Lars Oddershede  - Novartis

Lars Oddershede - Novartis

In my job, the analytical skills developed during my PhD helps me tremendously on a day to day basis. I would also say that having a PhD made the transition all the more easy for me and enabled me to quickly become operational in a pharmaceutical company.

HOW IS YOUR TYPICAL WORKDAY?

Filled with the joys and challenges of cross-functional collaboration.

I currently work for a large pharmaceutical company in a role as ‘Health Economics and Outcomes Research Manager’. This is a scientific role consisting of two main parts: 1) the Outcomes Research part is about developing and executing scientific projects in collaboration with internal stakeholders and external stakeholders (often medical experts) using, for an example, registry data, and 2) the Health Economics part which is focused on assessing the economic impact of a disease, or therapy, and this often involves developing materials for local, regional and national authorities to scrutinize.

Because such scientific tasks are time consuming and complex, we start months and even years before delivery and we work together in teams to turn it into a success. So a typical day involves 50:50 split between research at my desk and meetings to initiate, develop, coordinate and assess our projects.
 

WHAT HAS YOUR CAREER PATH LOOKED LIKE UP UNTIL NOW?

In 2011 I became a PhD fellow at Aalborg University, in 2013 I became a part time biostatistician at Aalborg University Hospital and later in 2014, the same year as I completed my PhD, that became a full time job. In 2014 I also founded my own company, HEOR Consult ApS. In 2015 I got a position as Health Economist at Novartis Oncology, and in 2016 I shifted into my current position.
 

HOW CLOSE IS YOUR CURRENT CAREER TO THE IDEAS AND DREAMS YOU HAD AS A PHD FELLOW AT AAU?

Spot on. I knew what I wanted, so, I made sure my PhD studies would further qualify me to do exactly the job I’m doing now.
 

HOW HAVE YOU MADE USE OF YOUR PHD EDUCATION, AND WHICH OF YOUR PHD COMPETENCES HAVE BEEN MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU?

It’s challenging to explain how I’m using my PhD education. I think the PhD moved me from “Okay, that could be true, and since you say it, I’ll assume it is true” to “Aha, and which study are you referencing when you say that”. I work in an industry fueled by science and where any argument you make towards external stakeholders must be based on a scientific finding. In my job, the analytical skills developed during my PhD helps me tremendously on a day to day basis. I would also say that having a PhD made the transition all the more easy for me and enabled me to quickly become operational in a pharmaceutical company.
 

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST FROM YOUR PHD STUDIES?

Frankly - the feeling that I wasn’t making a difference to anyone with the research I was doing. I remember the long days in the empty office. I remember the difficulty of understanding the level of my performance, the progress of my work, and what the end goal was.
 

WHAT IS YOUR BEST MEMORY FROM AAU?

I remember the joy of supervising groups during their projects. I really enjoyed that. When teaching and supervising I felt that I added tangible value to people and to the organization. Also, I loved when my colleagues came to ask me for a piece of advice.
 

IS THERE A TEACHER/COLLEAGUE FROM AAU YOU REMEMBER ESPECIALLY, AND WHY?

They kind of come in two categories, don’t they? Those you laugh about over a pint with fellow students and those you can name here because they truly inspired, and/or helped you. Three inspiring people spring to my mind:

Meg Duroux, because she gave me a pad on the back all the way through my BSc and MSc and made me believe I could succeed. She gave inspiring lectures on topics I really wouldn’t have cared much for if she hadn’t taught those lectures.  She walked the extra mile for students; helping them on topics far beyond her actual tasks. She is the kind person that will push you a bit extra while letting you know it is because she sees a potential for you to excel. That truly motivated me!

Søren Lundbye-Christensen. If you think statistics is a boring subject (I did before my first lesson), you just haven’t meet Søren yet. After having taught me on my BSc, Søren became a colleague, a mentor and a friend.

Lars Ehlers, for sparking my interest in health economics and for giving me the opportunity to develop my skills.  
 

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DO A PHD, AND WOULD YOU HAVE CHOSEN DIFFERENTLY IF YOU WERE TO DO IT TODAY?

I think the idea grew on me half way through the MSc program. Here I did an article with another student and I really enjoyed that. Both my siblings had completed their PhDs, so I knew a bit about what it entailed. When my supervisor then asked me about my interests in doing a PhD, I quickly decided to grab the opportunity. I told my supervisor that I wanted to do a PhD to learn more before I left the university and that I would leave immediately after (and so I did). I was truly lucky that this was viewed as acceptable, i.e. that my supervisor didn’t merely see a PhD as an entry position for people wanting to work in academia.  

While I don’t want to do it again, I wouldn’t have been without this amazing opportunity. Think about it: 3 years further education, you pick the courses, you (co-)pick the topic of your research and you even get paid well (and obviously, my comparison is versus PhD students in other parts of the world).

I feel blessed to have been offered such an opportunity in life.
 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO CURRENT PHD FELLOWS AT AAU THAT WANT A CAREER OUTSIDE ACADEMIA?

At the risk of flaunting my inability to be nuanced, by advice would be:  “Is not just something you think - the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence…“
 

WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE?

Career wise – I’m trying to become a specialist within my field.

At some point, I’ll commercialize the insights I’m now gaining. I feel that life as a consultant is truly rewarding as you know that you really made a difference for a costumer when they return with more business for you.

 

ABOUT LARS

Place of birth: Thisted, Denmark

Nationality: Danish

Current employment: “Nordic Health Economics & Outcomes Research (HEOR) Manager” at Novartis Oncology & owner of the Company HEOR Consult ApS

MA programme and university: Medicine with an industrial specialization, Aalborg University

Department at AAU: Department of Health Science and Technology during my MSc, Department of Business and Management during my PhD

Campus: Aalborg

Year of graduation: MSc in 2011, HD1 in 2013, PhD in 2015

Title of PhD dissertation: “Putting the ‘Q’ in QALY in cost-utility analyses: The importance of using standardized methods to estimate utility when calculating quality adjusted life-years”