The Systemic Leader – Jean-François Brochard

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
The Systemic Leader - Jean-François Brochard

This episode is special and the first in a series of four. In partnership with ESCP Business School, I’ll be giving the mic to students, the leaders of tomorrow, to discuss with seasoned healthcare executives about their journeys and leadership beliefs. We welcome in this episode, Jean-François Brochard, General Manager at Roche France. Through this conversation, hear Jean-François’ advice on careers in healthcare, why you shouldn’t overthink opportunities and keep an open mind, and what true leadership means to him. It is all about being supportive and demanding, about thinking systems. For Jean-François, “Leadership makes miracles possible, it solves complex problems, it is less about myself and more about ourselves.”

“Innovation without wisdom brings chaos

MEET OUR GUEST Jean-François Brochard, General Manager Roche France.

Jean-François Brochard is the General manager of Roche France and director and chairman of  LEEM  (the French organization of pharmaceutical companies). With over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Jean-Francois held various leadership positions in both developed and emerging markets in Europe, North America, and Asia.

Before joining Roche France in 2018, he was the President of GSK France. He is also a director and chairman of the Growth, Regulation, and Conventional Policy Commission at LEEM.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Jean-François Brochard

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. This episode is very special. In partnership with ESCP Business School, I’ll be giving the mic to students, our leaders of tomorrow, to discuss with incredible healthcare executives about their journeys and leadership beliefs. ESCP Students: Hi everyone, we are Rita and Mohamed, two students at ESCP Business School in Paris, and we are delighted to be here today and welcome Jean…

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Jean-François Brochard

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.

This episode is very special. In partnership with ESCP Business School, I’ll be giving the mic to students, our leaders of tomorrow, to discuss with incredible healthcare executives about their journeys and leadership beliefs.

ESCP Students: Hi everyone, we are Rita and Mohamed, two students at ESCP Business School in Paris, and we are delighted to be here today and welcome Jean François Brochard, General Manager of Roche France and Director and Chairman of the LEEM, which is a French organization and pharmaceutical companies. With over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Jean François held various leadership positions in both developed and emerging markets in Europe, North America, and Asia.

Before joining Roche France in 2018, he was the president of GSK France. He’s also the director and chairman of the Gross Regulation and Conventional Policy Commission at the LEEM. And in this podcast, we will discuss his career, leadership, and the future of the pharmaceutical industry in France and worldwide.

So, Jean François, thank you for being with us today. You’re welcome, Mohamed. This is, this is really a pleasure to share some of that. Hopefully the insights and experience that can benefit others. So, okay. Let’s start with a few questions if you want. So the first one, can you please tell us first a little about the major steps in your Kariv path and what marked you the most before you arrived at your current position?

Jean-François Brochard: Well, thanks. Thanks for the question about the career path. I think there’s always a lot of fantasy about career paths. So you asked me a very direct question, Mohamed, about, you know, what were the key steps? I think, you know, I must say, I, you know, I’ve been, I’ve been very, very lucky. Uh, I think my first job was actually in Mexico and I was I was thrown out of my, uh, native country.

Uh, I had to learn a language. I had to learn a different culture. And I, I think this, this has been the, one of the biggest opportunity in, in opening my eyes and, uh, expanding my horizons, you know, reaching in this, you know, At the time it was like 21 million people living in Mexico and, and, you know, and you had to make new friends and you had to learn the language.

And that was just, you know, I was what, 24 at that time and it was just fantastic. So I think there’s a bit of luck. And then I think I grew a passion for, uh, international career. And I had the chance to work in many different continents now and countries in the US, uh, in the Far East, in the Philippines, and then later in Europe, uh, in, in Belgium and Italy for a long time.

So I think one of the key thing is really, uh, the, the chance that I had was really to, uh, to have access to, uh, those opportunities. I created some, but most of, most of those opportunities were offered to me. And, uh, I think. You know, you don’t, I, one thing that I did is I did not overthink, uh, those opportunities.

I, I just jumped on them. Maybe it was, I was, uh, also, uh, I didn’t have a family, uh, uh, at a younger age, and that’s probably easier to move from, uh, I don’t know, the U S the Philippines and, and back and forth. But, uh, so I really think that, you know, you, you need to go and then, you know, learn and grow. Uh, so that, that’s one, one thing.

I think the international dimension would be my first answer. The second thing is, um, I was also very lucky to, to have a few, uh, very inspiring leaders, very inspiring mentors that were, you know, both I think integrating Uh, what I would call in French, uh, exigence, which means demanding, but in a positive way, and then also a lot of support.

So they were integrating both those things, you know, being very supportive and being very demanding. And, you know, they were also, uh, giving, you know, me a lot of trust, at least I think of two of them. Which were amazing in, in both as in all models, you know, the way, you know, I would, I would pick up a lot of their good habits and the things that I really liked about them, the way they were, they were visionary about the business, the way they were supportive with the teams.

And I think, you know, having great mentors is a good thing up to a certain level, actually, where I think that, uh, if in your career, you don’t feel. You have a strong mentors around you. It’s worth asking the question, Should I should I should I look for something different? And actually, I had to ask myself this this question a couple of times in my career, and one of the learnings I eventually did move to another job.

But I think I could have, I could have moved, I could have moved earlier. There’s, I don’t think there’s any experience which is worth, I would say, bearing, you know, a bad, a bad boss. So, you know, you, we, we need good mentors and sometimes, you know, they’re not your bosses, other people, but you need to have.

inspiring surrounding people, uh, if you want to go. So, you know, those are the two things. And then, you know, keep an open mind on things, you know, when, when you’re thrown out in, in the Philippines at what 20, you know, plus something, and you don’t know anything about, you know, being a general manager, but you, you ask to, to, to be one, don’t try to pretend just, you know, at least, uh, show that you’re, you’re eager to learn that, uh, you know, you work hard and you’re, you’re willing to also.

