Balancing the Lab Coat and the Suit: Unveiling the Career Path of Dr. Abhay Mane (Part-1)

An account of Dr. Abhay Mane's professional journey, experiences, and success.
Dr. Abhay Mane ,
MBBS, Master’s in Pharmacology, 
MBA from the Carlson School of Management, Minneapolis, USA
Dr. Abhay Mane , MBBS, Master’s in Pharmacology, MBA from the Carlson School of Management, Minneapolis, USA

Welcome to Docscopy section of MedBound Times.

Priya Bairagi (MedBound handle: @Priya Bairagi) and Himani Negi (MedBound handle: @Himani Negihad an opportunity to have an exciting conversation with Dr. Abhay Mane (MedBound handle: @Dr. Abhay Mane).

Dr. Abhay Mane completed his MBBS from Stavropol State Medical University, Russia, in 2012. He then pursued an MD Pharmacology from the University of Bedfordshire, UK, in 2013. Currently he is pursuing an MBA from the Carlson School of Management, Minneapolis, USA.

Himani Negi: Hello Sir, and welcome to this DocScopy session with MedBound Times. Please tell us something about your professional life.

Dr. Abhay Mane: Hello, everyone, and thank you so much, MedBound, for having me here today. My name is Dr. Abhay Mane. Currently, I am pursuing my MBA in the United States at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. It has been quite a long journey. I completed my MD in Russia and earned my master’s degree in pharmacology from the UK. Afterward, I worked in medical affairs in the pharmaceutical industry for slightly over eight years. Now, I am exploring opportunities on the commercial side of the field, leveraging my MBA experience in the US.

Himani Negi: Why did you decide to pursue MBBS from Russia, and was it your first choice?

Dr. Abhay Mane: Yeah, I'll tell you what happened. It's a slightly unfortunate story. There was a University of St. Lucia in Central America that had started a medical school very close to Mumbai, on the outskirts. I got enrolled and studied there for around eight months. It was reasonably expensive, not super expensive, but being a private school, it had its costs.

But then, the school unfortunately closed down after receiving a notification from the Medical Council of India. The Medical Council of India clarified that anyone wanting to study at a foreign university should go abroad and study. They required proof when appearing for the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMG). They emphasized that schools operating on Indian campuses were not legal and should be shut down. So, my medical college had to shut down within eight months.

At that point, you have a certain mindset that time is slipping away, considering I had already lost a year. I felt an urgency to start again, no matter what the circumstances. Russia seemed like a more affordable option compared to private Indian schools. I wasn't prepared to go through the medical entrance exams again. Luckily, a very good friend of mine from the same school also expressed interest in studying in Russia. Having company made Russia a reasonable choice.

I was quite young, around 18 or 19 years old, and making the decision to spend six years in Russia away from family was bold. Especially given the challenges of language, weather, and being away from home for the first time, it was quite tough.

Himani Negi: What's your opinion on the current trend of students facing higher cutoffs for government medical colleges in India and the choice between taking a drop for another year versus opting for studying abroad, considering the requirement of FMG exams for practicing in India?

Dr. Abhay Mane: I understand that NEET is becoming increasingly competitive.

As you rightly mentioned, most of us can't afford undergraduate studies in the United States or the UK, right? Typically, we consider those countries for our master's or higher education. So, when looking to study abroad for undergrad, options like Russia and Ukraine come into play. I wouldn't label them as exclusively great or bad, but the advice I'd give to students is that there will be a significant amount of self-study involved. Unlike the more structured and spoon-fed approach often seen in India, professors might not provide the same level of guidance. Additionally, language barriers could exist. If you opt for these countries, it's crucial to be prepared to learn the local language, especially Russian.

Your priority should be mastering both the medical curriculum and managing your day-to-day life, which includes dedicating time to studying Russian. Moreover, as part of your medical training, you'll also interact with patients in Russian.

So, ensure you're capable of effectively absorbing both the language and medical knowledge, and be ready to put in substantial effort through self-study. While I wouldn't necessarily point out any inherent disadvantages, keep in mind that you'll need to return and successfully clear the FMG (Foreign Medical Graduate) exam to be considered equivalent to an Indian medical graduate.

