Change Agents

Contributed by:

PharmaVOICE Staff

NOTE: The content below contains the first few paragraphs of the printed article and the titles of the sidebars and boxes, if applicable.

These forward-thinking individuals are disrupting the status quo and setting the strategic direction for their companies to capitalize on the opportunities that will shape the future of the healthcare ecosystem.

Answering the Innovator’s Dilemma

Raising the bar… by knowing what is achievable

Craig Serra
Title: Global Head, Innovation, Data Operations
Company: Novartis
Industry Awards: Emerging Pharma Leader, Pharmaceutical Executive, 2020; PharmaVOICE 100, 2017; TransCelerate Risk Based Monitoring Achievement Award, 2016
Company Awards: Pfizer Clinical, Medical Excellence and Innovation (CMEI) Award, 2015
Community Awards: Cristian Rivera Foundation Service and Dedication Award, 2016

One of Craig Serra’s first career highlights was a small innovative idea that cost $4,000 and saved the company $250,000. This was almost 20 years ago, and he is still forging the path to innovation. An important lesson he has learned is that when you have the right people together and the latitude to effect change, you can make an impact.

He leads innovation at Novartis related to data operations, a core clinical development function that has more than 1,000 Novartis associates.

“My role is to help flesh out our biggest problems, understand the myriad of ideas that colleagues have for solving them innovatively, and amplify the voice of the function to show value in executing those ideas,” he says.

While there are hundreds of ideas, initiatives, and projects competing for funding and attention at the company, Craig is able to get support even under these difficult, competitive times.

For example, Craig is working to pilot an ultra-novel EHR-to-EDC technology solution to decrease the burden on sites and monitors within the company’s clinical trials. He evangelized and socialized the idea across the organization and ultimately received buy in for a proof of concept.

While currently forming the team, he tries to motivate and bring a wide variety of groups to work together by finding common ground and opening their minds to new and innovative ways of doing things with humor and lightheartedness.

Other areas he is accountable for at Novartis relate to using AI in a variety of ways, whether it is building faster and better clinical databases, or producing regulatory-grade documents instead of manually creating them.

“I am just one of many who are joined at the hip trying to do our best for patients, healthcare providers, and our industry,” Craig says. “The colleagues and leaders I work with are tremendous, and I am extraordinarily fortunate to work with them. Every day is another puzzle piece turned over and more knowledge gained to do things better or differently.”

Craig is self-motivated to innovate and find new ways to accomplish what is often thought impossible.

“I am a curious and openly vulnerable person, which is a motivating factor,” he says. “I’ve been saying for a long time if we don’t trip over ourselves trying to be absolutely perfect, with unfounded fears and ridiculous excuses, we could have such a larger impact on humanity.”

He has saved companies countless dollars by creating and implementing strategies and solutions across development operations when others have failed or were fearful to try. “I think a lot about where I am spending my time so I can best serve the organization,” he says. “I fail way more than I succeed, but I’m constantly trying. There are often tough choices as we take the collection of ideas from associates and narrow them down to a few transformative ways forward.”

He continues to take a deep interest in mentoring others, especially those trying to progress in the industry, and Craig himself actively looks for opportunities to learn from peers and leaders alike.

“On my best days, I try to inspire with passion, excitement, courageous vision, humor, and being a trusted colleague,” he says. “Often, it is walking the walk and being actively involved in the detailed execution of strategies in a sleeves-rolled-up kind of way. I tend to have a hands-on engaged leadership style and try to deeply understand others, as well as whatever we’re trying to accomplish together. My approach is to bring out the passion and drive in others, and that inherently carries an invisible tide of momentum.”

Despite his accomplishments, Craig exhibits great humility and measures success by the value of his time spent trying to solve big challenges.

“Am I spending time where I want to spend time?” he asks himself. “Am I spending it with people who I can laugh and connect with? Am I living a life well lived? Those sorts of things are the most important when it comes to personal satisfaction.”

Assessing what is important for Craig also means giving back. For his earnest volunteerism to The Cristian Rivera Foundation and the lab of renowned pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Souweidane, both of which are focused on eradicating ultra-rare pediatric brain tumors, he was bestowed the service and dedication award.

Craig says some of the best advice he has received is: we can be anything we want and if you know in your heart that it’s the right thing, then just go for it. “Tough to follow, but can’t deny it: it is simple and damn good advice,” he says. (PV)


Designing New Experiences

Raising the bar… by getting back to humanity

Tristen George
Title: Senior VP, Experience Design
Company: AbelsonTaylor
Industry Awards: 2016 MIT Grand Hack Mentor; PM360 Innovations Award; Silver Creativity International Award; two Gold W3 Awards; Gold and Silver Davy Awards; RX Club Global Awards; PHame Awards; American Graphic Design Award
Community Awards: Mom of the Year 17 times in my house
Associations: Founder of the Oak Park Progressive Women’s group with more than 4,000 members

When asked to identify her biggest career highlight to date, Tristen George cites being asked to become a shareholder of AbelsonTaylor last year. “Being entrusted with this responsibility was humbling, motivating, and a reflection of years of hard work,” Tristen says.

Since joining AbelsonTaylor in 2008, Tristen has helped to bring the healthcare advertising agency to the forefront in innovation and technology. She played a critical role in creating and leading AbelsonTaylor’s Experience Design (ExD) Group, established in 2015 to provide best-in-class digital and design expertise that helps brands build stronger and deeper audience engagement. Colleagues say Tristen’s quick grasp of technology, coupled with her hardwired drive to explore new territory, led her to push and blur the boundaries of traditional advertising, demonstrating how experience design, interaction design, content strategy and analytics can give campaigns added force and lead to deeper engagement.

Now, as senior VP, experience design, Tristen’s role is specifically to drive innovative thinking across AbelsonTaylor’s creative business. She partners with creative groups across the agency to help fuel ideas that move beyond the expected and push the boundaries within a regulated industry. Her work has earned more than 30 creative awards. “I put a particular focus on creating experiences that transcend a medium and resonate deeper for inspired behavior change,” Tristen says. “I love the challenges that come with working in a regulated industry. We solve complex creative puzzles that force the need for innovation in ways that may not have occurred in other industries.”

As an extension of her day job, she organized and participated in two AbelsonTaylor panels at South by Southwest Interactive Festive, the first on Presenting Complex Information with Simplicity in 2014 and the second on The Pitch: Selling Your Disruptive Health Startup in 2017. In both, she and the AbelsonTaylor team explored various digital and artistic approaches to simplifying complex data and ideas while conveying critical information both engagingly and persuasively.

Growing out of the SXSW experiences, where AbelsonTaylor formed a close relationship with MIT’s Hacking Medicine initiative, Tristen took part in an MIT Grand Hack, mentoring teams of participants to develop insights around their healthcare ideas and leverage storytelling and communication strategies to ultimately pitch their ideas to seek funding. She later developed a similar offering for AbelsonTaylor clients, collaborating with innovative and entrepreneurial thinkers to bring new approaches to marketing challenges.

Colleagues say Tristen always looks to make things better, is open to listening to new ideas, willing to test and retest, and to work until everything is perfect. She brings out the best in her team with energy, dedication, and passion. Tristen is guided by two key pieces of professional advice: work harder than everyone else, and don’t ever allow yourself to get comfortable. She leads by example, treats others how she wants to be treated, and strives to be both brave and empathetic in her leadership approach. “I try to cultivate an environment where everyone enjoys coming to work each day and feels mutually invested in what we are trying to achieve,” Tristen says. “That comes through making the process fun as well as making sure the team feels appreciated, supported, and respected. When the team faces challenges that may demotivate them I try to reenergize the team by acknowledging how they feel, thanking them for their hard work, and asking them to keep going along with me.”

