Have you met...Cátia Bandeiras?

Cátia Bandeiras is a biomedical engineer and currently, she uses her analytical skills to inform the impact of new therapies at Novartis in Dublin.

Cátia is a Biomedical Engineer from Instituto Superior Técnico (Lisbon, Portugal). Before embarking on her PhD, she did some scientific research fellowships that helped her understand that pursuing an exclusively lab-based career was not for her. For instance, she improved her coding and did projects on computational epidemiology and computational tissue biomechanics, thus discovering her love for computational science. Besides, she wanted a PhD that could combine science and business development, so she started her PhD in 2015 in Bioengineering at the MIT Portugal program. Cátia developed a project under the scope of bioprocess and health economics, where she developed open-source models to simulate the production of stem cell-based therapies and associated costs to both manufacturers and healthcare payers. During this time, she had the opportunity to spend 2 years in the USA, at MIT and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. After her job search on the lead up to her PhD Viva in late 2019, she started working in Health Economics and Outcomes Research at Novartis.

How is the daily life of a Health Economics and Outcomes Research Manager in a pharma company?

My days never look much alike, there’s a lot of variety. Some examples are estimating the quality of life of patients in different stages of a certain disease; the economic and humanistic impact of a particular disease in society and payers, etc...At the same time, I can learn about the new healthcare systems trends and the respective impact of these new trends.

What skills acquired during your PhD are crucial for your job now and for the transition to the industry?

First, the technical skills related to the development of new therapies or medical devices, regulatory processes, and IP. Some other competencies, like coding and data science, are very useful for data analysis and to find patterns in data. Besides, knowledge about health economics and understanding the long-term impact of new therapies to patients, payers and society overall helped me a lot in the transition into this job.

How did you combine PhD work, social media, blog, editing for IEEE and maybe other hobbies? Any advice?

I like being on the field and know where the impact is, but it is very important to prioritize! The most important thing was my work, at the time, my PhD. Then, we should always balance these activities with our personal life, taking care of both our physical and mental health. So, I think it is really a balance between commitment and respecting our limits (understanding when some additional activities are no longer a benefit for us and letting go). Overall, being involved in different things was good for me and let me not think about the same thing (PhD!) all the time.

You did a PhD in stem cells and now you presented work in Neuroscience, Respiratory and Ophthalmology. How did the area transition go?

One of the things that we develop during a PhD is to know how to do research and to learn promptly about different topics. Besides, during my PhD I had 2 different diseases as case studies in the auto-immune and respiratory disease areas developed together with medical doctors. Also, I don’t have any problem asking for help to those who would know more about it!

From your experience abroad, particularly at MIT and Harvard, what did you gain the most?

By far, it was such an intellectual stimulation, nothing like what I’ve experienced elsewhere or before. There was so much stuff to do and to learn that I had to learn how to say no sometimes. From seminars to debates about many different topics, where I really had the opportunity to improve my cultural competencies. It is so different because funding for research is not as much of a problem as it is in Portugal. But I could see a bunch of inequalities in the education system, which I wasn’t so aware of before. Being conscient of that reality makes me want to do something about it, in terms of access to education and science. More on a personal note, I had the opportunity to live with people from different countries! I grew a lot as a person and I believe I wouldn’t be the same without this experience. It taught me to stop comparing myself to others and how to deal with imposter syndrome. Everyone has a different path!

Inspired by Cátia´s career path? She made a career mixing science with economics and she is creating value to the society and to the scientific community! Stay tuned for more career paths!