Himani Negi: Can you explain the decision-making process behind your switch from a clinical background to pursuing an MD in pharmacology in Russia? Was it a pre-planned choice or something that evolved over time?

Dr. Abhay Mane: Of course, I want to clarify that I haven't pursued an MD in pharmacology. Rather, I completed a master's in pharmacology in the UK. It's not something that everyone sets out to do when they begin MBBS, right?

Starting MBBS, most people naturally aspire to work with patients and engage in clinical studies. However, in my case, my direction was somewhat set during my third or fourth year. Since it was a six-year course, as you mentioned, the idea started to crystallize. I had the opportunity to study pharmacology during those years, and I found myself deeply drawn to it. I engaged in conversations with professionals working in the pharmaceutical industry, especially in medical affairs, which sparked my interest.

Back then, I had little awareness of the extent of opportunities available, the uniqueness of this field, and the potential for a doctor to make an impact in the pharmaceutical realm. It was beyond my initial imagination. This growing fascination led me to decide that I wanted to enter medical affairs and explore the pharmaceutical industry. This decision solidified around my third or fourth year of pursuing my MD.

 Dr. Abhay Mane
Dr. Abhay Mane

Himani Negi: Could you outline the significant differences, if any, between pursuing an MD in pharmacology and a traditional master's or postgraduate degree in pharmacology, particularly in terms of curriculum, opportunities, and career paths?

Dr. Abhay Mane: Certainly. In my perspective, MD pharmacology is a slightly more extensive program, lasting for three years. It involves continuous engagement with patients, making it a more clinically oriented MD, designed for medical doctors. On the other hand, I wouldn't characterize my master's degree from the UK as extremely clinically oriented. I would rather liken it to the approach of MPharm graduates in India. It leaned more towards research.

During my studies, we had a three-month thesis that was laboratory-based. My focus was more general, not specifically clinical research. I mean research involving lab work, such as working with plants and animals, testing new molecules, and so on. Although it wasn't exclusively against clinical research, we received practical advice when selecting our thesis projects. Given the UK's strict regulations on human and animal trials, our advisors suggested that if we aimed to complete our theses and graduate on time, it would be wise to avoid projects involving humans and animals. The process is particularly rigorous in the UK due to numerous protocols.

Furthermore, our university wasn't directly affiliated with a medical school, which would have made it even more challenging to acquire participants for trials or animals for research. As a result, we were guided to focus more on working with molecules and plants, aligning with the practical limitations we faced.

I engaged in conversations with professionals working in the pharmaceutical industry, especially in medical affairs, which sparked my interest.
Dr. Abhay Mane

Himani Negi: Is the preference for Indians due to lower labor costs a myth or a reality?

Dr. Abhay Mane: First, I want to highlight that Indian regulations have become increasingly stringent in recent times, and there's an ongoing effort to make them even more stringent. I don't mean to imply that only the UK and US have strict regulations; in India, especially when I began my journey, our curriculum was predominantly UK-based, given that it was about a decade ago when the UK was still part of the European Union. Consequently, our rules and regulations often focused on the UK and had global applicability.

However, my understanding of Indian regulations deepened when I started working in the pharmaceutical industry. There are instances where molecules are initially developed in the US and Europe, and substantial data is already available concerning their respective patient populations.

When these drugs are intended for launch in India, Indian regulations sometimes grant clinical trial waivers, permitting the drug's launch with the condition of conducting additional research on Indian patients. This might lead to a common misconception that Indian regulations are less stringent, which is not necessarily the case.

I've also observed India's prominence as a center for global clinical trials. As you rightly mentioned, this could be attributed to several factors, such as the availability of cost-effective labor and reasonable rental prices for facilities. Unlike the United States or the UK, renting a facility in India is not prohibitively expensive, making it an attractive location for conducting trials.

Furthermore, the growing trend in clinical trials is to ensure diversity, including ethnic diversity. It's no longer sufficient to rely solely on data from white patients; researchers seek data from Hispanic, Black, Asian, and other ethnic populations. This emphasis on diversity may also contribute to India's role as a preferred location for clinical trials.

Stay tuned for the second part of this interview!

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