This week’s spotlight is on Jacon Chun, a physical therapist who now works as a clinical strategy specialist for Smith+Nephew!
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What is your full name, title, and company name for your current, primary role?
Jacon Chun, PT, DPT, SCS
Clinical Strategy Specialist for Smith+Nephew
Where are you located?
Where did you go to PT school, and what year did you graduate?
Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA (1999)
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
I got a job in outpatient PT at the student health center at UC Berkeley (where I did my undergrad and completed my PT internship).
I split time between outpatient and neuro rehab, as I wanted to develop a well-rounded skill set.
In what setting(s) did you work, and what types of patients did you treat?
My career has been primarily in the outpatient orthopedic and sports arena (I have been board certified as an SCS since 2007).
I had my own practice for 10 years (2007-2017), and then I managed an outpatient practice for a large PT company (2017-2021).
What did you enjoy about your early roles? What didn’t you enjoy?
I loved the clinical aspect of PT practice—especially the interaction with patients. Helping them understand their bodies and how to manage their symptoms and restore their health was really fulfilling.
I didn’t like the administrative part of being a PT, especially the ever-changing documentation requirements from insurance companies that made it harder on the providers and patients.
I was also disappointed at the direction the profession was heading—specifically with declining reimbursements. These cuts resulted in increased productivity requirements and stagnant pay, which made it hard to make a competitive salary, especially compared to other higher-paying professions.
What else have you done since then, prior to your current role?
In 2010, I stepped away from treating patients in my private practice and just managed the business. I decided to take on a position as a clinical specialist with AlterG (makers of the Anti-Gravity Treadmill).
I was one of the original users of the product, and it was a good fit for me, as I was able to do the following:
- Build the evidence base for the product
- Write copy for marketing
- Train and support the sales team
- Interact and guide actual PT users in the field
- Consult with engineering and R&D
- Film educational videos for the YouTube channel
It was great wearing all the different hats, and I loved meeting and working alongside various people within the organization and around the country.
When and why did you decide to make a change?
The flexibility I craved would be hard to find in a clinical position, and I really enjoyed my experience as clinical specialist with AlterG. So, I started searching for clinical specialist roles on LinkedIn and Indeed.
What are you doing these days?
I work full-time (remotely) as a clinical strategy specialist for Smith+Nephew.
We have multiple franchises at Smith+Nephew (advanced wound management, trauma, Sports medicine, ENT, and orthopedic reconstruction). My focus is on hip implants on the global clinical strategy team in orthopedic reconstruction.
My job is to make sure that we get the evidence we need so that we can:
- Help bring new products to market
- Expand adoption in countries/regions that don’t have access to our products
- Maintain access in existing markets by continuing to provide safety and performance data on our hip implant products
Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?
I am solely a non-clinical PT at the moment.
Want to be a non-clinical PT, OT, SLP, or assistant?
How long have you been working as a clinical strategy specialist?
Since March, 2022.
What do you wish you would’ve known before going into this role?
The company does a great job providing training for their new employees and continued education for staff.
I do wish that I had knowledge of the regulations needed for class III medical devices. There is a steep learning curve, and some prior knowledge of European Union Medical Device Regulation and ISO (International Organization for Standardization) systems would have been very helpful.
Some more experience with the Microsoft Suite of products (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Teams, Outlook, Project, Timeline) would have been nice, too, as we use them all quite extensively in our work.
Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?
I did not obtain any special certifications to get the position. However, after joining the company, onboarding was quite extensive and there was a lot to learn.
If you want to get a head start and set yourself apart from other PTs/clinicians that might be vying for the same positions, there are courses on the regulatory requirements that you can look for.
Editor’s Note: We found this medical device regulations course, which seems very promising, and won’t break the bank!
How did you find your job? Did you apply or find it through a connection?
I searched for clinical specialist positions on LinkedIn and Indeed. I looked up the job positions directly on the Smith+Nephew website for more details and applied through their portal.
Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the job?
I used Zety to update my non-clinical resume to highlight things that would make me a good fit for this position (particularly my prior experience as a clinical specialist).
I didn’t focus much on my actual PT clinical experience or the fact that I had a board certification, and I made sure to highlight personal qualities/characteristics that I was able to develop from my past roles as a PT clinic director/private practice owner:
- Time management
- Ability to work independently
- Work ethic
- Interpersonal skills
What was the interview like for the role?
There were three rounds to the interview process.
Round one was all virtual. They have a site you log in to and upload your resume/cover letter. Then, there were different pages with questions, where you were able to record a video response (I believe it was like five or six questions).
Round two was a video call with my supervisor, since he is based in the UK.
Round three was another video call with the director of the global clinical strategy team. I felt everything moved very smoothly from my submission to receipt of the offer letter from the company.
How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?