Tristen tries to understand how daily life and current culture influence her teams and ultimately her creative work. “We need to rebuild strength in our own communities through honesty, integrity, mutual respect, and shared support,” Tristen says. “Now, more than ever, we need to understand each other’s human experiences, foster relatability, and provide empathy. For me this starts with how I cultivate a team so that sense of humanity can show through in the important work we create for patients and physicians.”

Tristen has dedicated significant time and commitment to women across East Africa in their pursuit of better nutrition and more stable incomes for their families. In partnership with Heifer International, Tristen and a team of AbelsonTaylor colleagues traveled to Kenya in 2016 for field research with rural dairy farmers. She focused on the role of women in the dairy industry and learned about the key role they play in providing a stable income for their families.

A year later, Tristen traveled to Tanzania and met with urban mothers living in Dar es Salaam, conducting research through focus groups, ethnographic studies, and one-on-one conversations. This work inspired the creation of a local PSA campaign to promote milk’s nutritional benefits in children and a regional campaign to publicize the achievements of women dairy farmers across East Africa. “This work was all in an effort to provide stable incomes for rural dairy farmers and easier access to safe milk for malnourished East African children,” Tristen says. “For a malnourished child, one glass of milk a day can be the catalyst in his or her ability to thrive.” (PV)


Confronting a Global Crisis

Raising the bar… by making a measurable difference in people’s lives

Ahsan A. Awan
Title: VP of Clinical Development
Company: Genlantis Diagnostics
Industry Awards: PharmaVOICE 100, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011
Twitter: @quackarazzi

As the world looks for effective, rapid tests for COVID-19, Ahsan Awan has been hard at work to develop a response. As VP of clinical development for Genlantis Diagnostics, Ahsan has been instrumental in developing a COVID-19 RDT that only takes 2 to 15 minutes to detect coronavirus infection/exposure from a single drop of blood.

Ahsan responded quickly to the crisis, working with doctors and nurses, communicating with government agencies, taking care of friends and family, advising others, and helping the world stay informed. His quick-thinking, curious mind, and ability to put together talented teams is what is needed to battle the virus that is causing an international crisis.

He is equally committed to identifying diseases such as HIV, HBV, HCV, zika, dengue, chikungunya, and syphilis with serologic tests.

“My goal is to create affordable and reliable point-of-care serologic diagnostic tests that can help people all over the world know their status and receive appropriate treatment as quickly as possible,” he says.

Throughout his career, Ahsan has shown time and again that he is an inquisitive problem-solver with the goal of improving lives via efficient technology.

Over the course of his successful and varied career, Ahsan has created and led a global CRO network; he helped create a global thought leader network of principal investigators serving as country managers and national directors overseeing clinical trials; and he led a team that created a new medical school in the United States.

In his spare time, he’s also a veteran pro sports photographer and has traveled all over the world to cover major sporting events. “It’s just another thing that I do,” he says.

Ahsan was brought into Genlantis to advise the CEO and provide his expertise in clinical development. “Our entire executive team weighs in on matters of innovation,” he says. “That’s how we achieve more, better, and faster.”

Ahsan has a wealth of information that he freely shares to those who to ask. Mentoring is important to Ahsan because in listening to others he finds his own voice.

“Leadership is only available to one who is neither selfish nor greedy, and therefore, only to one who embraces the opportunity to share with others,” he says. “I truly enjoy helping others succeed. It’s amazing what people are capable of when they’re empowered with tools and support. Keeping others motivated when presented with a challenge isn’t difficult. It only requires giving up power and control, giving up the idea that the outcome has to look or feel a particular way, and then delegating creative and innovative opportunity to my teams.”

One of the best pieces of advice Ahsan received was from one of his mentees, Nima Movassaghi, who said: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” “He didn’t make that up, but when he said it to me, it was the first time I’d heard it,” Ahsan says. “He’s correct. When it’s worth it, you must go over and above, you’ve got to do everything you can and then some. Integrity demands it.”

Loyalty is important to Ahsan, who believes in “being one’s word,” having integrity, and doing whatever needs to be done.

“I lead by example, but I also delegate and encourage leadership in others,” he says. “I believe in trust, independence, and decentralized control.”

Ahsan measures success along a number of variables; most importantly, knowing that what he loves to do helps others. “Success occurs on so many levels: causing others to be able to replace me; causing an organization to be able to live on successfully without me; causing achievement of goals and fulfillment of outcomes; meeting or exceeding revenue targets; completing projects under budget and ahead of schedule — those are all great measures of success,” he says.

Ahsan takes a broad worldview in thinking about his purpose and personal goals. “Given the state of the world around us — from climate change and the environmental emergency, health pandemics, political and civil unrest — I find myself motivated by a desire to make a difference and to help save the planet and humanity,” he says.

As such, Ahsan is involved with a number of world organizations such as, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, and Doctors Without Borders.

“My goal is to make a difference in the world. I want to create and innovate in a way that helps cause a world that works for everyone,” he says. (PV)


Trusted Partner

Raising the bar… by unearthing untapped potential

Raymond W. Chan, Ph.D.
Title: Executive VP
Company: ThinkGen

Only in testing my own comfort zone can I help others grow and succeed by going beyond their comfort zone. Leadership takes time and patience — we are short on both in today’s world, but without them, there is no true leadership.

Ray Chan, Ph.D.’s biggest career highlight actually started out as a big challenge. During his first full year at ThinkGen he launched a new business unit that had a year-end profit margin of 11% compared with the 20% turned in by his peers.

“It was not received as a rousing success,” he recalls. “A ‘friendly’ chat with our no-nonsense CFO, who I have known from a previous job and who I greatly respect and admire, really lit a fire.”

Thus, for Ray 2019 became a year of staff training, joining himself at the hip to ThinkGen’s “excellent” business developer, and rallying “an understandably nervous team.” The result: 2019 ended with a net profit of 28%, and year-to-date 2020 net profit continues to outperform expectations amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“Credit really goes to a firm CFO who believes in me, a business developer who took me under her wing, and a team of research professionals who had the faith and grace to forgive their team lead’s first-year stumble in order to make our business and our clients’ businesses thrive,” Ray says.

Ray is always looking out for clients’ best interest even when it is not in his own best interest. “It is not infrequent that a client says to me, ‘well, you just talked me out of that project,’” he says. “My response is always, ‘I would love to spend your money, but I want to make sure I spend it helping you do the right thing.’ My long-term clients and colleagues know that I sincerely care about their success, both in the short term and in the long term.”

In his current role as ThinkGen’s executive VP, Ray is motivated by the intellectual stimulation he gets from challenges. “Each day brings new puzzles,” he says. “I relish helping clients solve business problems in a parsimonious way — to find answers to complex questions not by creating more complexity or trying out the latest shiny object, but to seek out elegant, simple, and time-tested solutions. Their trust motivates me to do the very best, as I play the role of their internal market research department.”

Ray inspires his team members by providing the appropriate support system each person needs to do his or her best work.

“It takes understanding the person you are hoping to inspire and adapt your support with his or her success in mind,” he says. “This requires a careful balance of being available and getting out of the way so they can succeed by figuring out their way while feeling safe to explore. I adapt to an individual’s needs. Sometimes I jump in to help to solve an acute issue, sometimes it’s about providing a safe space to vent. In the end, I motivate my teams by reminding those around me to keep their eye on the prize and to see the long-term potential by working through challenges.”

Colleagues say Ray has proven to be a superior leader, and his knowledge, advice, guidance, and caring nature are much-appreciated attributes.

As a developmental psychologist, Ray is trained in the science of predicting future behaviors. When it comes to innovation and product development, he says he incorporates his academic training to help develop new products that can be easily adopted to have the greatest chance of ultimately changing future behaviors, for the better.

“I am keen on inviting new ideas, criticism, and opportunities to see and do things differently so that I can go beyond my own comfort zone,” he says. “Only in testing my own comfort zone can I help others grow and succeed by going beyond their comfort zone. Leadership takes time and patience — we are short on both in today’s world, but without them, there is no true leadership.”

