The Mentors

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PharmaVOICE Staff

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Quita Highsmith
Passion and Compassion — With Style

Title: Head, Alliance and Advocacy Relations
Company: Genentech
Education: BA, University of Kentucky; MBA, Cornell
Family: The Q crew, husband Quincy, her go-to advisor; her children, Quintin and Quinlyn, who keep her tech-savvy; her parents, Gloria Beeler and James Beeler, who still provide guidance, mostly unsolicited
Hobbies: Travel, Twitter, mentoring, community service
Bucket List: Visit all seven continents, still to go: Africa, Antarctica, South America, and Australia
Awards/Honors: MMM Hall of Femme, 2017; DTC Perspectives Top 25 Marketer of the Year, 2009
Associations: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, San Francisco chapter board,  president; GenenPAC Board of Directors; Girls for A Change, board of directors; Delta Sigma Theta, San Francisco Peninsula Foundation, board of directors
Social Media:
Tweet at: @execqstyle

Over the course of her career, Quita Highsmith has either promoted, coached, or personally helped grow the careers of hundreds of employees.

It’s what gives her greatest joy, and even 20 years later she is still in touch with people from teams she once managed.
“That feeling of helping others succeed never gets old,” she says.

Attracting and retaining top talent is imperative since the brightest minds are instrumental to a company’s growth and success, she says.

Ms. Highsmith has seamlessly transitioned across functions and has been successful in leading a variety of sales/marketing and advocacy teams across many therapeutic areas.

Today, as head of alliance and advocacy relations at Genentech, Ms. Highsmith is focused on engaging with patients and patient groups. She says in patient advocacy, inclusiveness is critical to engagement.

“Patients want to be heard and want a platform to share ideas,” she says. “Working with diverse groups allows us to amplify their voice within the company so that we can partner to create better outcomes.”

Sustainability matters to Ms. Highsmith, who is highly invested in making sure that she and her team make systematic changes to patient programs where and when they are needed.

“Whenever I meet someone or hear how Genentech has personally impacted patient lives, it makes a profound difference in how I do my work; and being able to work at one of the best companies in the world is a privilege,” she says.

One of the big challenges she faced early in her career was that as a Marine Corps spouse she and her husband moved quite regularly. As a result, she had to take ownership of her career and develop relationships within her firm and other companies to keep her career on track. In the end, she says being flexible helped her to grow her career, in addition to making good friends, learning new cultures, and enjoying different environments.

Ms. Highsmith takes a visionary approach to leadership, saying it’s important to help teams take the “balcony view” to see what is out there and ahead of them in order to prepare. She says this perspective provides focus on the long game and not just short-term gains.

Innovation, she says, requires feedback on what can be done differently or better from both internal and external sources.
Innovation stumbles when companies aren’t willing to challenge the status quo or when leaders are surrounded by an echo chamber or where ideas aren’t shared.

“We must reward the collaborators, the people who speak up and think differently so that we can innovate,” she says.
She inspires through genuine interest in others.

“People can spot from a mile away when a leader is not authentic,” she says. “Leaders also have to have a vision, know what good looks like, and, most of all believe in what can be accomplished.”

Mentoring and community service are important to Ms. Highsmith, who embraces her mother’s ethos: “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

“I wouldn’t be here without mentors, and I have a sense of duty to give back to help the next generation,” she says. “I love interacting with people and supporting their development.”

She advises everyone to have their own board of directors to act as professional mentors and connectors. Ms. Highsmith says it’s important to have people who can provide career advice about a current role, guidance for future goals, or act as a consultant about people or business opportunities or problems.

Giving back is important to Ms. Highsmith, and she serves on four nonprofit boards, adding that it’s up to each person to use his or her gifts to lift others. Ms. Highsmith, who is leader in the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, is committed to causes that enhance gender parity and opportunities for girls and women. (PV)


Bonnie Lappin
A Tireless Champion

Title: President
Company: The Lappin Company
Education: Wheelock College
Family: Her father, who has been her most significant mentor
Hobbies: Gardening
Bucket List:  Going on a cruise around the world, living in several other countries, becoming a grandma
Awards/Honors: HBA Innovation Award, 2017; HBA Boston CAP Volunteer Award, 2013
Associations: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, Women’s Foundation of Florida
Social Media:

In the 28-plus years of her very successful career, Bonnie Lappin has gained international recognition as an expert recruiter and advisor to companies in their search for the best talent. She founded The Lappin Company in 1989, an executive search firm focused on diversity and inclusion and on working with candidates to develop their three- to five-year career plans.