I think most people understood, though, once I explained my goal to have more flexibility in my schedule to be able to be around for my kids.
What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you? What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?
My day typically starts around 7am with meetings/checking emails. This could fluctuate, depending on your location with this company, since our meetings are happening with team members and researchers from around the world. On occasion, there might be earlier calls (6am) if we need to discuss things with the team in Australia or Asia.
I am at my computer until about noon, and then the afternoons are usually flexible for me to finish work on projects.
My job duties include:
- Helping with presentations
- Contacting research sites/principal investigators (PIs)
- Reviewing protocols
- Analyzing data
- Updating our regulatory documents
There is no set schedule, so I can take breaks to pick up my daughters from school and drop them off at activities. I can take my laptop with me and work while they are in dance class or swim practice.
If there are urgent deadlines, then sometimes I will log back in after the kids go to sleep. The key with remote work is we trust each other to get tasks done and meet deadlines.
Editor’s note: Interested in reading more about balancing family life with a non-clinical career? Check out this spotlight on Liz Rowe, OTR, who is now Manager, Strategy & Insights at Open Health!
What are some of the rewards of your role? What are the biggest challenges?
There definitely aren’t the same daily rewards with a remote position that you might get working with patients, but there is positive feedback when you’re able to help a colleague find some data they need or complete a task on time.
It’s also important to remember the big picture of what I’m doing when I gather the data/evidence for our hip implants: By keeping our products on the market, we are making a huge impact on patients that are in significant pain and have difficulty walking/moving.
I may not be directly involved with the rehab process anymore, but what I’m doing still helps patients get back to the activities they love with the hopes that they can live life unlimited.
How did your clinical background prepare you for this role? Which skills transferred?
Having treated many total hip arthroplasty (THA) patients before, my understanding of anatomy and surgical procedures has been helpful—especially when you’re working with implants.
I’ve also found that my clinical background helps me feel comfortable talking to surgeons. Many of these surgeons are also our principal investigators (PIs), and I have extensive experience marketing to them from my days as a private practice owner/clinic director.
Some other transferrable skills include:
- Time management
- Prioritizing tasks/duties
- Ability to work independently
- Problem solving/critical thinking
- Technical writing/review
What type of person do you think would do well in your role?
One important trait to have for this position is the ability to problem-solve/think outside of the box to help figure out how to fill gaps in evidence.
Much of my work surrounds this question: what strategies can be used to help gather data—or justify the lack of data—for regulatory agencies? Gathering data is crucial to maintain access to the medical products you’re working with.
Being detail-oriented and organized is also helpful, as you will likely need to manage/oversee multiple clinical studies, and you’ll have multiple tasks requiring your attention on a daily basis.
Do you work remotely or onsite?
I work 100% remotely. I will travel a few times a year to our headquarters for team meetings.
Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?
We have many roles at Smith+Nephew that clinicians could fill. These roles are in the following departments:
- Evidence Evaluation
- Medical Writing
- Medical Education
- Clinical Strategy
Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?
Not at this time, but courses on EU MDR and ISO standards would have been helpful to prepare me for this work.
What is a typical career path for someone in your role?
Growth in the career can take someone any number of directions in a medical device company.
There are multiple roles and, as someone learns more about the different duties and teams they engage with, they can look for other internal roles—or they can consider similar positions at related companies.
What is next for you? What are your high-level career aspirations?
Currently, my goal is to get more familiar with my role working with class III medical devices.
In addition to the regulatory requirements and clinical research parts of my job, I need to learn more about the technical aspects of using things like Excel and Powerpoint.
There are people within the company who know so much with these programs from their years of experience analyzing data and making high-level presentations (something I didn’t do much of as a clinician), I feel I need to play catch up.
In the future, perhaps move into a position which would allow me to work and travel internationally (something I never thought possible as a PT).
What would you recommend to someone who is considering going into a role like yours? Do you have any special words of wisdom for the readers?
Look up job descriptions for clinical specialist roles to see what skills are necessary. Work on building up those skills to help the transition.
There are a lot of qualities that are transferrable when going from clinical to non-clinical, but all of the patient care/treatment skills may not be as important. I didn’t highlight any of my clinical experience on my resume or the fact that I was a board-certified SCS.
Instead, I focused on the skills I developed, as well as specific personality traits that would make be a good clinical specialist.
What would you teach to today’s graduate students in your profession, if you had the opportunity?
Don’t feel limited to clinical care when you graduate PT school. Many feel that way, but PT school creates a wonderful foundation that is a stepping-stone to many opportunities outside of working as a PT, being a practice owner, or teaching at a PT program.
Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
Keep your eyes open for opportunities. If the door opens, don’t be afraid to walk through it and give it a try. You can always fall back on clinical care. You’ll always wonder what could have been if you don’t take a chance on something you want.