Raym takes every opportunity to mentor when possible. “Mentorship need not be something official,” he says. “Mentorship is in modeling good behavior in everyday actions, conversations, and check-ins. Mentoring is an essential part of building a strong team, where each person then pays it forward to the next person they work with.”

While the saying is “actions speak louder than words,” words do matter a great deal to Ray, and he strives to be impeccable with them.

“The reality is, in our world that focuses on maximizing billable hours, immediate responses, and TL;DR bulletized communication, I do often wonder if some of the many hastily dashed-off emails or text messages aren’t as impeccable as expected for someone recognized as a leader,” he says. “On the one hand, we live in a world of easily doled-out ‘sorry’s and ‘I didn’t mean it’s; on the other hand, words can be immensely impactful. As a leader, the challenge is to be impeccable with both words and deeds, while succeeding in our TL;DR world.”  (PV)


Worldwide Change Agent

Raising the bar… by solving challenges that have never been solved before

Adlai Goldberg
Title: Principal
Company: EY
Community Awards: Republic of Indonesia – Presidential Honor. Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of Aceh and Nias, Indonesia, 2006
Twitter: @adlaigoldberg

Adlai Goldberg strives to make the complex simpler by streamlining complicated processes. Colleagues say “innovation” should be his middle name, as he is constantly working to improve the way things are done to make the world a better place each day.

“Being an innovator and change agent within EY and for its clients requires stamina, persistence, charm, and a little bit of luck to break through barriers every day,” he says. “Every day presents another problem to solve, another person to ally with, another roadblock to navigate, another path to discover. My greatest fear is that one day, I will not be able to overcome the next hurdle and my ability to effect change and the life story I want to create will come to an end.”

Not to worry, colleagues say, as Adlai continues to build better systems. From assisting the funding of tsunami relief to improving the treatment of cancer patients, he tackles it all.

As a principal at EY, Adlai is in a position to effect change. One of his more recent contributions was the result of wanting to improve the patient experience after witnessing a fellow colleague’s struggle with the healthcare system during cancer treatment. Thus was born EY’s Pointellis, a digital ecosphere that expedites the timely flow of information and materials along the value chain, helping patients receive the care they need, in the shortest amount of time. “I genuinely hope that Pointellis paves the road for as many patients as possible to have transformative treatment experiences, and these outcomes are achieved through a technology backbone that is so seamless and easy to use, no one is aware of it,” he says. “We have the opportunity to dramatically reduce human suffering. The system must deliver the right drug for the right patient at the right time and right place, every time.”

Adlai was also instrumental in creating a digitally integrated, concierge diabetes program for a leading biopharmaceutical company, which has been his most challenging — and one of the most rewarding — projects to date. “This was my first high-profile engagement in the life-sciences sector and I struggled to fully grasp what it took to deliver a fortified experience for patients via a biopharmaceutical organization,” he says. He was challenged to immediately learn an entirely different customer landscape and ecosystem universe to design a business and operating model that met — and exceeded — the client’s expectations. “I was so gratified to see that our hard work paid off and we were able to help improve people’s health,” he says.

Adlai is renowned for creating space for people to grow and experiment fearlessly with new ideas, and to ensure that every member of the team has their foot on the gas pedal for personal and professional growth. “I believe diversity — of the team, perspectives, backgrounds and experiences — will always result in a winning and successful formula,” he says. “I put my chin and foot forward with resolute passion and positive dynamism. I always endeavor to devote more time, effort, and energy than what is expected, and to be fully present with a smiling heart, caring smile, and light-hearted nature. Further, I bring the full me to everything I do. As an openly gay man throughout my life and career, I simply conduct myself as I truly am and incorporate my family throughout all strands of life, within EY and outside of it.”

Having lived and worked in eight different countries over 30 years, across incredibly different cultures and values, Adlai has found one common denominator: everyone wants tomorrow to be better than today. “If I am able to play a role in someone’s life journey and help them meet their goals and aspirations, that is incredibly meaningful and inspirational to me,” he says.

Adlai’s passion for improving the human condition is not bound to only healthcare. He was living and working in Indonesia in 2004 when the massive tsunami struck 14 countries around the Indian Ocean, displacing millions and killing almost 230,000 people, including nearly 130,000 in Aceh Province, Indonesia. From the very outset of the disaster, Adlai understood the enormity of financial and reputational risk that donors and countries receiving the $13 billion in assistance faced.

On behalf of EY, Adlai established and implemented a financial controls framework by leading donor organizations to distribute the billions of dollars in aid for the half-million people who had been displaced in Aceh Province.

“One of the most meaningful parts of my career at EY has been designing, branding, organizing, and managing the month-long commemoration of the 2004 tsunami that struck the region,” he says. “The series of events and final commemoration ceremony brought together thousands of donor organizations, NGOs, civil society, and governments. The EY team created the media infrastructure for the domestic and international press organizations covering the commemoration. As a result of all of these efforts, nearly all of the billions of resources pledged to reconstructing Aceh and Nias, Indonesia was fulfilled by donor organizations.”

Another win for Adlai and the world. (PV)


Challenging the Status Quo

Raising the bar… by evolving human data science for a better tomorrow

Dr. Deepa Desai, BHMS
Title: VP, Global Head, QMS
Company: IQVIA
Industry Awards: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA), 2019 Luminary; Mentor — EU Mentoring Program, HBA; Certified Jonah – AGI – Goldratt Institute
Community Awards: Young Women Influencer by the Community; CEO of the winning Organization Silver Comet, INSEAD, Sigma Challenge; International Women’s Day Special, Express Pharma
Associations: INSEAD; Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad; Academy of Clinical Excellence; Landmark
Twitter: @docdesai

Transformational, uninhibited, unstoppable — three truly inspirational traits that Deepa Desai, BMHS, brings to everything she does. She is also an influencer and a multiplier. Deepa is mission-driven to use her interest and aptitude in medicine to make a global impact on how clinical research is conducted. “I want to be known as a leader to whom colleagues come to when they want positive disruption or a complete change of approach or thought process,” she says. “I always create possibilities where others believe something can’t be done and encourage my team to do the same by empowering them and challenging them to think differently. I always try to bring a mix of transformational and democratic leadership to the table.”

Deepa has been making positive waves since joining IQVIA 18 years ago. Her accomplishments are extensive. For example, under her leadership, IQVIA’s Centralized Cardiac Services department grew from 10 to 60 to more than 150 people and developed into the first ISO-certified global remote cardiac monitoring organization. This certification became the global industry standard for centralized, large-scale, remote cardiac monitoring.

“During this time, I had an overseas assignment for a year, which was a challenging one, since it was early in my career, in a different cultural environment, working with different stakeholders on a project outside of my domain,” she says. “The stakeholders were resistant at the beginning, but I was able to expand my area of influence. Ultimately, it was fast-track learning.”

Deepa likewise has succeeded in leading the company’s Core Clinical Global Delivery Network and Quality departments, continuously expanding her remit of operation and influence and being on the front lines of transformational change within IQVIA.

She standardized recruitment and onboarding of more than 980 life-sciences professionals within a year to support revenue recognition of global Phase II/Phase III clinical trials. She has led process transformation of regulatory and startup processes in offshore locations and created and led the project management of a clinical school across five locations on three continents.

In 2019, Deepa was named a Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Luminary in the global IQVIA network, and since then she has championed bringing the association to India not only for the women leaders in IQVIA but also for the larger healthcare and life-sciences industry in the country. She has since launched the HBA Ambassador program in India, underscoring her commitment to promoting gender diversity and inclusion across the organization and specifically in leadership roles.

Dr. has been invited to share her achievements with other industry leaders globally and has leveraged the momentum she has built to form partnerships and initiatives with other local healthcare companies.