But it is Ms. Lappin’s deep commitment to mentoring — especially women — that draws praise from those who know her. She is, they say, a visionary, a leader, and a true mentor. Ms. Lappin empowers the women she mentors and advises, developing them into leaders who go on to mentor and develop other women.

Ms. Lappin has been driving innovation for career advancement for women for more than decade. She has served on the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) boards in Boston, Europe, and Florida chapters. In each role, she has been at the cutting-edge of conceiving, creating, and trying new approaches tied to the organization’s mission of advancing the careers of women in healthcare. She is currently a global chair and corporate relations president for the southeast region. Her biggest career highlight has been the creation of the HBA Ambassador Program. In 2011, she conceived and deployed a program that empowers women working within HBA’s corporate partners throughout the United States and Europe. The program enables HBA members within a company to build their internal and external networks, enhance their brands, and move to greater leadership roles.

Ambassadors from Shire and Takeda, two participating companies in Boston, report that because of their involvement with the program their senior leaders now know them, which has led to greater career opportunities.

Ms. Lappin continues to mentor long after formal programs have ended, and she is always available to provide support, advice, and guidance. In fact, many see her as a career navigator and trusted counselor.

Her passion and energy are contagious. She pours her resources, her vigor, and her commitment to enlighten and inspire the women she encounters.

Ms. Lappin’s professional goal is to continue to impact the careers of as many people as she can and help them move closer to their unrealized potential and feel better about what they do.

She says she tries to inspire others by illuminating their own strengths and showing them a path they have not considered. And she defines leadership as enabling someone “to walk through a psychological door that they couldn’t get through by themselves.”

“I try to get people and organizations to move out of their comfort zone and to take risks,” she says. “There is a fear of the unknown. But anything innovative requires the ability to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and the untested.”
Ms. Lappin says her father has been her most significant mentor.

“He taught me how important it is to be confident, live life without fear, and be grateful for what you have,” she says.

Those Ms. Lappin has mentored wouldn’t be surprised to learn that if she could pursue another profession, it would be leading a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping single moms to advance their careers.

“There are so many amazingly strong women in the world, who could significantly improve their lives with some coaching and a targeted network,” she says.

When asked how she would like to be remembered, she provides this quote by Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (PV)


Alisha Alaimo
A Transformational Leader

Title: VP and Head, Cardiovascular Franchise
Company: Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.
Education: BS, Biology, Emory University
Family: Fiance, brother, aunt, cousins
Hobbies:  Traveling, personal growth and development, working out, collecting wine
Awards/Honors: CEO-Sponsored Novartis Excellence Awards for Business Results, Most Inspiring Leader Award
Associations: Board Member, American Heart Association, New York Chapter; Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association

Novartis’ Alisha Alaimo has an authentic life purpose: to bring out the good in everyone and help each person to progress in their development not only professionally but also personally.

Ms. Alaimo has been at Novartis for 17 years, and has led a number of franchises, both in the United States and internationally, including neuroscience, respiratory, and Alcon Pharma. In her current role as the head of the cardiovascular franchise, she is responsible for Entresto, a flagship product for Novartis. Entresto, a cardiovascular medication, was launched in 2015, with high expectations. She assumed responsibility for the brand in 2016 — about seven months after launch — and she has been the driving force taking Entresto to its current success.

Ms. Alaimo quickly instilled a winning spirit to the CV organization. Colleagues say in only a short time after taking leadership of the CV franchise, Ms. Alaimo has infused the team with positive spirit and energy, and associates are more confident — believing in themselves and believing in a successful future. She brings spirit and energy to everyone she interacts with each and every day. For example, she starts every leadership meeting by asking the team to share with the person next to them what he or she is thankful for that day.

