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In addition to their corporate roles and responsibilities, these executives are passionate about widening the path for the next generation of leaders and helping them achieve their professional goals.
Humor defuses any issue
Igniting change by…
empowering risk-taking and the use of alternative technologies whilst keeping human contact
Title: Senior VP, European Operations
Company: Advanced Clinical
Education: B.Sc., Biochemistry, University of Warwick
Personal Awards: Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Clinical Research (HonFICR), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, a Chartered Scientist (CSci) from the UK Science Council and the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Fellowship of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI), Chartered Manager and Companion of the Chartered Management Institute (CMgr CCMI)
Company Awards: Performance and leadership awards from Hoffman La Roche, GSK, Pfizer, Grunenthal
Associations: Institute of Biomedical Science; UK Science Council; Institute of Clinical Research; Chartered Management Institute; Royal Society of Medicine
Giving Back: Cancer Research, Equal Rights and Plan International
Hobbies: Fly (trout) fisherman, collecting and drinking wines and whiskeys; UK NRA Instructor training team teaching people from all walks of life to safely target shoot; singing
Make sure the people you lead understand what is expected from them, feel supported, and are able to make mistakes that they can learn from. This is how Graham Belgrave describes the basis of collaborative leadership.
“I strongly believe that colleagues should be able to ask any question they have, and in return receive an honest answer, even if they do not like the answer, and that when individuals are asked for their opinion — and they give it — and if their opinion is not subsequently used in the decision-making they should always receive an explanation as to why,” he says.
Graham was one of Advanced Clinical’s first hires in Europe in 2017 based on his accomplishments and respect as a leader to carry the company’s flag. With no staff, no offices, no projects, and no brand presence in Europe, Graham built the organization from the ground up and has successfully assembled a team of professionals who align with the Advanced Clinical mission — serving clients, communities, and each other.
“I am very proud of building the company’s infrastructure and teams outside of North America alongside my European colleague Ivana Waller to now having 10 country offices and staff who are both acknowledged experts and possess the highly developed soft skills that allow client focus, empathy, transparency, and collegiality,” he says.
Other accomplishments he looks back on with pride are the development of the GSK Outsourcing Groups between 1997 and 2003, including the post-merger between SB and GW, also developing the Grunenthal Clinical Operations group between 2010 and 2015 to include 27 different nationalities in multiple countries around the globe, and the successful delivery of many complex programs ultimately resulting in marketing authorizations.
Amalgamating the SB and GW outsourcing groups — a group of four offices with four different attitudes — and processes to try and create a harmonious and effective single group with standardized processes, yet regional flexibility, was a challenge, he says.
“This was ultimately successful after getting each group to put themselves in another groups ‘shoes’ and taking the least supportive and most supportive individuals from each group and encouraging them to be the ambassadors within their own team,” Graham notes.
He has also played a key role in the development of many clinical research colleagues over his 37 years in the industry.
“I have always tried to encourage those who I have had the pleasure of working with to question the roles they undertake, in a positive manner, and to encourage them in their journey of self-discovery, including in some instances to work in a different industry or field, to allow continued growth, and hopefully enjoyment and satisfaction,” he says.
When seeking to build teams, Graham looks for those who know themselves and are not afraid to explain not only what they are good at and enjoy, but also where they see an opportunity for development and growth.
During the pandemic, he led with a mixture of humor and regular personal and spontaneous contact to see how his folks were doing and providing support where he could.
Graham continues to be a mentor to several colleagues both within his current organization and some from previous organizations, the longest going back more than 25 years. He regards this role as a pleasure to guide fledgling leaders.
