Careers you wouldn't expect a PhD to lead you to

Andrew Watson, PhD

There are more than 14,000 alumni from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry living around the world. A quick survey on Linkedin of former students from the School’s graduate and postdoctoral programs found that our students have been successful in finding productive jobs and developing advanced careers in and outside of academia.

For those who have found industry-based roles, they are working at companies such as Janssen Inc. Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Cayman Chemical and even Molson Coors Canada. The job titles are as diverse as the companies they are working for, including:

• Director of Strategic Planning
• Medical Advisor, Global Medical Affairs
• Head of Strategy and Planning, China Medicines Development
• Project Management Office Lead
• Senior Manager, Pre-Clinical & Clinical Research Planning
• Executive Vice President, Corporate Development & Strategy
• Regional Medical Liaison
• Evaluation & Quality Specialist

I recently crossed paths with two of our alumni and thought I would highlight their achievements as prime examples for finding great success outside of academia.

Robert Nuttall, PhD’00
Assistant Director, Cancer Control Policy, Canadian Cancer Society

Robert Nuttall received his PhD from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry in 2000, and his area of research was reproductive biology. He went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in England in a cancer research lab, and returned to Canada as a Research Associate at the University of Dalhousie in 2009, transitioning to join the Canadian Cancer Society.

Since 2009, Nuttall has held four different positions with the Canadian Cancer Society. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Cancer Control Policy. You might have heard him on the CBC a couple of weeks ago warning everyone about a sharp spike in cancer rates in baby boomers as they age. His message regarding how lifestyle choices can sharply influence cancer rates will almost certainly encourage people to make better choices, which will likely save lives down the road.

Alysha Croker, PhD’12
Senior Policy Advisor, CIHR Trainee Support Programs

Alysha Croker graduated with a PhD in cancer biology from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry in 2012. Her thesis was outstanding — there is no question she could have found a strong postdoctoral placement in any number of labs around the world.

Croker felt, however, there were other ways in which her knowledge and education could help her develop a non-academic career. She was always involved in other important activities throughout her graduate education, such as serving as the site director for Let’s Talk Science for many years. This combination of outstanding research skills and ability, along with management and incredible communication skills, took Croker to the Canadian institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Croker has been working with CIHR for a couple of years now, and she is already a Senior Policy Advisor for CIHR Trainee Support Programs.

As the Chair of the National Graduate Studies Committee for the Association of Faculties of Canadian Medical Schools (AFMC), I wanted to include interactions with CIHR as a key agenda item and guess who CIHR felt we should interact with? That is correct — Croker.

We are extremely proud of Nuttall and Croker, and all of our present and former graduates. They are great examples of two individuals who have utilized the tremendous skills they developed at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, and applied them in an interesting field. The skills you acquire with us matter, and your degree will enable the development of a very successful career.

That being said, that career will not just fall into your lap. Like Nuttall and Croker, you will need to assess your own options, preferences and opportunities. In the end, it may not end up being something that you ever thought of before.

Andrew J. Watson, PhD
Associate Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies