Medicine and Marketing: Some Similarities

When Dr. Izzhar Putra made a career change to the field of sales and marketing, he noticed many similarities between the two fields. He gleaned much of the similarities in hindsight. While this may come as a surprise to many doctors, Dr. Izzhar Putra spoke to Medic Footprints Malaysia (MFM) on why physicians would do well in the field of sales and marketing.

It’s not that big of a leap between the fields of medicine and marketing.”

Dr. Izzhar acquired his medical education in the UK and had lived there for over a decade. Upon his return, adapting to work life in clinical medicine in Malaysia proved difficult. Choosing a better quality of life for himself,  he made a career change to the field of sales and marketing. This was primarily within the pharmaceutical and laboratory services industries. 

He has been in the field for 10 years now and is currently the Senior Manager at a multinational diagnostics organization. He was also the Commercial Director for a private medical laboratory. The main thrust of his duty has involved revenue generation for the companies he’s worked at. He has also been responsible for the performance and wellbeing of his sales and marketing staff. 

He urged young doctor to consider a career change to the field of sales and marketing because “It’s not that big of a leap between the two fields”. Dr. Izzhar shares the similarities between them here

Doctors changing careers to sales and marketing
Dr. Izzhar Putra

Both fields essentially involve studying human behavior

The field of marketing is about creating value for a product or service in order to appeal to existing and potential customers. Marketers must have the ability to connect with their customers at a deep level in order to know their existing and potential customers. To do this, one must understand human behavior. Here is where medical education becomes relevant. 

“There are some intangibles that someone with EQ can pick up and use as leverage when strategizing.”

Studying communication and human behavior in medical school enabled Dr. Izzhar to work with his patients and relate to their family members. It was this exposure to communication and human behavior that was pivotal in aiding  him to change his career to the field of sales and marketing and be able to understand his customers. 

In fact, he feels that his strength in emotional quotient (EQ) has enabled him to identify the rationale needed for particular sales and marketing strategies.  “There are some intangibles that someone with EQ can pick up and use  as leverage when strategizing” he says with a smile. 

The human touch in managing human beings

Practicing clinicians  are well versed in handling human beings. This is another reason why doctors may effectively perform well in the field of sales and marketing. Their medical training will help them to manage customers such as businesses, doctors and consumers and aid in staff management.

Doctors are well-accustomed to the different temperaments of people and are able to handle them well because of their vast exposure to the nature of people.

Medicine provides doctors with many transferable skills a for career change

Doctors know how to speak to patients and their kin and are able to share their findings with colleagues. Invariably, this prepares doctors for potential public speaking and presentation opportunities which are very useful in the corporate world. 

Doctors changing careers to sales and marketing

Further, for doctors, there’s no greater pressure like trying to keep a patient alive. Doctors are well trained in high pressure work environments and stressful situations and these become an asset in their new professions. 

Medicine provides doctors with many transferable skills despite being technical.

Additionally, clinical life prepares doctors for a structured / methodical way of doing things  such as in how patients are approached, in asking the right questions, reaching the right diagnosis,  selecting the appropriate treatment etc. Managing a business also requires being methodical. In managing a business especially after revenue has dipped, the manager has to ask the right questions, identify where the source of the problem might be, test some solutions and so forth. So the processes in sales and marketing and  medicine are quite similar in that regard. 

Priorities are crucial in both medicine and marketing. Recognizing which patient requires a doctor’s urgent care is similar to a marketer recognizing which task to attend to on a busy day.

Doctors also take an oath to serve with integrity. This sense of integrity includes being honorable and responsible. These values are prized in any industry and implies that business owners can safely entrust their business into the hands of doctors.

Marketing and medicine are both an art and a science

Just as medicine is scientific in its approach, so is marketing. “Marketing has been studied and taught for many years. It contains a clear structure and rationale behind it as to what works and what doesn’t. Therefore it must be respected for being scientific in its approach” notes Dr. Izzhar.  

They are both an art as well. “There are diseases that have existed for years with proven methods of treatment. These treatment  methods have been tried and tested and there is research evidence to support them. But every once in a while, there comes a patient with the exact symptoms who is not responding to these tried and tested methods of treatment. This is due to an underlying issue which neither the patient nor the doctor is aware of. Here is where a little bit of creativity needs to take place and some thinking out of the box for the attending physician,” adds Dr. Izzhar. Marketing is no different he says, and requires serious thinking-out-of-the-box mentality. 

