Career Interview: Thomas Morgan, MD

Head of Human Disease Genetics
Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research

ASHG: What are the biggest challenges you encountered when acclimating to the pace and demands of industry? What skills do you wish you had worked on in advance?

Dr. Morgan: Working in pharma requires a broad knowledge base and the flexibility to change from one focus to another rapidly when an opportunity arises to meet an unmet medical need. Decisions need to be made within a matrix, and therefore, teamwork is critical.

One skill that I wish I had cultivated more than I did while in medical practice is a better understanding of how drug development works in practice. Like most physicians, I tended to take the pharmacopoeia for granted and wrote my prescriptions without giving due consideration for the intellectual work and investment that went into the drugs that I prescribed routinely. There’s not a lot of pharmacology training in medical school or residency, so if one wishes to know more, it takes effort and interest.

ASHG: If you could go back to when you were a trainee, what is one piece of advice you would give yourself for your current career?

Dr. Morgan: The most important advice that I’ve received is to have the courage to follow my scientific and clinical passions, wherever they lead, even if it requires more training or big changes.

ASHG: What do you think the future holds for the field of genetics?

Dr. Morgan: The future holds surprises, and I don’t know what they will be any more than you do. That’s what makes it so exciting. Genetics will continue to grow in importance as a critical mass of human genomes is analyzed and linked to clinical information. I hope that the future holds impressive improvements in phenotyping to accompany all the genotyping that will be done.

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