Showcasing careers beyond academia
Erica Cave

Erica Cave

PhD in Pharmacology
Senior Medical Writer
Porterhouse Medical

Postgraduate take-away: Read plenty of scientific articles so you can get to grips with writing effectively and presenting data clearly.

Job highlight: Distilling complex information down to form an interesting narrative for your audience.

What is your background?

As a senior medical writer at Porterhouse I have been very fortunate to experience the transformation of the company over recent years. When I joined, it was a small and bustling agency where we each performed several roles as writers, account managers and even graphic artists. Now, seven years later, the company has grown considerably and we have a large dedicated team that specialises not only in their job type, but also according to therapy areas.

I was a bright-eyed graduate many moons ago and ended up staying in academia to complete an industry-funded research master’s, followed by a PhD in pharmacology, in which I was tasked with elucidating the mechanism of action of a novel anti-tumour agent. I really loved being involved in drug discovery, so after my PhD I made the move into industry to continue working in this field for a biotech company in Abingdon. However, after a few years, I was unfortunately facing redundancy and I had to reassess my career.

Why did you choose a career in medical communications?

Scanning countless job search websites, I saw a few medical writing jobs in my area and so I started to look into the role. Having never even heard of medical communications before, I quickly realised that it sounded like a fun and varied career that would make good use of my skills and knowledge. Luckily, I was already living in one of the main medical communications hubs in the UK, and it wasn’t too long before Porterhouse took a chance on me. I haven’t looked back since!

What is a typical day for you?

I was initially hired as an Associate Medical Writer, but with expert guidance from everyone at Porterhouse I was able to hone my skills and develop as a writer. Now I am a Senior Medical Writer, I can help encourage newer writers to reach their full potential. As well as writing all manner of materials for a host of large pharmaceutical companies, I also review and edit work from junior writers, providing feedback and support to help them progress.

A typical day for me at Porterhouse might involve reviewing slides produced by a medical writer for an upcoming conference, checking an advisory board meeting report, or even helping to put together internal training materials for our editorial team. The job is extremely varied and the therapy areas range from oncology and haemophilia, to retinal diseases and more.

Which transferable skills were most important for your transition out of academia?

The skills I acquired from the years spent in academia have been invaluable in this role and I am very grateful that I can continue to put them to good use. One of the main aspects of being a writer is researching and collating a lot of information, picking out the best bits to tell your story. Having a PhD means that you are already accustomed to sifting through facts and data. You can find papers with ease and familiarise yourself with them quickly. In fact, plenty of other typical postgraduate activities also feature heavily in this job, such as putting together slide decks, deciding how best to display data, liaising with academics and planning your time.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Medical writing is an amazing career that enables you to keep abreast of advances in healthcare and gives you interesting insights into the inner workings of pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, it offers great flexibility, as I now work part-time, from a fancy shed at the bottom of my garden in the Midlands. A lab-based job just can’t match the fantastic work–life balance that medical writing offers.

Established in 2002, Porterhouse Medical is an award-winning medical communications agency with a reputation for excellence. Our in-house teams of carefully-selected account managers, medical writers and designers work hard to deliver creative and intelligent medical communications programmes for a growing number of UK, European and global pharmaceutical partners. In recognition of our achievements we have recently been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2016 in the category of International Trade – the UK’s highest accolade for outstanding achievement in business.

At Porterhouse, we believe our people are our greatest asset. Our employees, made up of medical writers, account managers, creatives and events managers work closely together to provide truly outstanding client service. We are looking for the very best life sciences graduates, postgraduates and postdocs in order to maintain our reputation as a first-class medical communications agency delivering scientific programmes of the highest quality. We are always interested in hearing from intelligent, personable, motivated individuals who are interested in joining our team, and we are dedicated to training enthusiastic candidates who are keen to embark upon an exciting career in medical communications. If you think you have what it takes to work in a challenging and rewarding agency environment, producing materials of the very highest quality and exceeding the expectations of your clients on a regular basis, please email: