12 Questions with Ariel Buda-Levin

Sales & Marketing
12 Questions with Ariel Buda-Levin

Ariel Buda-Levin, MSc, is President of Medical Communications across Area23 on Hudson, ProHealth, and Trio, as well as the Commercial Medical Communications Champion at IPG Health Network. A twenty-year industry veteran, she began her career as a medical writer and strategist, working in medical communications, HCP promotion, and clinical trial recruitment across a variety of therapeutic areas before taking on her current role.

What are the main responsibilities of your current role? As the IPG Health Commercial Medical Communications champion and President across three of our agencies, I see my job as setting these agencies and all our commercial med comms groups up for success with resources, training, and best practice to help us set the bar in the industry for what “good” looks like, as both a partner to our clients and as an employer. One of my favourite parts of the job is the opportunity to work with cross-functional teams from across our agencies to build tools and resources. Our teams not only get valuable assets to help them do their jobs better, but we also foster inter-agency collaboration and cooperation, building connections that help us work more efficiently and bring new solutions to our clients.

What was your background prior to this role and how did it prepare you for the work you do now? My background is as a medical strategist and, before that, in laboratory and clinical research. I’ve worked across the spectrum of medical communications - Commercial, Medical Affairs, and Publications - in HCP promotion, and in clinical trial recruitment. I think having this diversity of experience has given me a really well-rounded perspective: I’m always looking for a learning or an approach from one area that can benefit our clients in another area. Many of the skills I practiced as a medical strategist, particularly around gaining buy-in and alignment from groups with very different perspectives, have been invaluable to me as a leader.

What are the most important professional skills in your work and how do you hone them? Listen, ask questions, and never assume! When we assume, we often miss out on real insights that are key to framing and solving the problem at hand.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the industry right now? The contracture in the biotechnology sector, which will likely be a challenge for years to come.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your work or your workplace culture? Post-pandemic we are hybrid, with most employees working remotely most of the time. The past few years have also been a period of tremendous growth, and the practices for building and maintaining culture has had to evolve to compensate for larger, newer teams. We’ve really dug deep on what’s important to each agency, how that can be shared with employees new and tenured, and what practices and places (virtual and in person) can help nurture that culture. As our teams have grown, many of the digital ways we gather to collaborate and work have actually allowed for a more inclusive culture.

How has digital technology changed your work or workplace culture? Used properly, digital ways of working can be more inclusive, transparent, and efficient - all three of which are key to our IPG Health values and ways of working. During the pandemic, we adopted Microsoft Teams, which has really allowed us to collaborate even more efficiently than before, and to bring our culture into the digital space. For example, our IPG Health Commercial Medical Communications community spans hundreds of people across two continents and multiple time zones. Through Teams, we can - and do - bring those people together to collaborate and share resources, in real time and asynchronously, while building connections across agencies.

What has changed most about the industry since the start of your career? The biggest change in thought has been the move into the digital space. Commercial Medical Education used to be so focused on in-person speaker programming and advisory boards. These programmes can be important, especially for HCP groups that still prefer in-person formats, but the digital space has afforded us so many more opportunities to reach HCPs and engage them in peer-to-peer conversations. Crucially, it’s also given us the opportunity to collect meaningful metrics: now, we can really understand which parts of our programming resonate with our audience, and which content and formats are best suited to change clinical behaviours. We can also integrate our educational touchpoints with HCP promotional touchpoints into a customer-centric, omnichannel approach. This type of seamless collaboration reaps tremendous efficiency for our clients and a better experience for our HCP customers.

What advice would you give to a young person starting out in your field? Seek out a variety of projects and opportunities. Opportunities may not come at the right time, so be open to possibilities. Come from a place of “How might we?”, rather than “It won’t work” - for your own career, as well as your client work.

What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time? I really enjoy working with my hands - it’s so different from the day-to-day of our work, which is more about thinking, writing, and engaging with others. I cook nearly every day and I find making even a quick dinner a really restorative break; when I have a larger block of free time, I like to tackle a new or complicated recipe.

What is your all-time favourite book? That’s a really tough one. One book that I have read again and again is William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. I love William Gibson’s work and he often is very prescient regarding how technology will change our lives.

What sports do you follow and who do you root for? Ice Hockey. Go Islanders!

How do you manage health, fitness, and wellness in your life? Physical activity - mostly running and yoga - is part of my daily routine and the time when I do a lot of my big picture thinking. Any of my colleagues who travel with me can tell you I never go anywhere without a stash of nuts or other healthy snacks to share! No one thinks well when hungry and emergency snacks have helped keep many meetings on track.

Connect with Ariel Buda Levin on LinkedIn.

IPG Health