In everything she does, Dr. challenges the status quo, encouraging those around her to set aside old ways of thinking in order to transform the industry. She inspires others by being transparent and standing up for her team. “I understand the potential within people and challenge them to not only develop their own careers, but to constantly push themselves to take ownership and be a part of the solution to ensure that as a team/business we perform at our best and are successful together,” she says.

As a leader she works alongside her team members, encourages them to play to their strengths, and ensures everyone is included in successes. “I encourage them to dream more, believe in their instincts, and inspire them to achieve their goals,” she says. “These are the few things that my mother always taught me.”

She is motivated by the opportunity to build leaders for tomorrow. Deepa is deeply committed to mentorship and provides her mentees with guidance to achieve their goals.

“Mentoring also provides me with a unique opportunity to learn from the fresh minds and to revisit my approach,” she says. “It’s a window into young thinking.” (PV)


The Science of People

Raising the bar… by inspiring people to believe they can do anything

Debbie Durso-Bumpus
Title: Chief People Officer
Company: Blueprint Medicines
Industry Awards: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, Rising Star; Davey Award
Company Awards: Employee of the Year; Manager of the Year; President’s Award, Human Resources
Associations: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association; MassBio; Life Science Cares

As employers around the world manage the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on their workforce, Blueprint Medicines’ Chief People Officer Debbie Durso-Bumpus goes above and beyond to make sure the “Blue Crew” feels supported, safe, and connected during this uncertain, challenging time. And the lessons and insights gained from this experience will be carried through Blueprint’s people strategy for years to come.

By sharing transparent, resourceful, and trustworthy communications on a regular basis, Debbie has led more than 90% of employees to say they feel supported by Blueprint during this time. And in the first seven months of 2020 when many businesses are slowing down, Blueprint is speeding up with the achievement of several milestones: the company received FDA approval and a positive CHMP opinion for its first drug, avapritinib; presented promising data across several late-stage clinical programs; submitted three marketing applications in the United States and EU; advanced a new drug candidate from preclinical research to its first clinical trial; announced a global collaboration with Roche; and more.

While the efforts driven by Debbie — in partnership with other key leaders and employees at Blueprint — during COVID-19 have further validated her ability to lead and keep employees motivated through times of change, her skills have long been valued before the pandemic.

Debbie’s abilities embody a rare combination of strategy, operational excellence, intuitive understanding of business needs, selflessness, and heart that allow her to continually step outside of her functional expertise and represent and support every area of the business. She leads long-range strategic direction on all people and culture matters; managing Blueprint’s rapid growth while maintaining its high-performing culture. Since joining Blueprint, Debbie has redefined the term human resources; transforming her team to act as an agile business partner to all.

For example, she partnered with Blueprint Medicines’ CEO to build a gender-diverse executive leadership team — a 50:50 male to female ratio. Today, she’s working with a cross-functional group of leaders and employees to assess further equity, diversity, and inclusion opportunities and create action around them. Another recent, notable achievement includes introducing the idea of boundless jobs to Blueprint’s professional development strategy. Through this effort, Blueprint remains committed to investing in its people by providing them with stretch opportunities to reach beyond their role to move the trajectory of the business more broadly.

“My whole career has been about building,” Debbie says, and that is certainly evident in her accomplishments. “Every role I’ve held has led the business to advance the company’s growth objectives. I am first a business leader and just happen to also have the expertise and passion for the science of people.”

Throughout her career, she has created opportunities by stepping into experiences that pushed her out of her comfort zone, exposed her to all aspects of the business, and challenged the norm. “I jump in with both feet; committing to propel the business forward, through highs and lows, in a manner that’s differentiated and sets the business up to drive long-term value,” she says.

Such objectives have included advancing Blueprint’s own growth trajectory — from IPO to a fully integrated company with its first U.S. drug launch, and now standing on the cusp of global commercialization in less than five years.

Now, Debbie and her team are leading an international build out across Europe by delivering a global HR operating model for all people, including best practices for compensation, benefits, rewards and recognition, learning, employment branding, policies, and more.

“As a leader, it’s my responsibility to foster an environment that provides opportunity to challenges the status quo of how to think about the employee experience,” Debbie says. “I empower my team to lead and drive change that inspires ideas and energy from individuals, who in turn propel innovation within the company. It’s motivating to be part of building an organization that stays true to its core values, is making a real difference in the lives of patients and has long-term sustainability all while also intentionally creating growth opportunities for all.” (PV)


At the Center of the Action

Raising the bar… together

Ryan Walsh
Title: VP, Client Services
Company: Real Endpoints

Ryan Walsh is responsible for marketing and promotional activities, product and service quality, and client development and support at Real Endpoints. His accumulative career experience prepared him well for this present role.

Ryan worked at Novartis, where he was a leader in the market access organization with responsibility for strategy development and execution for the immunology portfolio. Before that, Ryan served as an executive at Walgreens, where he led the development and implementation of a portfolio of innovative, multichannel solutions to provide value to global biopharmaceutical manufacturers in the areas of commercial strategy and patient acquisition and retention.

After two decades within pharma and the drug supply chain, Ryan took his unique perspective to the consulting world and is now highly sought after for his expertise by both large and small pharmaceutical companies and has assisted with the commercial strategy for both launch and inline products.

Throughout his career and different roles, Ryan’s goal has remained steadfast. “My professional goal has been the same for the past 20 years, I want to be at the center of the action, working with good people on problems that matter and finding positive and productive solutions,” Ryan says. “I will always seek out opportunities that allow me to stretch myself and work with others in this regard.”

He says his career path has been a little non-traditioinal and he has found himself, at many times, in organizations and roles dealing with some interesting and unexpected issues.

“I often take on responsibilities outside my areas of expertise or comfort,” Ryan says. “My adaptability, positive approach, and resiliance in the face of the unexpected and uncomfortable has been a challenge throughout my career, but one that’s really defined and shaped me along the way.”

Today, he is spending enormous time and effort in reshaping the future of the relationship between pharmaceutical manufacturers with an increasingly more powerful customer base of payers, PBMs, wholesalers and retail and specialty pharmacies.

With the current and continued vertical integration and consolidation of the largest payers, PBMs, pharmacies, and drug distributors Ryan has created deep expertise in understanding the importance of market access capabilities and organizational design, pricing and reimbursement strategies, payer value propositions, and specialty pharmaceutical drug distribution, and helping pharmaceutical manufacturers shape and provide best-in-class services to meet the important needs of their patients.

Ryan, who is a true thought leader in these areas, has become a confidant and a shoulder to lean on for his pharma clients.

Ryan is the go-to expert for pharmaceutical manufacturers when they need to understand the varying perspectives of the pharmaceutical supply chain and the market access must-haves, all while being a strong advocate and champion for patients.

With his unique skill set and insights, Ryan has become an invaluable contributor to inline and launch success by helping pharmaceutical partners truly understand the market access environment as well as bringing them closer to the thoughts and processes of key influential stakeholders such as payers, PBMs, pharmacies and distributors.

“I work collaboratively with our associates and clients to develop creative, actionable strategies and solutions to overcome some of the most complex challenges in market access,” Ryan says.

His work ethic and humble nature are admired by his peers and clients alike. Ryan’s success stems from many skills, but colleagues say two in particular are his guideposts: his ability to treat everyone with respect and dignity and his straightforward honesty and sense of humor.

Being present, focused, and committed are absolute factors in Ryan’s success. “I also hope I am viewed as collaborative, someone who wants to work with others, someone who actively looks for partnerships, alternative viewpoints, and opportunity for mutual gain,” he says.

Ryan says because of the dynamic and fast-paced nature of the industry, it is often difficult to stay ahead of the trends and look beyond the horizon.

“I think we all can get hyper-focused on the day-to-day and immediate needs of clients and demands of the business, but it is really critical, in the spirit of raising the bar, to zoom out, step back, and take an inventory of what’s happening and changing around us,” Ryan says. “It’s important to look ahead, not down, to think, act, and solve problems differently. All of us have good and bad days and challenging times. I hope I can motivate others through positivity and humor; laughter goes a long way to bring people through and out of a tough spot.” (PV)


An Eye for Innovation

Raising the bar… by running to the fires

Tammy Guld
Title: Global Lead Janssen Clinical Innovation
Company: Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson
Industry Awards: Most Valuable Educational Initiative for raising clinical trial awareness especially in diverse geographic areas, Eye for Pharma, 2019
Community Awards: USA Triathlon All American Athlete for more than 10 years; qualifier for multiple Duathlon and Triathlon World Championships
Associations: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association; USA Triathlon

As the global head of Janssen Clinical Innovation (JCI) within Janssen Research & Development LLC, Tammy Guld is leading the creation and scaling of new operational approaches and technologies into clinical research with the goals of expediting drug development and improving patient and site experiences.

Tammy is motivated by the patients and the need to provide clinical trials as a care option. “I want to accelerate innovations and learnings and to challenge the linear thinking that has traditionally guided clinical drug development, and to learn from peers and patients,” she says.

Colleagues say Tammy’s achievements are pioneering a smarter course for clinical trials, using proven digital and integrated tools to help modernize and simplify the trial process, while creating the conditions for trials to provide more insights and actionable information than ever before.

When designing JCI’s portfolio, Tammy highlights the need to rethink tech-enabled patient engagement strategies and emphasizes the importance of the patient voice, focusing most specifically on what patients want from participating in trials. This approach guided the development of the Global Trial Community (GTC) platform, which aims to improve patient engagement before, during, and after clinical trials by keeping patients connected with the sponsor company and the investigator.

Colleagues say Tammy’s name is synonymous with innovation. She is known for actively building a culture of creativity and her vision has helped establish JCI as a model for the clinical trial industry by anticipating and capitalizing on key trends, such as real-world data, voice technologies, artificial intelligence, and direct-to-patient trial models, which aim to make clinical trials better, faster, and more cost-effective for patients, doctors, and the industry.

“Although we operate in a regulated environment, there are always opportunities to innovate, learn lessons from outside of our industry, and push the boundaries for a better experience for patients,” she says.

In keeping with her belief that no one can innovate alone, Tammy constantly challenges both her teams and others to break out of their silos and align around the big picture. She encourages them to think about what is best for patients and sites and how an integrated digital strategy can best serve each stakeholder.

This thinking supported JCI’s active participation in the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), Europe’s largest private-public partnership that brings together institutions, academics, and industry leaders with the goal of accelerating innovative practices. JCI’s team held leadership positions in multiple IMI initiatives, such as Trials@Home, to advance the development of infrastructure and processes for decentralized trials, which are urgently needed in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of her continued innovation efforts, Tammy actively chairs and leads components of industry innovation conferences and openly shares her team’s experiences across the industry so they can more quickly realize impact and value. “I also collaborate across sponsors and peers external to Janssen to accelerate collaborative approaches and solutions,” she says.

Tammy has made three significant pivots in her career to date. “The first move out of regulatory affairs and into clinical operations was the most challenging career move for me,” she says. “It was my first chance to lead a global team. It’s astonishing how much you can learn from your team.”

The best professional advice Tammy has received is to always maintain a growth mindset. “Do not neglect your network; continue to grow it as you grow,” she says.

Colleagues say Tammy’s energy is contagious. She lets team members’ voices be heard while creating a path and coaching them along the way. “I am a formal mentor to three individuals currently,” she says. “I learn so much from my mentees, and it brings great joy to be able to support their learning and growth. Bringing perceptions forward, understanding potential blind spots, and problem-solving solutions together are so rewarding.”

Her biggest challenge, Tammy says, is balancing her heart and her head. “There is an art to knowing when you have the right amount of data to make decisions vs. your gut telling you to push,” she says.

Tammy believes having passion for what you do will ultimately drive success. “Finding the fire in your belly will help guide your cause,” she says. “Being a trustworthy colleague, teammate, and friend within the workplace strengthens the team culture, whether you are a team leader or a team member.”

“Bringing my trusted, authentic, best self to work is my goal every day,” Tammy adds. (PV)


Committed to Access

Raising the bar… by breaking the barriers to global access

Guadalupe Hayes-Mota
Title: Director, Global Supply Chain and Manufacturing
Company: Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical
Industry Awards: 2012 Healthcare Executive Leadership Award, Los Angeles Business Journal; 2013 Leader for Global Operations Award, MIT; 2019 40 under 40, Boston Business Journal
Associations: Save One Life, board member; MIT LBGT+ Alumni Association, president and chair, board of directors; Fenway Health, board member; UltraProud (Ultragenyx’s LBGT Group), member; Latinos in Bio, member; OUTbio (LBGT+ Group in Biotech), member

Guadalupe Hayes-Mota is extremely proud of the work he has done as Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical’s director, global supply chain and manufacturing. In his present role, Guadalupe actively listens to the needs of the rare community and translates this feedback into the manufacturing and supply function. He is working to create compassionate care programs to provide medicinal products to patients on humanitarian grounds, increasing the access of medicines to patients who need them.

“My biggest career highlight to date has been providing 12 innovative drugs to patients in more than 80 countries, in the last four years,” Guadalupe says. “To me, this is a major success, because it ultimately means that millions of patients have gained access to lifesaving medicines they didn’t have before. Some of these patients have a rare disease for which no prior treatment even existed.”

As someone with the rare bleeding disorder hemophilia, Guadalupe has personal experience with this challenge. He grew up the child of working-class parents in the small city of Zacatecas, Mexico, where he had limited access to hemophilia treatments and had to travel about eight hours by bus to get the medical care he needed. This translated into extended hospital stays whenever he had a bleeding episode that kept him from doing many of the things other children did.

“When my appendix burst at age 12, I underwent emergency surgery, followed by a desperate eight-hour ambulance ride to another hospital in search of better medication to stop the bleeding,” Guadalupe recalls. “Doctors told my parents I was unlikely to survive, but against all the odds, I did. And as I grew older, I became determined to make sure people around the world got the medications they needed to survive and thrive, so they don’t have to go through what I did. What motivates me to go to work is knowing whatever I’m doing on a given day could determine whether or not a patient who needs medicine gets it.”

Guadalupe believes modeling his values through actions is the most important way to inspire others. “This starts with sharing my own story, the hardships I’ve faced, and how I’ve been able to overcome them,” he says. “I’ve also found telling the people I work with what I’ve been through as a person with hemophilia from a developing country helps them realize how much their work matters. It makes it real how the drugs we create save and transform lives around the world.”

Another way Guadalupe models his values is through proactively serving the hemophilia and LGBT+ communities to which he belongs. He currently serves on the board of Save One Life, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the hemophilia community in the developing world. “As a board member, I draw on my supply chain and management experience to help the organization provide lifesaving medicines to people with hemophilia in 17 developing countries,” he says. “My work with Save One Life has inspired others to act and contribute to the cause.”

Guadalupe also cares greatly about the LGBT+ community; he serves as a board member of Fenway Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing LGBT+ patients in the New England region with health services and championing the health needs of the community nationally. Guadalupe is also the president of the MIT LGBT+ Alumni Association.

“I believe a leader is there to serve the people he leads and the community or communities he represents,” he says. “Good leadership is servant leadership. I try to be a servant leader by keeping my primary focus on the growth and well-being of the people I lead. To achieve this, I prioritize creating a culture of trust that helps people feel supported to reach their highest potential, and that welcomes a diversity of ideas and opinions.”

Colleagues say Guadalupe is a transformational healthcare leader. In his still-young professional life, he has already achieved remarkable results, driving innovation and system-level change in every role he has taken on across the sector. Both his talent and his passion suggest his impact will only continue to grow.

