Ciaran Rooney joins the IMed Academy
Al Mills interviews our new recruit to the IMed Academy: Ciaran Rooney
IMed’s Academy grew by another one on 21st September when Ciaran Rooney joined the Medical Writing Department. Al Mills caught up with Ciaran at an IMed Team meeting to find out more about his interests and professional aspirations
Where are you from?
I’m originally from County Monaghan, Ireland, which is a largely rural county, right on the border with the North. It’s known for poultry, cultivated mushrooms and notable writers Patrick Kavanagh and Pat McCabe. Neither had anything particularly good to say about the place, and far be it from me to contradict such an erudite tradition! I’ve been based in Dublin for about eight years now, home of Joyce and Beckett. Neither of them had anything particularly good to say about this place either….
Where and what were you studying at University?
I went to University College, Dublin, for a B.Sc. in science, which segued into specialising in Cell and Molecular Biology.
Why did that interest you?
Well, I really liked cells, molecules and biology! The professors covering that speciality were particularly good and it seemed to me like the most inviting and flexible of the courses, as opposed to something narrower like, say, pharmacology or genetics. I got to do my final year project in prostate cancer research under Dr Antoinette Perry, who was just amazing. She’s currently working on an in vitro diagnostic (IVD) for prostate cancer prognosis, so hopefully our paths will cross again!
What piqued your interest with the IMed Academy role?
I wasn’t crazy about lab work. As anyone who’s done it will attest, things very often go hideously and lengthily wrong, and your control over the variables that contribute to that are, at best, limited. I was much more at home doing “dry” research and write-ups, so when I learned that Medical Writing was a thing, that’s what I wanted to do. The problem was that everywhere I applied to wanted Senior Medical Writers! IMed was the first application for a Junior role I ever saw, so I jumped on it. I think it’s fantastic that IMed have started the Academy for graduates like me to go on courses, be trained and developed on the job and get us into the regulatory field. The job search was pretty daunting, but a platform like the IMed Academy was just what I needed to get started in this area.
How did you find the recruitment process? What was the worst bit?
Honestly, it was a delight! I was naturally a bit nervous before the first interview and, by then, was suffering from a bad case of interview fatigue. But as soon as I started talking to Ana it became clear that I wasn’t going to be grilled – it was more like a very friendly, slightly nerdy initial chat and this put me immediately at ease. True – the writing tasks were tough, but quite frankly I enjoy that sort of thing. The worst part was probably the second interview, where I had to answer STAR competency questions and talk about myself – that’s always torture for me (and this interview is no exception!).
Well stick with it – you are doing well! So, you’ve walked out of Uni and into a job, which is going to use what you’ve learned. Did you think that this would happen?
Not exactly – I figured I’d do a higher-level degree or get a lab-based job and be further subjected to the vagrant whims of reagents and analytical machines. As a writer, I can let other people do all that, and focus on what I love – data, information, grammar and remaining seated. So I’m living the dream!
I bet you didn’t say you wanted to be a Medical Writer in childhood, so what WAS the dream for when you grew up?
I was big on Jurassic Park as a kid, so I wanted to be a palaeontologist and/or married to Laura Dern. With this achieved, I’d planned to be a train driver on the side, and also Batman. I mean, it’s all basically worked out. More or less.
How have the first couple of weeks gone? What have you got up to?
A lot of reading and research at first – there are so many acronyms, regulations, ISO standards, templates and projects to keep track of. But my core skill is at the heart of the work, so I’m already involved in my first Clinical Evaluation Plan project and I’m getting stuck into that. Ana and the rest of the team are unbelievably supportive and patient and my confidence has grown quickly.
Any other areas of QA/RA that you feel drawn to yet? If yes why?
I think the potential of IVDs is huge – we’ve already seen their practicality during the pandemic, e.g., as home test kits for SARS-CoV-2. As we progress more and more into precision and personalised medicine, the market for cutting-edge IVDs and associated software will explode, and I’m looking forward to being behind the clinical and regulatory evaluation of all these cool new technologies – without having to slog around in a lab myself!
How does working remotely feel different to remote studying?
It feels great because I’m doing a lot of the same stuff, but now getting paid for it! Outside of Uni, I’ve only ever worked in kitchens, which are obviously pretty hectic environments with late nights and early starts, interspersed mostly with backache. Being able to work from home on medical device and IVD projects is a very welcome change of pace, energy and intellectual focus.
What experiences have your Uni friends had when job hunting?
Most are doing PhDs or industry stuff. But at the reunions, I’ll be that guy in the Radiohead t-shirt, five pints deep and droning on about the importance of ISO 13485 for quality management in the medical device industry. I can’t wait!
And what do you do for fun?
I love cooking and eating, and I love travelling to different countries with the sole intention of eating the regional specialties. Nice scenery and architecture are just incidental bonuses for me. I get real thrill tasting or even hearing about an ingredient or dish I’ve never tried, or sitting down to a tasting menu in a fancy restaurant. Naturally, these tendencies go hand in hand with excellent wine, and that’s my other passion. I’m heavily biased towards French wine – especially Burgundy and the Loire Valley – but would hardly turn my nose up at a Piedmontese Nebbiolo or a crisp New Zealand white. The diversity of grapes, styles and potential for food pairings is practically inexhaustible. In my own humble way, I test the limits of that inexhaustibility – all in the name of scientific inquiry, of course!
Well watch out Oz Clarke and watch out anyone who used to be at school with Ciaran, intending to go to a re-union; there’s a medical writing medical device quality standards enthusiast at the bar, just waiting for a willing ear ……
Seriously, it’s great to have you on the Team Ciaran and we are all enjoying working with you already.
IMed Business Development Director