Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to “Spread Love in Organizations”, a podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.
I am Naji, your host, joined today by Alicia Tozier Senior Vice President of Global Market Access and Marketing for Outlook Therapeutics, a company specializing in Ophthalmic products. Alicia has served as a Global Healthcare Senior Executive, leading teams across the full product life cycle and 18+ launches spanning 8+ therapeutic areas in 70+ global markets, via multiple innovative modalities including: medical devices, digital therapeutics, and pharmaceuticals. She is a purpose-driven leader, guided by integrity, values, and a deep focus on the patient informed by her own experience as a caregiver. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara, an MBA from Colorado State University, and is an alumnus of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Program.
Alicia, It is a pleasure to see you again and have you with me today!
Alicia Tozier: The pleasure is mine, Naji. Thank you for having me.
Naji Gehchan: Can you first share with us your personal story? What led you to healthcare and becoming a senior executive in biotech today?
Alicia Tozier: Great question. I would say health care is definitely where my passion lies.
Um, and I tend to be very purposeful, right, in terms of my desire to be in health care. Um, I think one of the ways that you and I were actually first connected was in terms of my desire for being a purposeful leader and I actually am able to participate in a non profit book that’s being put together by a good friend, Jill Donahue.
Um, I have an excerpt I could actually read for you, Najee, if that makes sense. Yes, perfect. We both
Naji Gehchan: got connected through Jill, so we’re
Alicia Tozier: both fine. We did. Indeed, indeed, indeed. Um, so, uh, what I wrote was, uh, titled For Those of Us Struck by Lightning. A confession about what motivates me. It’s 2 a. m. I’m at my child’s bedside.
He’s asleep now. The seizure ended 3 minutes ago. But the fever that caused it rages on. His hand is resting on mine, bigger now, than it was when I first held it, when they placed him on my chest at the hospital. But he’s still my baby, my angel. And it kills me to see him this way. In 4 hours I have a conference call, in 6, a presentation.
This has been my life more times than I care to remember for the last eight years, ever since my son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that thankfully he will grow out of. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. It’s a small price to pay to have the privilege of having such a wonderful human being in my life.
I tell this story because I want folks to understand for me. That working in the rapidly advancing field of health care is not just a passion, it’s personal. I have another confession to make. I hate when someone, especially a doctor, quotes statistics at me. I’ve had two different neurologists tell me that the chances of Ethan’s symptoms being Gefts Plus with no prior family history was less likely than being struck by lightning.
Well, for those of us who have been struck by lightning, the fact that it’s a rare occurrence is little comfort. Accordingly, every time I hear of a novel therapy or new indication for a previously existing product, especially one that treats a rare disease, I think of Ethan. I think of a parent sitting in a dark room at the bedside of a sick child and remember how lonely a place 2 a.
m. can be. We all got in this field for different reasons. We’re all motivated by different things. But I wanted us all to take a moment to remind ourselves that we work in an industry that generates health care solutions for real people, and I, for one, couldn’t think of a better use of my time. So, that’s really what I wrote, uh, Najee, and I think it’s my heart on a page.
You know, it’s truly important what we do. Oh, thank you
Naji Gehchan: so much for sharing this part of your, uh, of your story. So can you take us a little bit back in time when you really started in the health care and how you shaped your purpose as you were going through and what you’re doing today as a
Alicia Tozier: leader? Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Um, you know, as I started back in health care, I’d love to claim it was part of a grand plan. Um, but it wasn’t, you know, I, I saw health care as an opportunity to give back. Um, and if I rewind back even before there in my life story, a lot of what has shaped me. Has to do with my upbringing. Um, so I’m third generation.
My grandmother on my mother’s side, uh, didn’t actually speak English and my grandfather was literally a hero, um, in the war and, uh, you know, came back to the States and had two jobs, worked hard, was a small business owner, um, raised a family and was an incredible role model for me growing up. And so I knew.
That leadership was going to be a part of what I wanted to do, and I knew that career and achievement could be tied in a noble way to giving back to others. And so for me, as I thought about my career early on in the early days, I knew that leadership was going to be a part of what I wanted to do. I knew that work ethic, another thing I learned from my grandfather’s modeling, was something that I wanted to pull through in everything that I did.
Um, I started out in health care on the pharma side of the business, and, uh, I would say I earned my first role, um, when I had no business even being in pharma. I had no experience, but I was passionate about diabetes, um, at the time, interviewing for Sanofi Aventis. And, um, you know, it ran in our family, so that was a passion of mine.
And somehow or another, I convinced the interview team to hire me. Um, and that was the way I started in pharma. And since then, translated across the device world, digital therapeutics. But when my son was born, and again, this was about eight years ago, I think it really reinforced my desire to be in healthcare, and really solidified what I wanted to accomplish.