Guadalupe served on the healthcare committee for the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO). GBIO is a broad-based organization that works to coalesce, train, and organize the communities of Greater Boston across religious, racial, ethnic, class, and neighborhood lines for the public good.

Guadalupe regularly mentors high school and college students, professionals, and colleagues. “I think it’s really important to mentor others in the industry because the people you mentor are the future of the industry,” he says. “They often need guidance in achieving their goals, and if you help them, they can make a great impact. I also believe it is essential for me to mentor others because I have had many mentors, some of whom have worked with me for many years.

My mentors helped me get where I am, and I want to do the same for others. I owe it to the community to do it.” (PV)


The Front Line of Essential Distribution

Raising the bar… by being bold and staying humble

Erin Horvath
Title: President, Distribution Services
Company: AmerisourceBergen Corp.
Company Awards: President’s Club, 2016
Associations: Board of Healthcare Ready; Board of the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation
Twitter: @Healthcare_ABC

As president of AmerisourceBergen’s distribution services, Erin Horvath oversees the company’s network of more than 30 distribution centers across the United States, which represents thousands of employees. Every day, these centers ship more than 4 million healthcare products to more than 60,000 sites of care, including hospitals, pharmacies, physician practices, and clinics. The network supports nearly every pharmaceutical manufacturer across all categories — branded, specialty, and generic — ensuring providers have access to the medicines they need to care for patients precisely when they are needed.

Since taking the helm in distribution services, Erin has overseen significant organizational efficiencies, improved metrics, and enhanced customer experiences. For her efforts, Erin received the President’s Club Award for saving more than $10 million by dramatically reducing product damages during the implementation of the company’s continuous improvement program.

Erin cares about her company’s associates, is a champion of its employee culture, and understands the important role the distribution services associates play in a perpetually tested healthcare system.

Through her curiosity and compassionate approach, Erin builds relationships, connects people and resources, and quickly uncovers solutions to problems impacting customers and pharmaceutical partners. She has demonstrated these leadership skills during difficult times, including several natural disasters and now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently she is part of the COVID-19 task force made up of a group of cross-business unit leaders to coordinate the company’s global response, and, ultimately, create the right long-term solutions for patients.

She is a resourceful and creative problem-solver, who can strategically predict operational roadblocks and quickly create contingency plans.

Erin joined AmerisourceBergen in 2005 and quickly found her passion for helping patients get access to the care they need. She is motivated by the goal of creating healthier futures.
“I am constantly reminded that my work directly supports patients, and the work we do every day in our distribution centers is so important in making sure patients get access to the medications they need,” she says.

She has excelled in a variety of roles spanning operations, information technology, customer and sales analytics, as well as procurement. “As I’ve progressed in my career, I try to inspire others by encouraging and rewarding those who show the same level of passion and determination in their work,” she says.

Colleagues describe her as a fair, clear, passionate, innovative, and fearless leader. And her leadership style reflects her belief that collaboration and partnership are the most critical elements required to accomplish any goal.

“As a leader, it’s important that I remind my teams that they are united in working toward the goal of helping connect patients with the care they need,” she says. “I also try and create a culture where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives. I believe that’s important to bring teams closer and find solutions to solve our greatest challenges.”

During challenging times, Erin says it’s important to recognize your purpose. “For example, when a natural disaster or a pandemic looms, the potential impact can seem overwhelming for many of the associates who work on the front lines of distribution centers across the United States,” she says. “This is when I find that it’s most important to remind my teams that their work directly ensures patients retain access to lifesaving therapies and medications. Staying united in our pursuit of AmerisourceBergen’s purpose amid COVID-19 and other natural disasters has offered additional fuel to our teams as they guarantee the integrity and delivery deadlines of critical pharmaceutical products.”

She believes it is also important to encourage her teams to follow their own passions by modeling that behavior herself, which is why she is involved with patient-focused organizations, such as Healthcare Ready, a preparedness and response nonprofit organization working with public and private sectors to strengthen healthcare systems before, during, and after disasters. On the board, Erin leverages her experience to help coordinate disaster relief efforts. (PV)


Genomic Medicine Trailblazer

Raising the bar… by mastering data

Howard Jacob, Ph.D.
Title: VP, Head of Genomic Research and Head of Data Convergence
Company: AbbVie
Industry Awards: BIO International Future Makers, 2016
Company Awards: AbbVie Distinguished Research Fellow
Community Awards: BizTimes Grand Achievement Award, 2011
Twitter: @abbvie

AbbVie has extraordinary data sets from 1 million genomes and hundreds of millions of real world data set records, which Howard Jacob, Ph.D, says allows his team to identify in amazing detail phenotypically characterized patients for clinical trials. “The data sets enable our discovery to start with patients,” he says.

Genomics is stirring an important shift in healthcare and Dr. Jacob, VP, head of genomic research and head of data convergence, at AbbVie, is one of the primary reasons for this exciting transformation. With nearly three decades of expertise in combining cutting-edge science and technology, his goal is to help patients who need answers and develop new and better treatment options. Over the course of his career, he has published more than 250 peer-reviewed articles focusing on the genetic mapping of complex diseases and building genomic resources and tools to better understand the functional impact of genetic variation. He also led the genome sequencing core for the NIH-funded Undiagnosed Disease Network, as well as the clinical teams at the world’s first stand-alone genomic medicine clinic. One of Dr. Jacob’s most recognized contributions occurred in 2009 in which he played a critical role as a member of the first team ever to use genome sequencing to diagnose, treat, and cure a patient — an experience he describes as a career highlight.

Early in his career, Dr. Jacob took on a mammoth task, building the Human and Molecular Genetics Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin and his own laboratory at the same time.

“I was 39, early in my career, with no experience in enterprise thinking or building programs, there were few of us in the genetics field, and a lot of skeptics about the value of genomics,” he says. “At the same time, I was a new associate professor trying to build a world-class laboratory.”

Since joining AbbVie in 2018, Dr. Jacob has had a huge impact on cultivating the company’s growing genomics program and scaling it to benefit patients around the world. In addition, he was asked to lead the AbbVie data convergence and digital strategy.

“It’s been incredibly rewarding to work with a group of people so driven to further our mission and help patients overcome some of the most challenging medical cases,” he says. “I am honored to play a role in moving research forward, and could not do it without our R&D organization.”

His professional goals are to make genomic sequencing foundational to medicine and biomedical research, have a baby’s genome sequenced on day one of life, and help usher in the era of individualized medicine rather than medicine on averages.

He believes success is not only a manifestation of scientific accomplishments and results from a lab, but the ability to create and foster a strong team dynamic based on collaboration and communication. “Science thrives when we can communicate and share ideas with one another, and I’ve made it my mission to instill this mindset in my teams throughout my professional career,” he says. “Sharing data and collaboration is not only good for science, but good for one’s career.”

Dr. Jacob learned from other inspiring scientific leaders not to be discouraged by the small hurdles that inevitably occur. “By focusing on the big picture, and being unafraid to take transformative action, we can propel discovery forward and position ourselves to help patients in need,” he says.

A charismatic leader, Dr. Jacob encourages others to strive for greatness, setting an example with his tenacious attitude. “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘How do we get to yes?’” he says. “We may not be able to control every outcome, but we can address uncertainty and identify what needs to be done to move forward.”

As a mentor, Dr. Jacob says he is proud to contribute to a culture of growth and development at AbbVie. Since joining the company, he has set up innovation projects to help expose colleagues to new and exciting challenges outside of their day-to-day responsibilities. “I believe that good ideas can come from anywhere — at any point in one’s professional career — and think that it’s important as a leader to be a source of encouragement and support.”