She is a leader who challenges and motivates the people around her to be the best they can be by recognizing and taking advantage of their unique strengths — or their super powers, she says. Ms. Alaimo recognizes that performance and people are on equal footing. She firmly believes that without taking care of people, a leader will never have sustainable strong performance. She strikes that balance consistently and authentically.

“For me, transformational leadership is all about people and the environment created for them,” Ms. Alaimo says. “If I can inspire people to move beyond their comfort zone, learn, and be at their very best, that’s success. I’m a fierce advocate for the people who work for me because our best performances are together. We like to have fun, too. I’m a big believer in loving what you do and who you do it with.”

Colleagues say Ms. Alaimo is constantly out and about, circulating among her colleagues in the home office and working with them out in the field. She takes a high-touch approach when it comes to people, and she likes to hear directly from associates.
“Successful leaders take smart risks,” she says. “It means facing up to the realities of our businesses and making the tough decisions. No one has all the answers, so courage is also about really listening to people and then saying what needs to be said and taking action on what needs to be done. Especially in a fast-changing environment, it’s important to set a course — with an open mind — and lead the way.”

She doesn’t think there is a clear recipe or formula for inspiring others. First and foremost, she says it starts with showing up as who you are not who you think others want you to be.

“People know when you are an imposter,” Ms. Alaimo says. “Therefore, I believe authenticity and telling the truth are critical in establishing yourself as a leader. From there, you must listen to your team and show gratitude for the work they do and who they are as individuals. Too often, people are taken for granted.”

She says a career highlight has been the successful turnaround of both the performance and the culture of the business unit she is leading.

“My team and I have an awesome responsibility to our organization and to our patients,” she says. “We were tasked with turning around an unsuccessful launch, no one could see a clear path forward, and the environment was not favorable for success. I am proud to say in only one year, we have achieved 400% growth in sales versus prior year.” (PV)


John Stuart
People Are His Business

Title: Senior Director, National Sales
Company: Genentech
Education: BA, Economics, University of Iowa
Family: Wife, Kris; two children, Samantha and Camden
Hobbies: Reading, music, and playing drums
Awards: Pharmaceutical Executive, Emerging Pharma Leader, 2011
Social Media:
Tweet at: @jstuartdna

Over the past 25 years, John Stuart has progressed through the ranks at Genentech to lead the company’s breast cancer field team and help to develop countless team members to become leaders in their own right.

To Mr. Stuart, leadership can be summed up by a Goethe quote: “If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse… If I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.”

Mentoring matters to Mr. Stuart, who says every interaction is a two-way learning experience.

“Sometimes I am able to help facilitate someone’s journey, even if just a little,” he says.

Though a humble and unassuming leader at Genentech, Mr. Stuart has been tremendously impactful in both the strategic direction of the business and, more importantly, as a fundamental developer of people.

“I have always been fascinated learning about the uniqueness of individuals,” he says. “We are all messy; I like to understand what it is about someone’s messiness that makes him or her who they are today. Healthcare is a people business, and the implications of people’s decisions matter.”

Mr. Stuart believes that people are the answer to almost any question. He believes in getting to the core — the why and what — about individuals to help inspire them and motivate them to reach not only their personal goals but those of the organization.

He says the opportunity to lead two of the most extraordinary sales franchises in the biotech industry — the Lytics franchise and now the HER2 franchise — are without a doubt career highlights. Lytics is the foundation for Genentech’s Activase, indicated for treating patients with acute ischemic stroke, TNKase, for acute myocardial infarction, and Cathflo Activase, for restoration of function to central venous access devices occluded by blood clots. The company’s HER2 franchise includes the ground-breaking cancer drugs Herceptin, Kadcyla, and Perjeta.

He says his role as an innovator at Genentech is to challenge the status quo or push back on the tools, solutions, or processes that aren’t working. He is focused on how best to solve problems by constantly striving to simplify strategy and processes. He helps his team to focus on two or three objectives rather than many to get to the goal of treating patients.

Success, Mr. Stuart says, can be measured in part by revenue, growth, succession planning, and other classic metrics. However increasingly he believes success is about subjective achievements, such as the impact he and his management team have on growing the skills of the individuals they lead.