Naji Gehchan: So you, we see the, we hear it, I see it, but we hear the passion you have in your voice and healthcare throughout giving back, helping others. Very early on. And then what you shared with Ethan, your son and how passionate you are to bring innovative therapies even even more for one single person who might be suffering and rare diseases, which is really noble.
And I think it’s great. that we are seeing advances in gene therapy today and other domains that will hopefully help, uh, those patients, uh, can you share with me a little bit more how you would define your purpose? How do you define it personally? I always get this because all of us in healthcare are here for a reason.
We all have this strong purpose that we have. And we really want to do good and help patients live better. But frequently I get this question, how do you get to define your purpose as a person? And then how would you translate it to your teams on a daily basis? So I’d love to hear how you get to this point of defining yours.
And then how do you do it with your teams to drive them constantly to bring innovations
Alicia Tozier: to patients? Yeah. Yeah. Um, so great question. Um, I guess I would say the beginning of my purpose, if I were to think of what drives me is certainly my role as a caregiver and the experience that I’ve had, you know, um, navigating, you know, as a caregiver, a rare condition with my son, as well as other health conditions, right, that exist in the family.
Um, what I’ve pulled from that from a leadership perspective are a couple of things. You mentioned passion. So I think passion for the patient is front and center and everything that I do. Um, when I think of how I translate that into teams and team dynamics and achieving goals, truly it’s about reminding ourself on a day to day basis that what we’re doing at the end of the day impacts a patient.
Impacts a caregiver impacts a family member, and I’ve been given, you know, that gift of having a medicine truly impact and change our lives personally. So ways, you know, just pragmatically that I pull that into what I do is just, you know, um, ensuring that we bring patients in. To our meetings, ensuring that we know as much as possible what the experience is like for patients.
Um, if it’s vision, you know, showing pictures of vision loss and the fact that the center of your vision is blurred. Oftentimes, our meetings will begin with pictures like that. It can be small, tiny ways just to remind us that there’s many noble professions and we have quite a big responsibility in health care.
that we have patients lives at stake. Um, the other part I’d say I learned in the gift I gained as a caregiver is just compassion. So it’s important to put the patient first, but I can’t be at the sacrifice of the team, right? So having compassion for team members is something that I try to bring through.
Um, and that can be in, in simple ways, right? I think that You know, we need to set audacious goals. We need to have accountability, both ourselves as well as our team members. But there’s ways to do that with compassion by checking in and saying, Hey, what’s getting in your way? What supports do you need?
How can I help? And I think continuously doing that as a leader can model that for others to do the same.
Naji Gehchan: left the team in both big pharma. As you said, you started there. You moved to biotech. You’ve done my devices. I’m intrigued. Is there a specific leadership trait or capability that you really relied on as you’re doing those? Because you led also globally. Large teams, smaller teams, but always with the same passion at the end of the day to bring innovation to patients.
Was there something that you feel like a trait as a leader that you really all the time relied on during those different experiences?
Alicia Tozier: Yeah, yeah, I would say a trait that has served me well, um, is truly this concept that the best idea wins. And, you know, whether it’s leading large teams at a global level, U.
S. level, um, device or pharma. Um, I would go back to my roots. And one of the things I learned as I observed my grandfather as a leader is that everybody’s voice counts. And the best ideas can come from anyone. Um, so as I faced business challenges, what I try to do is just to ensure that I’m capturing the voice of many.
Um, when I scale teams, I purposely try to recruit talent that bring unique skill sets to the table and different experience sets, whether it’s coming from a large company, coming from a different part of health care, um, but truly trying to arm a team With diversity of skill sets and experiences. Um, and my kids, you know, like many of us love Disney.
So if you’ve seen Ratatouille, you know, it’s like, you know, you know, anyone can cook, right? So in my mind, any idea, a great idea can come from everywhere. Everyone’s not a great cook, perhaps, but that great idea can come from any pocket
of the organization as well. I love
Naji Gehchan: this. So we’re going here into what we would call as, you know, like the IP, right? Like all this diversity, how you include, how you’re equitable. And then we discussed both of us, not in this podcast, but quite a bit about belonging. So I’d love to get your view. Once you’re saying best idea wins, everybody’s voice.
really counts and is important in the game. How do you do it practically as you’re building teams? How do you, can you give us some stories or maybe tips for, for us as leaders and to how to ensure that it’s not only hiring diverse. People, but really making sure that the culture is built around, including them, hearing their voices and then building the sense of belonging.
Alicia Tozier: Yeah. Yeah. I, I think sense of belonging is absolutely critical. And I think, um, anchoring down in terms of this best idea winning and truly hearing from different pockets of the organization. Um, There’s an example that comes to my mind, and this was, you know, many moons ago, uh, but I was, you know, walking into a launch scenario.
It was a couple years before launch, and it was like a perfect storm. Um, we had a supply constraint, over 50 markets we were launching in, and we had to start to prioritize which markets we were going to go to. So, I see you smiling. You know, these, these instances do happen. And, uh, as I walked into the situation, the initial concern was it’s a supply constraint.
So I immediately started saying, how do we solve the supply issue? Can we get high capacity lines? What could we do to solve this problem? Um, and it turned out that wasn’t actually the real problem. That wasn’t the real challenge. And so that was a good learning. And I actually had to pivot myself, but the way I discovered this was by asking questions from folks beyond just, you know, your typical leaders, general managers, et cetera.
I started to talk to our different cross functional partners, and it wasn’t until I had a conversation with an I. T. Gentleman was building the platform, um, and really having a conversation and seeking his input and perspective that I realized that the actual issue was translation hurdles. And the fact that we had prioritized markets based upon which, um, languages we would have available.
So you had markets like Estonia launching before Germany. So obviously, you know, this created a dilemma. We went back, we restructured our launch sequencing, we aligned it to our strategy, business objectives, what patients needed in those markets, and we actually chose to exit certain markets. And differentiate different product offerings based upon that.
So it was a big sort of reboot. But where I go back to is just that conversation I had with somebody who wasn’t the typical person sitting on the leadership committee. And I think the learning I took away from that, and I try to bring through within teams is that everybody’s voice counts the great idea, the great aha can come from anyone.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the IT person, the HR person, the janitor, or the CEO, right?
Naji Gehchan: I love this example, and yeah, we’re faced with these examples, and I, what you said is so critical, right? When you have a big problem, try to go see and assess, right? And really listen to people who operationally are trying to fix it.
It’s such a great example you’re giving. Thank you for that. I’m gonna now give you a word, and I would love your reaction to it. So the first word is leadership
Alicia Tozier: leadership. Well, my first reaction I’d say is it’s tough and it’s a lifelong journey. Um, and the reason that I say that is because I think all of us leaders that strive to be the best versions of ourself that we can possibly be requires constant desire to adapt to change to grow. And I would say for myself in particular, that’s certainly been the case.
I’ve had plenty of bumps and bruises along the ways learnings that I’ve pulled forward. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I’ll have life licked. And I’m like, all right, I got it. You know, I think there’s always this desire. To learn a bit more. And I had the good, um, I was grateful to go through a recent leadership program, even as of this last year.
So it’s like you get your MBA, but you can get to a point where you’re like, you know what, there’s new things to learn. And I was surrounded by 70 other leaders who were very accomplished in their career, clearly very smart. And yet they chose to be there. They didn’t have to be there. They wanted to be there.
And that was such a perfect gift for me that I’m really grateful for to just remember that leadership is about constantly wanting to learn and grow.
Naji Gehchan: I love it. We’re constantly work in progress, obviously, as leaders. Yeah. But you need to that you’re demonstrating once again to say, like, I still have a lot to learn.
Right. I think this is part of the traits you’re breaking in this discussion. Uh, so if I want to double down on this one, is there anything that you wished you knew as leader, like 10 years ago or 15 years ago when you started to lead teams and manage teams?
Alicia Tozier: Yeah. Um, You know, what I would pull is a Mr.
Rogers quote, uh, my kids will also watch a show called Daniel Tiger. And one of the phrases is it’s okay to make mistakes, try to fix them and learn from them too. And I think early on when we’re all go getters and we’re trying to build our career and show the world what we can do, it can feel like you can’t make mistakes.
But failing forward is actually one of the best qualities I think a leader can have. We all stumble and I think it’s all about acknowledging the mistakes, learning and growing from it.
The next word
Naji Gehchan: is
Alicia Tozier: purpose.
I would say beating heart. It’s for me, the beating heart of what I do. And we shared in the beginning of the conversation, some more specificity as to why. Um, my son has taught me so much and, you know, I was interested in health care, certainly before, you know, we had Ethan, but it has only become more solidified.
And my purpose is truly, for me personally, my beating heart. It’s why I really like doing what I’m doing. And I just expand upon that story a bit further and share that even today, we’re experiencing challenges in our journey. It’s still an ongoing journey. We’re trying to get access to medicine. And so as a leader, I oversee marketing, market access.
And what I do every day is think about how we can get access to therapies for patients. And yet on a daily basis, even as of this week, I’m trying to get approval for this unique medication for my son. So purpose to me is the beating heart because it’s so intertwined with what I do, I can’t even separate it.
Naji Gehchan: Yeah, you, you bring up access and it’s certainly, yeah, it’s one of those problems we’re facing and, and globally and in the U. S. it’s just mind puzzling and in a country like the U. S. having issues with access or worrying of getting a job. Approved for patients who need it, but it shows that we have still a lot of work to do as health care leaders.