Dr. Jacob is driven to answer the question: how do we do discovery research at the speed of the clinic? “Drug development is a long, hard process,” he says. “How do we do it better, smarter, and faster to help patients sooner? Patients need treatments today. I want to leave the world a better place and reduce disease burden in patients and their families. I also want to help train the next generation of scientists.” (PV)


Boosting Women in the Life Sciences

Raising the bar… by encouraging women and girls to consider rewarding life-sciences careers

Susan Kalk
Title: Senior VP, Chief Quality and Technical Operations Officer
Company: Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Industry Awards: Bronze Stevie Award Winner, Female Executive of the Year, Consumer Products, 11 to 2,500 Employees, 2019
Company Awards: Sunovion Chairman’s Award, 2017 and 2018; Peak Performance Award, Alexion, 2006 and 2009; Excellence in Quality Award – Amgen, 2005; Award for Outstanding Achievement, Eli Lilly, 1988, 1989
Community Awards: Corporate Responsibility and Corporate Leadership Awards from the United Way of Tri-County on behalf of Sunovion
Associations: Women in Bio; Parenteral Drug Association; Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association

Susan Kalk is mindful of the need to close the gender gap and promote female representation in leadership roles across the life-sciences industry.

As senior VP, chief quality and technical operations officer for Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Susan has mentored many of her direct reports, including women who are up and comers in the field of quality. She also has recently helped Sunovion implement a group that encourages professional development, networking, and idea-sharing among senior women leaders to help take their careers to the next level.

“Being appointed to Sunovion’s executive leadership team was a key moment and a huge honor for me,” Susan says. “The opportunity to interact with my peers across all functions and at that level with the responsibility of making decisions for the company as a whole is really a career highlight. I am aiming to leverage my leadership to inspire women and girls to aspire to the executive level and the C-suite.”

By sharing her knowledge, advice, dedication, and time, Susan hopes to eliminate hurdles and help enable qualified women to become successful at the executive level.

“I help women leaders get to the next level by taking a much broader view, understanding the interdependencies across the enterprise, and building strategic skills,” she says. “I coach them to advocate for the company holistically, not only at a department level, and challenge themselves and their teams to make impactful decisions.”

Colleagues say Susan has become known throughout Sunovion as a leader with the ability to instill a keen sense of purpose and responsibility in her team to go above and beyond in ensuring quality products for patients. In addition to putting patients and Sunovion first, Susan’s goal is to inspire and coach employees to continue to deliver results and high-quality performance.

“As a mentor, it’s important to me to help mentees understand that putting the patient and the company first and taking a broader perspective enables people to really have the opportunity to progress in their careers,” she says. “I also focus on authenticity and helping mentees understand the importance of being themselves.”

Susan is an influential leader who builds teams in which every member feels valued and trusted to bring their best selves and diverse skill sets to work, while pulling together as a team.
She is known for being very collaborative, setting high standards, and providing direct feedback in the moment.

“I model accountability and a focus on results,” she says. “I lead people by being inclusive and ensuring that the right people are involved and talking. I lead with integrity and treat everyone with respect.”

Over the course of her career, Susan says, it has been challenging to get peers and leaders to understand the value the quality function brings to an organization and to recognize it is equally as important as any other function. “Building the credibility and visibility of the quality organization is vitally important,” she says.

As a member of Sunovion’s executive leadership team, Susan is overseeing groundbreaking new programs, across multiple therapeutic areas. And, she notes, the company is incorporating the voice of the patient across the enterprise.

“We are getting feedback on a number of product designs, and we’re asking patients what is meaningful,” she says. “It is very exciting and motivating, and it’s just wonderful to be a part of a program that’s going to make such a difference to patients. Those of us who focus on quality and technical operations have a real passion for the patient, and we have an inherent sense of responsibility to protect the patient and a pride in the quality of the products that we produce.”

As part of her commitment to bringing more young women into STEM, Susan has served as a sponsor for high school programs and on an advisory board for a coalition between industry and academia to support the transition of students into biopharma fields.

“I am actively mentoring girls in their life-sciences careers, empowering them, and helping to guide their future studies and career aspirations,” she says. “In addition, I am an enthusiastic supporter of community organizations offering educational programs and life skills for women and girls. I am also a key contributor to Sunovion’s Hands On community service program and volunteer for activities with organizations such as Rosie’s Place and Girls Inc.” (PV)


Health Equity Champion

Raising the bar… by infusing health equity into science and patient care

Nicole Richie, Ph.D.
Title: Global Head of Health Equity & Population Science
Company: Genentech Roche
Associations: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association; Genentech Women Professionals
Twitter: @nicole4richie

Nicole Richie, Ph.D.’s north star is to do what’s right, not what’s easy, and to inspire others to do the same. “Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have an obligation to develop solutions that benefit all patients and society as a whole,” she says. “Fearless, authentic leadership is needed in order to achieve this.”

Dr. Richie’s commitment to her goal of creating healthcare equity runs deep —personally and professionally. “I am fortunate to do work that is relevant to my professional life as well as deeply personal,” she says. “Ensuring underserved and understudied patient populations are included in clinical research is simply good science. As I molecular biologist, I have a genuine appreciation of the scientific need for data diversity. On a personal level, as the mother of biracial children, I am inspired by my family to do everything in my power to ensure that the medicines of the future are designed to serve all patients.”

One of her biggest career highlights was co-founding and co-leading Genentech Roche’s Advancing Inclusive Research efforts designed to advance solutions that broaden inclusion of underrepresented groups in clinical research and enrich scientific information for personalized healthcare. This effort has resulted in the creation of a new function, global health equity and population science, a position that Dr. Richie was selected to lead as the global head. “Our vision is to broaden scientifically driven representation of understudied populations in clinical research to enrich science, advance health equity and improve outcomes for all,” Dr. Richie says.

Evolving the Advancing Inclusive Research initiative to a cross-enterprise commitment has been the most challenging endeavor she has undergone in recent years. “This type of cross-organizational initiative is complex, particularly with the diversity of stakeholders that span functions and levels of an organization,” she says. “Addressing health equity is ambitious work. We must all own it together. This work unites people. It is with this collective energy, united to address a common cause, which will make real change for patients. “

Dr. Richie is also a member of Genentech’s diversity and inclusion board for Genentech’s chief diversity office, and a member of the Genentech advisory board for “The Resilience Effect.”

“I approach inspiring others as an absolutely critical element of my work,” she says. “Leadership isn’t transactional, it requires a deep connection to bring people together and galvanize the passion and energy of the organization.”

Colleagues are impressed by Dr. Richie’s ability to connect those around her and inspire a group vision. “This makes it easier to have resilience in the face of disappointment,” she says.” I also believe that being honest, transparent, and straightforward about what challenges we are facing is a critical first step in overcoming them.

There is a quote that states “necessity is the mother of innovation,” and Dr. Richie says this an apt descriptor of her most recent assignment. “Disparities in healthcare is not a new concept, though it is a one that we must address urgently and with priority,” she says. “Our approach to research has to change in order to ensure the next era of transformational medicine can best benefit all patients worldwide.”

In the backdrop of a global pandemic, there has been significant awareness and emphasis on the broad and significant impact of health disparities. “This is a unique time where we have the opportunity to disrupt disparities that have been ongoing for decades and bring a comprehensive strategy focused on understudied and underserved populations to the forefront of the life sciences industry,” she says. “Without intervention, future medical innovations cannot broadly benefit patients and society. This is what keeps me up at night but also what drives me to focus my efforts on driving strategies to ensure all patients can benefit from advancements in science and medicine.”