Doctors changing careers to sales and marketing

Marketing requires continuous planning and creativity and is not to be underestimated

That many doctors would view a career in sales and marketing as being a step down compared to the noble profession of being a doctor is understandable. According to Dr. Izzhar, “The truth is, there’s no greater satisfaction than actually treating a patient and receiving praise or gratitude from the patient or the next of kin”. Admittedly, such satisfaction is difficult to find in other professions. 

But to summarily dismiss marketing or other professions for this reason is premature, he adds. Besides, the world has evolved and careers are no longer limited to professions such as  doctors, engineers, architects and lawyers to be deemed a success. In fact, marketing is a field that requires a great deal of creative thinking and good planning, even more so than medicine. In addition, a successful marketer is often well rewarded. 

As an example, what may appeal to consumers today may be unappealing to them tomorrow. Moreover, technological innovation and growth is responsible for much of the information overload on products and services in the market. In order to keep abreast of the changes and trends regarding products and services, marketers must be aware of developments in the market. 

Marketing requires broadening one’s horizon

Such awareness serves to broaden the horizon of the marketer. With this broadening of horizon comes the ability and the creativity to upgrade and improve one’s  product and services.  “This is how a marketer ensures that his/her product stays relevant” says Dr. Izzhar.  

The world has evolved and careers are no longer limited to professions such as doctors, engineers, architects and lawyers to be deemed a success.

In other words, a marketer must be proactive and preemptive in his/her marketing strategies. This is very challenging and different from what doctors are used to in the clinical world. In the field of marketing, a great deal of market monitoring comes into play. 

“There is a saying that marketing drives the business and it really does!”

Citing his own experience, changes were needed at his laboratory services to cater for safety concerns during the pandemic. The pandemic also presented business opportunities that needed to be taken advantage of. His laboratory services were marketed and promoted in innovative ways. 

“There is a saying that marketing drives the business and it really does!” notes Dr. Izzhar. Certainly without marketing, a product’s market share cannot grow and a company cannot experience real growth, profit-wise. Marketing is therefore not to be trifled with as irrelevant and unimportant, he adds. 

These are some of the similarities between medicine and marketing that has enabled Dr. Izzhar to prove his mettle in his career of choice.

Doctors changing careers to sales and marketing

Doctors changing careers can be an enriching experience

In his parting words Dr Izzhar says, “For me at least personally, transitioning has been an enriching experience”. While a certain amount of  fear from doctors is to be expected, opportunities abound for those who are willing to take the plunge. Doctors do possess many transferable skills. 

As far as thinking that one’s medical education and experience might go to waste because of a career change, Dr. Izzhar points out that how a doctor sees his/her life is their choice. They can choose to see their life as a glass half full or as a glass half empty. 

Whether in professional or personal life, when someone has been in an unhappy situation for a prolonged period of time…there only two possible options: i) continue in misery or ii) arise and make a change for oneself...“Living your life to meet someone else’s expectations would only lead to regrets in the long run.”

Own your own life

Dr. Izzhar strongly urges doctors to be keenly aware that this is their life! While familial obligations and expectations have their place in the Asian society, it ought not to rob someone of his/her choices in life. In the long run, it would rob them of their happiness.

 Whether in professional or personal life, when someone has been in an unhappy situation for a prolonged period of time there are only two possible options: i) continue in misery or ii) arise and make a change for oneself, emphasizes Dr. Izzhar. “Living your  life to meet someone else’s expectations would only  lead to  regrets in the long run,” he notes with a serious look

MFM sincerely hopes that this article has enlightened you and given you the confidence needed for your  career move. If you’re interested in learning more about our Career Development Mentorship Program and other learning and development opportunities, please visit us at https://medicfootprints.com.my/learning-development/

To find out more about non-clinical jobs for doctors in Malaysia check out our job vacancy and find inspiration from medical doctors who’ve made a career change in our case studies. Check out Medic Footprints Malaysia , and follow our MF Malaysia Instagram and Facebook pages to stay updated on our events, webinars, job vacancies and more.

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