“The process I follow is to have candid conversations, encourage outside-the-box thinking when needed, challenge for clarity, empower decision-making and risk-taking, and be there, either as a back-stop to hold them up, or as a shield to deflect any flak, allowing colleagues to learn and survive on the rare occasions something goes wrong,” Graham says. (PV)
Finding True North
Blazing new trails to…
try new initiatives before considered unimaginable
Company: Quarter Moon Communications
Education: B.S., Education/Science, Northeastern University
Personal Awards: Recognition for leadership, dedication, SEA Alumna Trustee and Marketing Chair, Sea Education Association; Team Innovation Award; Flagship Events Team Recognition; Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association’s Luminary Award and Rising Star Award
Associations: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association; Hull Better Together, providing a weekly hot meal to Hull neighbors in need
Giving Back: Anti-Defamation League; Southern Poverty Law Center; Center for Reproductive Rights; Sea Education Association; Monhegan Island Volunteer Fire Department; Monhegan Island Sustainable Community Association
Hobbies: Naked eye astronomy; sharing and teaching about the night sky; gardening, especially dividing and sharing perennials; long beach walks; Southwest art and jewelry
Liz Kay is a tenured healthcare communications professional with vast experience supporting and driving client business as well as building lasting client relationships. In plain terms, she’s a spark plug with an energetic drive and a can-do attitude. An avid student of the constellations, she possesses her own type of star power. She hung out her own shingle, Quarter Moon Communications in 2015.
Currently, she is collaborating with Know Rare, working in the rare disease space supporting the recruitment of hard-to-find rare patients. Liz is tapping her business development, cross-channel, and partnership experience and finding a perfect fit.
Liz has always sought to see beyond the horizon not only in her nautical voyages but also in her professional life as an innovative leader and accomplished mentor within the life-sciences industry. Liz has an uncanny ability to see the big picture, look at possibilities beyond the curve, to dream big, and deliver on a broad vision to meet program goals. This, in combination with her remarkable storytelling talents — refined through her years in broadcast television and documentary film making in her earlier career — have made Liz’s approach to springboard marketing and communication initiatives and leadership development efforts an inspiration to those with whom she works.
In this light, Liz made her first mark within the pharma and biotech industry when she led numerous innovative and cutting-edge programs using first-generation digital engagement tools and strategies.
Well before virtual was the common engagement format that we know today, Liz was spearheading innovative, cross-channel strategies with sound engagement methods and compelling creative.
Early on, Liz saw the power of digital engagement and adapted it aggressively for the life-sciences arena. As these new channels emerged, it was important to monitor and hold true to the guideposts of medical, legal, and compliance and assure they were well-defined along the new path.
“What feels like the biggest career highlight these days is the continual ability to reach out to colleagues, connections, and networks from across decades to build new opportunities,” Liz says.
“The ability to call on sage advice, and, or, be asked to lend a hand from others as they navigate their own path feels empowering and a ground truth moment. It is built on years of measured trust and bold honesty, and I couldn’t be more honored.”
In addition to her accomplishments within the agency world of healthcare, Liz has always embraced her passion for mentorship and professional development and been available to many to bounce ideas off during career crossroads. This started long before her work in healthcare, dating back to building experiential sailing and outdoor programs. And, of course, she then translated this mentorship to women in healthcare as well. Just as she creatively and analytically sized up and executed against the inception of digital marketing, Liz realized she could have impact on women’s leadership development by taking a broad view of the career horizon for women.
“I have ongoing mentoring/guiding light relationships with a half dozen or so women at varying stages of their careers,” Liz says. “What is best about these relationships is providing a safe place for a conversation, seeing them lighten their shoulders through the conversation as they gain back some self, and providing resources or follow-through connections to help cast a wider net to further their careers.”
Before it became a mainstream conversation, Liz saw the headwinds, the cross currents, and open blue waters for women in healthcare. With the long view in mind, she set about to have an impact, not just through one-on-one mentoring, but also through a commitment of her time, energy, and talents to the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA). Using her programming creativity, her innate storytelling abilities, and her sheer will to execute elegantly charted professional development events, Liz has influenced the rising stars of many women’s careers. Liz pursued leadership development at scale. She took on big initiatives within the HBA’s multiple annual conferences, and headed up the association’s first on-line programming initiative the Leadership in Practice series, and, later on, a signature program — Illuminating New Horizons — An Executive Women’s Initiative for Women in Transition. All of these initiatives were executed while Liz was either a volunteer or serving as member of the HBA’s board of directors for five year. By generating internal buy-in, and bringing relevant and career mapping and leadership initiatives to the board, Liz was then relentless ensuring high-quality, beautifully orchestrated conference events, including The Moth, What’s Your Six, and Music Paradigm. During these years, HBA continued to increase its conference attendance with members returning year after year. (PV)
Not trying is failing
Igniting change by…
taking innovative approaches to working
Title: Senior Director, R&D
Company: NNIT Inc.
