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Career Profiles:

Ken Attie M.D.

1. What is a brief description of your job?
video My job at Genentech is called a Clinical Scientist. It's also known as Research Physician or Director of Clinical Research. My responsibilities are to evaluate candidate drugs for potential medical indications. And if the company decides to investigate one of these drugs; to design the clinical studies, analyze the information from the studies and potentially present it to the Food and Drug Administration and try and get the drug approved.

2. Where did you grow up?
video I grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, New York and my father is a surgeon and my mother also worked in medical research. I currently live in San Francisco, California, and I've been here for eleven years. I did some training at UC San Francisco before coming to work at Genentech.

3. What training and degrees do you hold? What were the specific areas of study?
video I have a medical degree. I am trained as a physician in pediatrics. I also went on to do specialty training in pediatric endocrinology so of course that means I went to medical school, did residency, and then I did a fellowship in a sub-specialty.

5. What is the minimum training that is required for your job?
video To be a Clinical Scientist one doesn't necessarily have to have a medical doctorate although it's the common training that we bring because we are asked to evaluate medical therapies for unmet medical needs and you need to have a very good medical background in all the aspects of that disease. And generally a physician is the one to have that background. But there are some of us who are trained in pharmacy or nursing that also have a background that they can bring to this field.

6. How many years of study are typically needed to acquire the training for your job?
video To perform the job of Clinical Scientist one requires graduate training so you will have to have a good college experience including science, and then usually post graduate work in science, medical school for most of us. Often times medical school will be followed by residency and then even a fellowship. Each of those can take three years, so we're talking almost ten years of training after college.

7. What percentage of an average day is spent using your training?
No answer available.

8. What science education, if any, is useful in your field?
video To be a Clinical Scientist in a pharmaceutical company or biotech company obviously you need good training in science. So at the high school level you will be taking biology and other sciences and I think that would be critical, whether or not you have an interest in the field that I'm in. Then of course you'll take the pre medical courses in college and medical school and a lot of your science training will come then. And you'll want to have had some experience either in laboratory research or in clinical research or both.

9. What general work skills do you use on a daily basis?
video As a Clinical Scientist it's important to use many skills besides that which we acquire in medical school. One needs to have a sense of the business aspect of developing a drug that might be used as a medical therapy. One needs to have a knowledge of statistics so you can analyze the results of the clinical studies that we perform. One has to have a pretty good familiarity with using a computer because we spend a fair amount of our time working at the computer. You need to have some interpersonal skills and ability to prepare presentations because we'll be presenting the results of these clinical studies to other people in the company, to medical science meetings, and also to the Food and Drug Administration. So we use a combination of these skills to interact with these people both within and outside the company.

10. Are you working in isolation or with a team of co-workers or subordinates?
video Working in the Clinical Research department, or what we call the Department of Medical Affairs, involves a lot of teamwork. It's impossible for me to design and implement and coordinate a clinical study all by myself. I require the help of Clinical Research Associates, of Data Managers, of Computer Programmers, and Bio Statisticians. And so we are often in a team setting where we are coordinating our activities. But as a Clinical Scientist I'm often looked to as someone that can present what it is that we're working on and to some extent coordinate the activities to make sure that we are meeting the goals that we set.

11. What are your working conditions? Dress codes? Environment (Indoor or Outdoor)?
video The work environment at Genentech is very congenial. It's somewhat informal. Even those of us that work in the Medical Affairs department, among each other we don't necessarily have to dress up or be very formal in our interactions There are times, of course, when I will be meeting with our fellow colleagues, physicians, investigators, or with members of the Food and Drug Administration, and in those situations, of course, we will want to present ourselves as best we can.

12. What is the biggest challenge you face in your field?
video One of the biggest challenges we face as Clinical Scientists is to be sure that we have a complete knowledge of the drug that we're using, and that when we recommend that a study be undertaken with this drug that we're able to fully assess what the risks are and what the benefits would be so that we can explain this to anyone in the company that needs to know all about the product and the risks and benefits involved.

13. What is the most rewarding experience in your field?
video There are several rewarding experiences that one can look forward to as a Clinical Scientist. For one thing we are given the opportunity to consider new medical treatments that are for large unmet medical needs. And there's always a sense of excitement when you're in that position of potentially helping thousands or tens of thousands of people with a new medical treatment. Then there are the rewarding experiences along the way when you complete a study and you have positive results so maybe it will get published in a well known journal, or even get picked up in the general media. There are times, for example, when you're presenting to a FDA advisory committee and you have to prepare hard for a presentation like that. But at the end of the day when the committee members are voting whether or not to approve your drug and they vote yes, then it's a very rewarding experience also.

14. How did your interest in your field develop?
video When I began my career in medicine I had no idea that I would end up doing clinical research at a biotech company but I think that I arrived at that decision gradually. When I completed my residency in pediatrics I decided I wanted to specialize in a sub field called endocrinology. As I did my specialty training, I realized I was very interested in research, and so I did a few years of basic research in a laboratory. Then I realized what I really wanted to do was what's known as clinical research, where we do studies in humans.

15. What did you want to be in high school?
video When I was in high school I took many science courses, and of course I had the influence of my father who was a doctor, so it was in the back of my mind that I was interested in possibly have a career in medicine. But I was also very interested in music and actually out of high school I went to music school.

16. Was school easy or hard for you then, and did you like it?
video I would have to say that high school was easy for me in some ways because I enjoyed the courses that I was taking and I also had a lot of extra curricular activities, such as music. When I went to college I also took a broad spectrum of courses, not just science. I had a general liberal arts education and majored in music. I think when I reached medical school was when I felt I was working the hardest. And the amount of work you're called on to do in medical school is much greater. But at that point you're very motivated to be involved in the studies that you're doing.

17. Are you doing now what you expected to do when you finished school?
video When I finished college I knew I would be applying to medical school and knew I would be having a profession in medicine but I had no idea that it might take me to a company like Genentech, and to a career in clinical research. So I think that one needs to be prepared for these eventualities that might occur along the path of your career in medicine.

18. What advice do you have for students interested in your field?
video My advice to those of you that are considering a career in medicine is to give it careful thought. It's a lot of work. There are times when it's very rewarding, and there are times when it's very disheartening. But I would not want to dissuade anyone from pursuing a career in medicine because there are so many options available. One can go into clinical practice and be a family doc, or one can go a very different route like I did and pursue clinical research in a biotech company.

19. Beginning with high school, what science courses do you recommend to prepare for your field?
video To prepare for a career in medicine one must begin with the science courses you take in high school such as biology, chemistry, physics and also the math classes. Then when you get to college you'll be taking courses like biochemistry, or genetics, or microbiology and that's when you'll find out whether you really have an interest in medicine or in research. And if possible if you can also do some work in the laboratory, or work in a hospital that will give the best chance of really being exposed to what it's like to having a career in medicine or science.

20. How is the future projection for jobs in this career? Do you forsee an increase in demand in the future?
video I think that there'll be an increased demand for people doing the kind of work I do in clinical research in the future. I think there are more companies all the time looking to develop new therapies and they will need experts in medical fields, various medical fields to help them develop these products.

21. Do you use the Internet on a daily basis? If so, how?
See below.

22. With regard to your profession, which web sites do you recommend for students interested in your field?
video At Genentech I use the internet all the time. For one thing, at the company we have an intranet, so that a lot of our communication within the company is done through world wide web pages. But I also go out and look at the pages for the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and other sites where I can get specific information on meetings or other groups related to medicine.

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