Interview with Dr. Swati Shah

I recently spoke with an obstetrician who was able to network effectively to land a job as a medical science liaison. I’ve been fascinated by the MSL career. Its an entry level position in the pharmaceutical industry that is often open to both licensed and unlicensed physicians. 

In today’s interview, I speak with an obstetrician who really leveraged her clinical work, professional relationships, and networking to obtain her first job as an MSL.

Dr. Swati Shah is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist. Since quitting her practice in 2009, Swati has held a variety of different clinical positions including practicing as a locum tenens physician in Hawaii, St. Croix, Maine, Kansas, a Navajo reservation, and more. Other positions have included “OB” hospitalist work and consulting freelance jobs.

How to Network Effectively

But she landed her new position through her relationship with an MSL who called on her for years as a physician influencer. When it came time for Swati to pursue a nonclinical career, this MSL was able to serve as a mentor to her.

Swati says that she has really enjoyed this new career and is very satisfied with what she's doing. I've interviewed three other MSLs, but I wanted to highlight Swati for a couple of reasons.

First, I met her at the recent Physicians Helping Physicians conference in Austin, TX, in April. And I found her perspective on landing an MSL job very interesting and instructive.

Also, her story demonstrates how an experienced physician who can network effectively, and demonstrate a deep knowledge in a specific field, can land an MSL position with one interview. Many physician MSLs I’ve spoken with who are not residency-trained, took quite a bit longer to get an interview. And they often endured multiple interviews before being hired.

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Swati was in practice for 10 years in New Orleans, when she decided to get a master's degree in public health. “People still tell me that, had I been in a different environment, different hospital, different whatever, I would probably still be practicing. But I look back and think the writing was on the wall for me to leave medicine.”

She wanted to incorporate her public health skills with being an OB-GYN. “LSU was not hiring. Tulane didn't have a position. And I worked quite a few part-time public health jobs.” She decided to try locum tenens work. “At that time, I viewed locum tenens as just a way to keep up my skills.”

Challenge of Moving and Maintaining State Licenses

Each state license has different rules and regulations. For Swati, one of the challenges of locums work was the amount of time involved to obtain and maintain every license, diploma, and CME certificate that she earned.

swati shah network effectively

“For the first four years of doing locums work, I had, at any given time, three to four opportunities in my hand, waiting to be credentialed and paperwork completed, for work three to six months ahead of time.” She noted that it takes a minimum of 90 days to do credentialing for any facility.

Dream Job That Really Wasn't

When Swati applied for and got an OB hospitalist position in Louisiana, she thought it was going to be her dream job. She was wrong.

“Sometimes in medicine, some people figure out how to become great leaders, and some people don't figure it out. I didn't figure it out, but it's not for lack of trying, and it's not for lack of skills. I can pretty much problem-solve most things on the computer. I'm fairly tech-savvy. I've used 10 different EMRs. But sometimes, that's not what hospital systems value in terms of leadership.”

Born to Lead and Build Relationships

Swati focused in on her strengths and skills to understand where she wanted to be in life – personally and professionally. Because she can network effectively, it enhanced her job search. It is also essential to doing her job.

I'm very happy in my role

as an MSL now.

Swati Shah

After expressing interest in being a women's health speaker, a drug representative in Swati’s office made it happen. “That relationship…is really what launched… my current position. I'm very happy in my role as an MSL now.”

Swati's advice is to create and maintain relationships by networking. “You never know where it could lead you, or what doors could open.”

Eventually, Swati was known as a leader due to her work in women’s health and family planning. “I knew a lot of the key players. I certainly was plugged into what was going on in the community, and I was actually teaching the residents in that hospital. So, there was a little bit of value with me.”

Perks of Being at a Big Company

Swati enjoys working at Merck because of the benefits it offers employees, including retirement plans, health insurance, and office equipment.

“All that is important in considering how you want to function. One of my goals in my transition out of hospitalist work… was to actually save up for my retirement. So, I can do that again!”


In Summary

That was so much fun. Swati is very enthusiastic and she really loves her new job. Be sure to connect with her on LinkedIn if you’d like to ask her a question about today’s interview. 

You can find links to the resources mentioned in today’s interview, and a transcript of the interview, by going to the show notes at

Check Out This New FREE Resource

I’ve just created a free mini-course on how to become an MSL. You can find that by going to In it, I cover the major resources you should use to pursue this career. It’s the first of several free courses in the works.

Next Week's Interview

Next week I'll be interviewing a very interesting physician consultant. He'll tell us why he left clinical medicine, and how he started his consulting business.

I hope you join me then.

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.

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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. 

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