Education: M.S., Regulatory Affairs, Northeastern University
Personal Awards: Elected to the DIA RSIDM Chair Role for Regulatory Informatics track, 2016; Elected Co-chair for the DIA Annual programming committee for Data and Data Standards, 2021
Company Awards: Regulatory Business Development Award, exceeding $4 million annual growth, 2017
Associations: DIA, RAPS, IRISS
Giving Back: Habitat for Humanity, Make a Wish
Hobbies: Hiking, camping, travel, music
Developing future generations of leaders and setting them up for success is a top priority for Brooke Casselberry, senior director of R&D for NNIT. Brooke has made a name for herself by actively leading, participating in, and supporting various industry organizations and their educational efforts. She believes that each person has a responsibility to develop themselves and provide development opportunities to those around them.
She shares her knowledge and expertise by serving as volunteer for the Drug Information Association (DIA), RAPS, and other industry working groups as a presenter on industry topics such as eCTD, global harmonization of regulatory practices, and the impact of technology on business. Over the course of three years, she expanded the DIA Regulatory Intelligence Working Group, establishing monthly meetings, raising awareness, and identifying thought leaders across the industry to present and build life into the program. She then transitioned to supporting and then co-chairing the DIA RSIDM Annual Conference as chair for the regulatory informatics business and technology tracks.
Brooke continues to support DIA and other volunteer organizations to share her knowledge, build the network, and increase awareness of opportunities in the regulatory profession.
She also participates in programs that help high school students understand career opportunities in science and technology, and she mentors young people who seek guidance around their academic future. In 2019, Brooke founded the Youth Stem Foundation (YSF), a nonprofit organization that provided scholarship opportunities to students, who would otherwise not have exposure to extended education in science, technologies, engineering, and mathematics. Unfortunately, YSF didn’t survive the pause of the last year.
“There are so many potential career opportunities in life-sciences R&D,” she says. “Developing awareness about these opportunities, creating excitement and involvement in the scientific advancements of technologies and drug products, and providing mentorship to others are driving factors to my decisions.”
Colleagues describe her as a leader who continuously produces innovative results, and at the same time, actively prepares others for success in the industry. She is extremely proud of NNIT’s growth over the past year, including a 72% growth over expectations in first-quarter 2021. “The teamwork, energy, and support across NNIT sets a very high standard and allows many opportunities to promote both individual and organizational development,” she says.
NNIT offers customers a full range of IT services to support the entire pharmaceutical supply chain from the implementation of a manufacturing execution system to packaging and delivery, including track and trace.
Brooke combines her vast regulatory knowledge with a pragmatic and innovative view on how to advance the life-sciences arena. She is focused on helping to make the business and the industry as efficient as possible by leveraging new technologies and ideas.
“I strive to provide awareness around the business, be thoughtful and open to ideas, and be strategic in the application of technologies both within the business, and for client growth,” she says.
A servant leader, Brooke says team members who are developed, have a voice, and are involved naturally promote business development and, in return, higher client satisfaction.
Being a mentor to others, as well as allowing others to provide mentorship to her is a part of professional development. “The trust and long-term relationships that develop are the best part,” she says.
She says her most challenging assignment to date has been working within the confines of the 2020 pandemic, while continuing business development, team development, thought leadership, and sales support.
“The real challenge has been working out how to connect with co-workers and peers and keep up morale and the excitement to keep moving forward,” she says. “However, this is not unique to me or my experience, it has been a challenge for everyone globally, but we have pulled through. The excitement is continuing to build as we begin to plan our face-to-face meetings.” (PV)
Life is short — make the most of it!
