go, it is going to affect the way we do things.
What are some questions that an individual interested in your services can ask to ensure a more productive relationship?
They can ask about developing a performance-based contract, how we are able to report on quality metrics. When we work with companies that way, we can mutually develop the parameters for measuring quality.
In terms of our organization, we would really love it if people asked about the experience and expertise of our people. We are very different than our competitors because they will hire those with a B.S. in biology or an RN. In our clinical team, 97.5 percent of our employees have a doctoral degree.
Did you ever consider pursuing a different career path or another profession?
I considered medical school, but my family couldn’t afford to send me.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
Talking to the patients and helping them.
What is your favorite or least favorite work-related task to do and why?
My favorite part is writing proposals. I enjoy writing.
What advice can you offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in your industry?
A pharmacy degree is really a wonderful asset. It is a great springboard to do so many interesting things. My advice to those just starting out is to definitely consider pharmacy as a career because it offers so much.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
Dr. Kenneth Avis, who was part of the faculty at the University of Tennessee; I later worked as a teacher’s assistant for him.
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
Everything has changed! We used to make the labels on a typewriter. The technology has definitely changed.
How do you see these changes affecting the future of your industry?
I think that the use of technology to provide medical information is going to continue to grow and more people are going to look to their iPhone as their main source of information.
Have you contributed to any publications or to research in your field?
I have book chapters in several pharmacy textbooks.