Maria Dimitrova recently joined Mtech Access as a Consultant specialising in Health Technology Assessment (HTA). In this interview, we learn about her career to date, her experience with the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), and what inspired her to join Mtech Access.
What led you to pursue a career in health technology assessment (HTA)?
I discovered the world of HTA in the summer of 2016 when I did an internship with the Health Economics Research Unit (HERU) at the University of Aberdeen. I found healthcare data analysis really interesting, but I also quickly realised the importance of the work. Following my internship, I proceeded to complete a postgraduate degree in Applied Economics, specialising in Health Economics in collaboration with HERU. They offered me position at the Assessment of Technologies theme (department) and I spent 2 years working as a Research Assistant.
As much as I enjoyed my life in Aberdeen, I needed a new challenge, so I moved to Edinburgh. I joined Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) as a Health Economist. The role was cross-functional. It mainly involved providing health economic support to the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) and the Scottish Health Technologies Group (SHTG). I was an economic assessor for the SMC, whereas my role with the SHTG involved advising on the cost-effectiveness of non-medicine health technologies (e.g. medical devices, clinical pathways, service design, etc).
After 6 years in the public sector, it was time to make the step to industry, so I started looking for opportunities.
What motivated you to join Mtech Access?
Finding the right opportunity wasn’t easy and it took longer than expected. In the year prior to joining Mtech Access, I received a few offers from other consultancies but they never seemed to be the right fit.
I discovered Mtech Access after Chris Costello (Talent Acquisition Manager, Mtech Access) approached me on LinkedIn. He was very helpful and answered all my questions. I was left with a really good feeling about the company and my further research only reaffirmed that. Mtech Access have exceptional reviews on Glassdoor, highlighting its people-focused culture. After meeting Sam Gillard (Director – HTA, Mtech Access) and Anthony Bentley (Director – Health Economics, Mtech Access), I knew I had finally found the right opportunity. All the Mtech Access employees I met during the interview stages were very friendly and approachable.
Coming from the public sector, my varied skillset didn’t exactly match a specific job description. Mtech Access were really flexible and accommodating and I had no reservations about joining Sam and the HTA team, but also helping with Health Economics projects when needed.
What have you got involved with in your first few weeks with Mtech Access?
My first 2 weeks of induction were quite intense but really exciting, as I got to meet everyone and find out more about Mtech Access. I even met the Newcastle team, and my “buddy” (part of Mtech Access’ induction process), Helen Lilley, who is a brilliant Medical Writer, ensured I felt welcomed. It was lovely to also meet Sam in person, and I really appreciated her making the effort to travel all the way from Oxfordshire to meet with me.
As I am the type of person who learns best by doing, I quickly got involved in projects and proposals. It was really helpful to see how all the processes I learned during my induction were applied in real practice. My very first project was an SMC submission in chronic pain, during which I managed to utilise my SMC economic assessor skills. I did a mock economic appraisal as a quality check, to provide the client with guidance for improvement.
I have also been working on proposals for exciting new projects, all UK HTA submissions, which I am hoping to take the lead on as project manager.
As a former SMC economic assessor, what tips can you share with market access teams going through the HTA process?
The SMC has clear guidance for submitting companies on their website, which should be the first reference point for market access teams. After assessing the pharmaco-economic evidence in over 20 HTA submissions, my main tips would be to ensure:
- The correct use of clinical, safety, cost, and utilities data in economic models
- The validity of model assumptions
- Thorough exploration of uncertainty and generalisability of model inputs and assumptions to clinical practice in Scotland
What has most surprised you about Mtech Access?
Nothing really surprised me about Mtech Access as I did a lot of research before joining. Everyone was really approachable and the information I gathered during the recruitment stage has been consistent upon joining the team.
If you could swap your expertise and role with a colleague from another team, who would you swap with?
Undoubtedly I would swap into the health economics team. I have always been interested in health economic methods and I have a lot of experience in this area. However, I am not an experienced modeller, so I look forward to working with the health economists to build my skillset.
When you are not at work, what do you like to do?
I really enjoy yoga and Pilates and I practice 3–4 times a week at my local gym. Socialising with friends and going on long walks, mostly around the picturesque Arthur’s seat, is a regular occurrence.
I like rock music, comedy, and musicals, and I go to events as much as I can. The Fringe festival in Edinburgh every August is my favourite time of the year.
If you are interested in joining our team at Mtech Access, please visit our careers page for details of our current vacancies.