Igniting change by…
giving more than you receive
Title: Executive VP
Company: Intouch Group
Education: B.A., Drury University
Personal Awards: ELITE 2021 COVID Hero, PM360 Magazine, 2021; Advisory Board, Digital Health Coalition, 2018-2021; Agency Vanguard Award Winner, DTC Perspectives, 2018; Clio Health Awards Jury, 2018; MM&M Hall of Femme, 2018; “25 Pharma Influencers You Should Follow on Twitter,” Disruptor Daily, 2018; Named one of the PharmaVOICE 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life Sciences Industry, 2010
Community Awards: KC Business Magazine Influential Women to Watch, 2015; Women Who Mean Business, Kansas City Business Journal, 2018; 50 Kansans You Should Know, Ingram’s Magazine, 2021; Board of Directors, Marketing Committee, Arts & Recreation Foundation of Overland Park (ARFOP), 2018-2021
Associations: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association; Forever Welcome Board of Directors, Secretary
Giving Back: Animal rescue, animal rights, Heart to Heart International
Hobbies: Gardening, travel, reading, birding, and failing miserably at trying to learn Spanish
Twitter handle: @wendyblackburn
With more than 20 years of experience in the industry — 17 of them at Intouch — Wendy Blackburn has been instrumental in propelling not only her agency, but the industry forward. Wendy leverages her leadership, public relations background, experience in digital marketing and vast knowledge of the healthcare industry to support Intouch’s clients, marketing colleagues, and the broader life sciences industry.
Within the last year, Wendy spearheaded the development and publication of Intouch’s first COVID-19 related whitepaper in partnership with The Digital Health Coalition Group, The Aftermath: COVID-19 Insights and Recommendations.
Intouch received an outpouring of positive feedback and demand from clients for more, so Wendy championed the development and publication of a second COVID-19 related whitepaper, The Now & The Next in Pharma Marketing. The significance of both whitepapers is the proprietary research and data as well as strategic recommendations and practical solutions to help pharma marketers navigate their business and brand through the pandemic.
The papers led many companies to ask for support to apply the findings to their business and commercial strategies. The industry excitement was in part due to Wendy’s leadership and vision of the whitepaper initiatives and content, and her ability to research, partner, and synthesize inputs into the reports that resonated with pharma. In turn, she helped expand awareness of Intouch, built thought leadership for those that contributed, and gave pharma valuable resources to navigate the unknown.
While 2020 was a difficult year for many, she says Intouch was fortunate that the business and culture remained strong.
“Setting the tone for Intouch’s communications through this challenging time — both internal and external — was my responsibility, and it was a big one,” she says. “I coached and counseled our executive team on open and transparent communications, I led culture initiatives to ensure our employees were cared for, I led the production of the two COVID-19 whitepapers for our clients, and I worked hard to keep my own team engaged and motivated. It was exhausting professionally and emotionally, but also very rewarding. I learned a lot, but I hope I never have to do it again.”
Resilient under pressure and accomplished in a crisis, Wendy equally believes leaders can be kind while also being direct and assertive in the workplace. “We spend too much time and emotional energy within our work lives to not treat each other with respect,” she says.
One achievement Wendy is exceptionally proud of is her team’s success with the company’s 20th anniversary party in 2019 called “ReGroup,” which brought together Intouch Group’s 1,000 employees for a celebration. “We didn’t just create an event, we created a feeling,” she says. “It was incredible. It was about the power of reflecting on the past 20 years — and dreaming of what’s going to come next.”
To guide her team, she asks a lot of questions — a trait she might have picked up from her father, who is a psychologist.
Wendy leads an all-female team across various disciplines in marketing and communications. Her passion is contagious, and her leadership is unique. One of her direct reports describes Wendy as a role model to many and an advocate for women supporting women. She inspires and motivates the women on her team and exemplifies equality in the workplace by creating a safe space for everyone to have a voice and to be heard.
Eager to help the next generation of leaders, Wendy says “yes” anytime anyone asks to speak to her about their career, about Intouch, a job, a board position, etc.
“I get a lot of requests, and I always say yes,” she says. “Lately, I’ve been meeting with a generation of clients’ adult children who are entering the workforce, and it’s been a blast speaking with them and watching them blossom.” (PV)