Crossing Over to the Dark Side

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By Russ Ward (@russcward)

This fall, the chair of neurology at famed Brigham and Womens Hospital did something unexpected. He didnt lead another new study or pioneer a new procedure or publish a peer-reviewed article – hes done plenty of that already. He co-founded a CME company, which in itself would be a fairly unexpected move for a physician, particularly one with such an impressive CV. But whats more, he co-founded a company creating CME entirely without pharma industry funding.

Lighthouse Learning is, indeed, unusual. But is this an entirely unusual move?

Maybe not. Earlier this year, veteran CNBC pharma reporter Mike Huckman quit. Ten years into a high-profile career with the network, this might be seen as a surprising move. But whats more, he left his job as a broadcast reporter to join a public relations agency. As a senior vice president and the director of media strategy for MS&LGroup, hes become a “flack, the profession reviled by many journalists. In his new job, hes blogging and Tweeting, and teaching new hires about the right way to pitch stories.

These are just two examples that weve seen recently of people moving around to unexpected new facets of their broader industries – even, some would argue, their polar opposite career.

Their reasons are probably varied, and probably have something to do with economics and something else to do with quality of life. CME companies often make good money, as do PR agencies. Physicians have astronomical malpractice insurance, reporters have precarious job security, and both professions have long hours and unspeakably high stress levels.

Whats interesting to consider, though, is that in both these cases, the man in question isnt just jumping over “to the dark side, but is going there and working to make the changes that his former profession had called for. CME that functions independently; public relations that really understands the reporter.

Can they change their new professions with the knowledge of their old ones? Theyve both been extremely successful in their first acts; I see no reason why their second acts should be any different.

Who would you like to see “come over next? Imagine a pharma CEO joining the FDA, an ad exec coming aboard at industry watchdog Public Citizen, or the leader of a managed-care organization heading up a patient support network. Weve got the makings of a great reality show here. Its Undercover Boss meets Wife Swap. Think of the potential. Think of the CVS ad buys. Prime time!

Let us know who youd nominate specifically in the comments for one of these surprising moves, and why. Do you think it would do them good – or can you actually see it happening?

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