Alicia Tozier: Yeah, and we’ve made great progress. I would just acknowledge that. I think we are on the path to providing more options. There’s rare diseases that are being studied and evaluated with models that can allow for access. So I would say, yeah, is there opportunities? Absolutely. Um, are we on a great path? Yes.
And that’s part of what I want to contribute towards.
Naji Gehchan: We’re, we’re lucky to have people and leaders like you striving every day to make that happen. So thanks for sharing this. Uh, cia, the third word is lightning. Hmm.
Alicia Tozier: Well, , I literally had lightning, um, as part of the title of my excerpt, and I would say what I think of when I hear that word is the first seizure that Ethan ever had. And it’s, it’s part of the, the humility back to the comment around learning. And a trait that I have found to be really meaningful as a leader is, you know, the first seizure that occurred.
We were literally struck by lightning. We never thought something like that would happen. We didn’t do everything right. We did the best that we could, but then we rapidly learned after that. And I think all of us face different situations in our lives where we’re caught flat footed. Sometimes we’re knocked to the ground.
And it’s all about how we get up and it’s all about how we learn and how we take that forward.
Naji Gehchan: Well, this is so powerful and inspiring, uh, what you’re sharing, uh, can I ask a question around? Also, you shared you’re a caregiver, you’re a mom, you’re an executive, you’ve been super successful as a leader in healthcare and And beyond, I would say, with the influence you have on the systems, you’re, you’re a student too.
Now, again, you’re really such a great role model for many who sometimes don’t feel they can do all this. So I’d love to go there. And if you can share any advice, how, how do you do it? How, how you would encourage others to try to do things? I’d love your take on this.
Alicia Tozier: Mm. Well, that’s a great question. And Nagy, if you ever get the recipe, I would want to I would want to hear it and see it.
I would claim that I don’t have the perfect recipe. So to answer your question directly, how do I accomplish that imperfectly? Imperfectly, and I think it comes back to grace. We talked a lot about compassion for teams, but oftentimes I think one of the biggest tasks we can all face is having self compassion and giving ourselves grace that we’re doing the best that we can.
It sounds very simple, but it’s not always easy in application. So I would just acknowledge that first and foremost, um, the other piece that I would just share is that I have an amazing spouse. Um, I met my husband in high school, so I was, uh, high school sweethearts. We’ve lived our lives together. Um, he is a full time dad.
And so in terms of managing everything at home, you know, things have ebbed and flowed, but I am incredibly grateful to have him, you know, Fully focused on our Children, our family being an incredible partner. So I think that that’s given me, um, basically the ability to do what I do. I think he’s Superman.
Um, the other part I would just share is, um, you know, uh, mindfulness. You know, it’s funny, and all the things that you just listed off, I do carve out time just to be mindful, and that’s sometimes the biggest challenge. I mean, when we wake up in the morning, each of us are wired different ways. It takes different things to help us show up in the best version of ourselves.
But, you know, I have my own routine that, um, I go through in the morning, um, and it helps me be mindful and stay healthy. Thank you for
Naji Gehchan: sharing this. The last word is spread love and organizations.
Alicia Tozier: Um, number one, I agree that that’s important. Um, you know, I think it’s incredible that you’re doing this podcast, Naji, and I’ll just say that right now. Um, the more we can be learning from each other, the better. When I think of the phrase spread love, what I think about, um, is bringing passion. And compassion.
Um, and that’s the gift that I’ve been given as a caregiver to bring forth to everything I do, whether it’s at home or at work, but when I hear spread love, I think of how can you bring passion to what you do, whether it’s a love for your community within work, whether it’s the passion for what you’re going to accomplish through all of your efforts, and then compassion is just giving people grace.
I mean, we all have things going on in our lives. And I think the more that we can try to learn from one another, the more we can check in and ask, how are things going? What support do you need and how can I help? I think the better.
Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world?
Alicia Tozier: You know, um, I’m struck by what you’re doing with this podcast, Naji, and I’m so glad that you are. Um, I’m inspired by the sharing of stories. I think my story is one, um, that could be helpful, but I know there are many. Um, and so I would just put a call out there to share your story however you can, um, because I think we all can learn from one another.
We talked about this earlier, um, and anyone can cook. Great ideas can come from everywhere, um, and I think you can learn something from everybody. So I think the more that we’re able to share, um, our journeys with one another, the better. And I think just staying open and curious to learn and grow.
Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much, uh, Alicia, for your words.
I certainly learned a lot from you. What an incredible, uh, chat. Thanks for your generosity, vulnerability, and exceptional leadership that you demonstrated today. Uh, so it’s, it’s been a real pleasure and honor to have you. Thanks. Thanks again for being with me.
Alicia Tozier: The pleasure is all mine, Naji. Thank you for having me.
Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to SpreadLove in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform
Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on spreadloveio.com. We’re eager to hear your thoughts and feedback. Most importantly, spread love in your organizations and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement, our world so desperately needs