Interview with Dr. Michelle Bailey

This week, I bring you my conversation with a former academic pediatrician who now works as senior medical director for a contract research organization, or CRO.

Dr. Michelle Bailey knew she wanted to be a pediatrician since she was 12 years old. She received her medical degree from State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Health Sciences University and completed her pediatrics residency at Duke University Medical Center. She trained in the Integrative Medicine Fellowship through the University of Arizona, and served on the faculty of Duke University School of Medicine for 18 years.

Michelle worked in a demanding academic setting for many years. Then a medical scare helped her realize she needed a change. Now, she works full time as a medical director for a contract research organization, and part time as a career development coach for physicians.

Our Sponsor

We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country, with over 650 graduates. Unlike other programs, which typically run 1 – 1/2 to 2 years, this program only takes a year to complete. And Economist Magazine recently ranked the business school #1 in the world for the Most Relevant Executive MBA.

University of Tennessee PEMBA students bring exceptional value to their organizations. While in the program, you'll participate in a company project, thereby contributing to your organization.

Graduates have taken leadership positions at major healthcare organizations. And they've become entrepreneurs and business owners.

By joining the University of Tennessee physician executive MBA, you will develop the business and management skills you need to advance your career. To find out more, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office by calling (865) 974-6526 or go to

What Do You Want?

Michelle worked as an academic pediatrician for over 20 years, when she began to experience symptoms of burnout. One day she developed chest pain and sought medical care at the insistence of a colleague.

She had not suffered a cardiac event. But she took the episode as an indication that she needed to make a change in her career. She needed more balance and less stress.

She realized that she had reached a point where she was neglecting her health for the sake of her career. So, she began asking herself questions to determine what she wanted for herself at that stage of her life.

A friend of hers had recently transitioned from clinical practice to a pharma job at a contract research organization. Michelle knew nothing about the CRO world. But she was willing to learn. When the opportunity presented itself, it turned out to be a perfect fit.

When we enter a job, sometimes it works for us based on that stage of life we're in. But then as life continues there's marriage, and children, and other things that are happening… taking care of aging parents. Sometimes what we need can shift based on that next stage of life.

Dr. Michelle Bailey

Working for a CRO

CROs are companies that pharmaceutical, biotech and device companies hire to run their clinical trials. As a medical director, Dr. Bailey collaborates with a multidisciplinary team to bring new drugs to market.

She presents at bid defense meetings. These are similar to sales meetings where she shares her expertise to try to win contracts for her company. She also reviews safety narratives developed by pharmacovigilance teams to ensure they make sense.

Michelle enjoys her role at the contract research organization. Many CRO medical directors have training in internal medicine or family medicine. But Michelle says not to rule yourself out based on your specialty. She has been quite successful with her pediatric background.

According to Michelle, physicians have advantages in this industry simply based on their experience working with patients and families. However, there are other skills that can be valuable if you want to work for a CRO:

  • leadership skills,
  • teaching experience,
  • research background,
  • understanding the clinical drug development process, or
  • experience working on an investigational review board (IRB) or ethics committee.

There are several roles for physicians at a contract research organization. If not qualified as a medical director, a physician could also pursue:

  • a medical monitoring role,
  • work as a safety physician within a pharmacovigilance department, or
  • a clinical research associate job providing onsite monitoring. 


Work-Life Balance at a Contract Research Organization

Michelle’s role has given her the flexibility she was looking for at this stage in her career. She works full-time from home, travels relatively infrequently for short business trips, and maintains regular work hours with weekends and holidays off.

The career change has offered her a more balanced lifestyle. And with the newly acquired free time, she started coaching physicians in career development.

Looking back, Michelle is very happy with her career working for a contract research organization. And she believes that every physician can find the job that's right for them, many of which may be in the pharmaceutical industry.

Michelle is also an excellent career coach. And she has made THIS GUIDE TO EARNING INCOME OUTSIDE YOUR MEDICAL PRACTICE available to you. Just follow the link.

Links for today's episode:

Thanks to our sponsor…

Thanks to the UT Physician Executive MBA program for sponsoring the show. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It might be just what you need to prepare for that joyful, well-paying career. You can find out more at

I hope to see you next time on the PNC Podcast.

If you enjoyed today’s episode about this business coach and consultant , share it on Twitter and Facebook, and leave a review on iTunes.

Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton.


The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life or business. 

Many of the links that I refer you to, and that you’ll find in the show notes, are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you, that I have personally used or am very familiar with.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counsellor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career. 

Right click here and “Save As” to download this podcast episode to your computer.

Here are the easiest ways to listen:  or