His leadership skills revolve around creating an environment where people can grow and develop, and where trust is built. He thrives on working with dedicated and talented individuals focused on making a difference.

Mr. Stuart knows that discretionary effort eclipses all other forms of engagement, which is why his teams are consistently rated at the top of an organization whose engagement scores are considered to be outstanding. He hopes he would be remembered as a thoughtful individual who helped lead teams to consistently perform beyond expectations.

Mr. Stuart doesn’t mind learning lessons along the way, and says he wouldn’t have any advice for his younger self because that would deprive him of the pleasure of the hard knocks.

Mr. Stuart loves music, especially the drums, almost as much as he loves the business of biotech; so much so that he started what he says might arguably be the first commercial biotech band in the world, Van Helix, 20 years ago. (PV)


Stephanie DeViteri
Coaching Success

Title: Managing Director, Philadelphia (U.S. Headquarters)
Company: Tonic Life Communications
Education: BA, Communications, Rowan University
Family: Husband, Brian
Hobbies: Spending time with family and friends, going to concerts, decorating, reading
Bucket List: Visit Australia; take African safari
Awards/Honors: Rising Star, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association; Maxine Elkin Award for Distinguished Service, Philadelphia Public Relations Society of America (PRSA); CEO Leadership Award, two-time recipient, Huntsworth Health Global
Associations: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association
Social Media:
Tweet at: @stephdeviteri

There are many things remarkable about Stephanie DeViteri, but one that stands out in the constantly shifting world of healthcare PR is her 14-year tenure at Tonic Life Communications, where she was recently promoted to managing director of the Philadelphia office. Her dedication, hard work, and attention to detail are just a few of the reasons why she has been promoted up the ranks from her entry-level position to senior VP before reaching the executive level of the agency.

Her responsibilities include managing the U.S. headquarters, building and sustaining strong client partnerships, spearheading staff development, and developing wellness initiatives for a staff of more than 40 people. She also is in charge of programming, seeking out opportunities to expand Tonic’s global offerings, customizing account teams and services to support client needs, and driving business development.

Ms. DeViteri says it is the passionate people and quality of the projects at Tonic that keep her engaged in her role.

Over her years at Tonic, she has initiated several first-of-their-kind, patient engagement programs in chronic disease areas, including a dermatology program that used a strategic marketing insight that linked physical activity to improved well-being of people living with a chronic immune-mediated condition appearing on the skin. Ms. DeViteri helped put this marketing insight into practice by spearheading a multi-year campaign that engaged and motivated this patient population at a different level and moved away from focusing on the purely cosmetic aspect of the disease. The program became the second-leading driver of brand leads in its launch year. In addition, she fostered a 10-plus year client relationship, involving communications support for six FDA approvals.

Ms. DeViteri has been the lead on several multi-million dollar accounts at Tonic. Colleagues say that she has an uncanny ability to always understand her clients’ needs from the onset and consistently delivers the exact results they need.

As a result of her ability to form such longstanding and meaningful client relationships, she has become a trusted sounding board for some of the nonprofit organizations that Tonic often works with on behalf of clients. For example, Tonic received an RFP from one of these organizations and the agency moved forward in securing more visibility for the organization when they needed it the most.

Just as important as her impact on business has been, Ms. DeViteri has been instrumental in driving the growth and development needs of staff members at all levels. In addition, she has initiated staff surveys to uncover the critical growth areas within Tonic and worked closely with the HR department to execute an ongoing professional development plan. She meets regularly with each team so she can gauge individual career goals and how she can personally help make those goals a reality.

She hopes to implement a more formal management training program in the coming year. This type of program would be a first for the organization and would groom team members to be effective communicators, coaches, and leaders. She strongly believes that professional development is extremely important for both clients and staff.

“I believe it will greatly improve employee satisfaction, retention, client service, and business development,” Ms. DeViteri says.
She functions as a role model both personally and professionally, and stresses the importance of listening, learning from others, and getting involved with committees at work, as well as within the community.

Within the past six years, Ms. DeViteri has received numerous awards for her outstanding public relations work, including the PRSA Maxine Elkin Award for Distinguished Service, the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) Rising Star Award, and the CEO Global Leadership Award from Huntsworth Health. (PV)

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