Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Drawing on her experience as a pediatric hematologist and oncologist, Dr. Tania Small is focused on finding life-changing and life-saving treatments for patients with cancer.
“When you’re a pediatric oncologist, you lose patients — no matter how hard you try and despite your best efforts,” she says. “That loss never gets any easier. And each time it happens, it reinforces your resolve and pursuit of a mission in life to learn why, so you never lose a patient that same way again.”
The loss of patients is what drove Small to dedicate the rest of her career to developing new and better treatments for cancer. After working in oncology and rare disease drug development at Ipsen Biopharmaceuticals and clinical development and medical affairs at Novartis, Small landed at GSK in 2018 where she is now the global medical affairs therapeutic area head of oncology and chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion R&D Council.
After coming on board at GSK, Small set out to build a cutting-edge medical oncology program, and in less than three years grew her team to more than 500 professionals who’ve launched three oncology treatments globally, her nominator says.
These launches are not the only way Small measures success.
To help broaden access to the treatments, a nominator says that Small and her team “built a compassionate use program and within two years provided early access to GSK’s oncology therapies for more than 5,000 people globally before the treatments were commercially available.”
But what has really set Small apart in the industry is her steadfast focus on elevating patient involvement in drug development. According to a nominator, Small has developed a model that illustrates how pharma companies can collaborate with patients to drive better treatment access and outcomes. This approach has included working with grassroots organizations and patient advocacy groups to better understand the patient's journey, establishing patient councils to inform GSK’s science and working to improve equity in clinical trials.
“The stakes are high because we are talking about creating the right treatments and access mechanisms to help patients not only live but thrive.”
Dr. Tania Small
Vice president, global medical affairs therapeutic area head of oncology, GSK
“[Small] inspires her team to tackle disparities head-on to help ensure every patient can equally benefit from the scientific advances — transforming care, regardless of their zip code,” a nominator writes.
Her commitment to healthcare equity has also been felt within GSK.
“In addition to her role as oncology medical lead, [Small] is chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion R&D Council which is focused on establishing a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the patients and communities the company serves,” a nominator says.
Small states that she is focused on developing sustainable solutions and outcomes to lift those who have historically lacked access to equitable healthcare and equal opportunities in science and medicine.
“If this momentum continues, I am optimistic that opportunities for minorities will vastly improve across the healthcare workforce, and access to medicines and clinical trials will become increasingly available to underserved communities,” she says.
Small attributes her success to mentors who took the time to support her, and she in turn mentors professionals on various paths, helping them set their direction and goals and, when she can, opening doors for them.
For Small, leadership is about clarity of purpose, connectivity and empowerment of the team. She says having direction and focus allow the team to build the right capabilities needed to deliver long-term impact. Having connectivity in a team helps ensure everyone knows their value, which she says is key to delivering on the overarching mission to develop and deliver medicines that will truly impact both the experience and outcomes of individuals diagnosed with cancer.
“I believe in what we’re trying to accomplish, and I try to inspire and constantly remind my team of what that is and why,” she says. “That said, I have very high expectations and I am very clear on what those expectations are. I then support and empower my team to deliver on those expectations in their own creative ways.”