According to Dr. Richie, success is multifaceted. “Constantly learning and adjusting approach are key elements for sustainable change,” she says. “We must not forget to celebrate progress, especially when tackling these complex issues.” (PV)


At the Center of Collaboration

Raising the bar… by becoming a partner of choice

JoyL Silva
Title: General Manager, Pfizer CentreOne
Company: Pfizer
Industry Awards: 2020 Medicine Maker Power List; 2020 Putnam Media Top 20 Influential Women in Manufacturing Award; 2015 Scrip Best Partnership Alliance Award; 2012 Rising Star, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association
Company Awards: 2020 CMO Leadership Award, Life Science Leader and Outsourced Pharma
Associations: Pharma Biopharma Outsourcing Association (PBOA); International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE); CHIEF; Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association

As a teenager, JoyL Silva worked as a nursing assistant in a hospital providing many daily care activities such as bathing, grooming, and feeding patients. Even though she is no longer directly involved in patient care, those experiences shaped her life forever.

“I think of the patients for whom I had the chance to make a difference in their lives through some act of kindness, sometimes ever so small, and I am so touched,” JoyL says. “Now I am motivated working for a company whose purpose is to deliver breakthroughs that change patients’ lives, which I find to be a daily inspiration.”

JoyL considers her current role as general manager of Pfizer CentreOne to be her most fulfilling to date in her career. Pfizer CentreOne is a global contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) embedded within Pfizer and a leading supplier of specialty APIs. For more than 40 years, it’s been guiding complex compounds securely and efficiently from development through commercial manufacture.

“Leading a global business transformation of Pfizer CentreOne to expand into new service areas, refine our go-to-market approach, all while staying focused on contributing to Pfizer’s purpose of delivering breakthroughs that change patients’ lives has been a highlight for me,” JoyL says. “Creating a team and harnessing our power has enabled a 9% growth rate and $810 million in revenue in 2019.”

Providing active pharmaceutical ingredients and assisting other partners in their drug development and manufacturing efforts is a skill set that is based on a process that Pfizer CentreOne refers to as “intelligent collaboration.”

“At Pfizer CentreOne, we put our innovative manufacturing processes and expertise to work so that our partners are able to successfully bring their products to patients,” JoyL says. “This level of innovation is critical for us to continue to be trusted within the industry.”

JoyL enjoys leading a team, spotting patterns that may lead to disruptive thinking, and tackling difficult challenges.

Her colleagues say that statements like “we have always done it this way” or “we tried it and it never works” are not the types of arguments that work with JoyL. She wants to understand the true causality and requires everyone on the team to be prepared with facts and data.

“I am at my best when navigating complex issues and bringing together differing viewpoints to make a meaningful difference,” she says.

JoyL considers her leadership style to be inclusive, aspirational, and pragmatic. “I find that sometimes we sell ourselves short of what we are capable of and that inspiring another person can oftentimes be something just as simple as being approachable, an active listener, and providing encouragement,” she says. “I believe that inspiring others can also come through storytelling of your own experiences and how or why you made decisions. For me this has been a powerful tool.”

When coming up with solutions, JoyL involves everyone on the team, making sure that perspectives are as diverse as they can be. She is not afraid to make unpopular choices or choices that would be considered by others as unorthodox. She firmly believes in her cause as an innovator and a business disruptor and does not back down in the face of challenges.

“Sometimes you have to lean out before you can lead,” she says. “If our team is struggling, we have to be honest with one another and suspend judgment and take time to figure out what is causing the challenge as to why we cannot rise to the occasion. Empathy is the most important step before pivoting to solutions or motivating folks to turn the corner.”

JoyL defines success as meeting the goal and doing it while bringing others along. To that end, she embraces the role of mentor.

“It is a privilege to be able to give to someone else the lessons others have shared with me thus far,” she says. “I also feel that mentorships are rarely one-way conversations as there is always a lesson to learn or a story to share.”

The best professional advice JoyL has ever received is “don’t try to be something you aren’t for a job or another person.” “Embrace who you are and what you bring,” she says.

“I am a big believer in having fun at work,” JoyL adds. “A team that feels as though they can have fun together will be the team that, win or lose, will give it their all.”  (PV)


A Leader’s Leader

Raising the bar… by integrating the patient and societal perspective into portfolio investments

Rebecca Vermeulen
Title: VP, Patients and Society, Product Development and Head Customer Strategy, Patient Partnership and Health Equity Global Medical Affairs
Company: Roche Pharmaceuticals
Industry Awards: HBA San Francisco Legacy Award; Lifetime Achievement Award for Medical Affairs, Drug Information Association
Company Awards: Genentech Women Professionals, Professional Development Award; Roche and Genentech Chair of International Women’s Networks; field-based team leadership award; marketing excellence award for creating customer-centric models
Associations: Chair, Global Board of Directors, Drug Information Association; Chair, Global Board of Directors, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association; San Francisco Alliance for Girls

Rebecca Vermeulen’s family is in the construction industry. While she chose a different path, she shares that passion for building things — in her case, strong teams and new capabilities.

Rebecca counts creating the medical communications function at Eli Lilly and Co. as one of her biggest accomplishments. In her first management role, she created a medical information team and a call center department for the U.S. affiliate. This led to starting Lilly’s first medical science liaison team, which then grew into full scientific communications capabilities, including publications, medical education, and digital communication channels.

“The expansion to full global oversight across all of our affiliates was when I felt a full circle of accomplishment,” Rebecca says. “I was fortunate to also build out the global medical affairs team at Roche, including a patient partnership team.”

Now, Rebecca is VP, patients and society, product development and head customer strategy, patient partnership and health equity global medical affairs for Roche Pharmaceuticals.

“I serve as the lead for developing strategy that connects the work we do in developing new disease treatments and solutions to patients and society,” she says. “I focus on how we should define what will be meaningful benefits with patients and connect the outcomes we seek to the impact of these solutions on society.”

In her role, Rebecca aspires to be an inspiration for bringing people together, among other goals. “I want to advocate for patient-driven health and science by creating inclusive environments that bring together all players — research, academia, regulators, payers — with patients,” she says. “And I aim to put patients into the heart of scientific decision making and co-create solutions that will improve outcomes and demonstrate meaningful value to society. I believe in doing so we can positively impact the reputation of our industry.”

Rebecca has a passion for empowering people and motivating others to be their best. “I care deeply for the goodwill of patients, I care about the health and well-being of people and the teams I lead, and I care about the reputation of our industry,” she says. “I am an advocate for creating inclusive environments where everyone feels safe, a sense of belonging, and can contribute to achieve more than they imagined would be possible.”

Rebecca inspires others by creating a cause worthy of commitment, motivating people to give their time to achieve mutual goals, and empowering people to be their best by applying innate talent and strengths. When faced with challenges, Rebecca pauses and takes a deep breath with her team while appreciating how others feel.

“We reflect, regroup, and keep our sights on the goal so we can take a new approach,” she says. “I don’t give up on things the team or I believe in, and I demonstrate the strength needed to pursue things most important to people while doing what’s right.”

Rebecca describes her leadership style as inclusive, open, motivational, and empathetic. “My strengths profile is empathy, maximizer, activator, responsibility, and relator,” she says. “Teams would say I am passionate, a good listener, and authentic.”

Colleagues say Rebecca is open to feedback and that she takes it on board and uses it to advance her leadership skills.

“To be my best, I need to allow myself to be vulnerable,” Rebecca says. “Being courageous is about being whole-hearted, genuine, and accepting my imperfections.”

The opportunity to inspire and encourage others is what keeps Rebecca going. “I’m motivated to give my time to meaningful work where I feel we are making progress to achieve common goals for the good of patients and society,” she says. “I am proud to see the impact we are having during this pandemic.”

Rebecca serves as a mentor to Roche’s internal women’s network as well as to members of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA), for which she is chair for the second straight year.

“It is absolutely fundamental to nurture talent and support the next generation of leaders,” she says. “My goal is to contribute to advancing others, and I find great satisfaction seeing others achieve their goals knowing I may have helped in some small way. I believe joy is about helping people to be in a better place than when you met them.”

Rebecca measures success by the success and happiness of the teams she leads. “Culture is the foundation for achievement, and teams are a reflection of their leadership,” she says. (PV)

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