Uh, show some candor in your relationships. And eventually, you know, you, you, you, you, you manage through the, the content of the holes and, and you find your ways, you know, uh, with, with your uniqueness, this is what, you know, happened to me in the Philippines. Uh, and that was, that was always, you know, great, great, uh, experiences.

So I think those two things are, are, are the most important international and, and there’s probably much more things to it. Uh, especially, you know, the, the, the, the, I think what I kept about all those years outside of my native country is really the relationships that I, I, I built and that’s one and marvelous people.

Uh, and when they were not marvelous, I try either to adapt or change. And, uh, I think the other thing is also the. The chance to get to know another, another culture. Uh, and I think it, it make, makes you realize, you know how lucky you are, uh, at least in my native country, where you have, uh, free schools, free health, and you know, you come when you realize that people either in the Philippines or Mexico don’t have any of this and, and must fight very hard to get decent health or decent education.

Uh, you realize how lucky we are in some of our Western countries, and, you know, this gives probably more value to those great things. And I think it makes also me more prone to actually make sure that, you know, we preserve those extraordinary things we have in a country like France, like free education and free health.

ESCP Students: Okay, thank you very much for this interesting and complete answer. So, let’s move on to our second question. So, have you always wanted to be a leader? And do you think this is something that is innate or that can be built from scratch? Once again, thanks Mohamed for that very insightful question about, you know, either, you know, born or made leadership.

Jean-François Brochard: I think it’s a bit of both, actually, you know, I think we need to oppose both of those visions. You asked me the question directly, so I’m going to answer you directly. I don’t know if I always wanted to be a leader, but at some point I realized that at least trying to be one, trying to be effective and, and bring, bring people along.

So this is what, you know, leadership is about. Uh, not against, but with them is something that actually, you know, got me a lot of satisfaction and, and, you know, uh, and I felt good about, you know, bringing people along and, you know, having them on board on, on projects. So I was, I think, so you have to, you have to vibrate if you want, uh, to the signals of good leadership of, uh, at least effective leadership, if you don’t vibrate.

If you’re more interested in tasks or I don’t know, working on Excel sheets or doing whatever. Uh, I think it’s okay. You know, it’s not like, uh, leadership is more important than, you know, being an expert. Uh, and sometimes you don’t have to oppose those two things, but I, I think, yes, you have, you have to feel, you know, leadership is kind of right for you.

And both in difficult times, because obviously sometimes, you know, it hurts when, when you feel you’re not effective as a leader, you, you, you missed, I don’t know, you missed a take out with a, with one of your colleague, you, you actually, you thought that, uh, uh, the, the intervention you just made with your team actually was kind of, uh, I don’t know, not very engaging and this happened.

So. Uh, you both need to be stimulated by the things, you know, you want to improve, but also satisfied, uh, when, when you see signals, when you capture signals that, you know, whatever, uh, you’re doing is actually engaging people and they either, you know, uh, get more excited about their role or, you know, they want to engage more.

So you, you have to kind of like it. I think that this will be the first thing, the second thing, you know, the second part of your question about is it innate or is it something you can, you can actually work on it, as I said, you know, let’s not oppose those two things. I think if you are wired kind of to be, to, to be a leader, to vibrate to, uh, the, the good signals of leadership, I think it facilitates things.

But then I think there’s a lot of, uh, Things you can work. Uh, giving you an example. Maybe there’s something I was not doing very consistently at the beginning of my career. I was not, you know, at least sending strong signals that I was wanting feedback, including I would say challenging feedback. So I thought I had it all and you know, I didn’t need anyone to tell me, you know, what to improve.

And I think obviously this was a mistake because you need, you need, you need the looks of others and you can’t just see things through your own lens. And I think with the time I just opened to the idea that maybe people have a lot to tell me and a lot to teach me actually. So this is, this is one thing you need to be open to, uh, open to this.

And then also I think, You may do this in a very structured way. And most of the companies that provide you most of the tools, you know, the feedback, the 360s and, you know, some, some very structured models that helps you, you know, maybe grab some realities. And also all the. And if you don’t have the theory behind, uh, then you need to put this into practice.

But, you know, so I, I think you, once again, you need to look at those tools and those opportunities with a very open mind. There’s, there’s nothing to lose actually. And, and, you know, maybe sometimes it will hurt a little bit because some of the feedback say, well, you’re not very inspiring in this instance, or, you know, what you said did not really, I don’t know, help me in my job, or I think you can give me more support, but there’s nothing you can lose.

You, you, you, you just. The only thing you can, you can do is, you know, getting better at being a leader, uh, receiving this feedback. And I think, you know, I think probably I would say what differentiates, you know, um, improving leaders and, you know, playing leaders is precisely this ability to, to listen to feedback and be open to feedback, but, but not only to.

to hear, but actually to act and leverage this feedback as something you can, you can, you can actually, uh, actually change. So, you know, I received a lot of feedback in my, uh, in my career and when I started and I started, you know, I think I, I, I, due to this feedback, I evolved also from I would say self centered leader is maybe not, you know, the exact, uh, way I would put it, but that’s what comes to my mind, at least, you know, kind of self centered to something, which to something which looks more like, and I would say, uh, uh, team conscious and maybe collective centered, uh, leadership, uh, along those years.

And the, the, the, the way I grew this, I would say collective leadership is really through, through, through listening to feedback. And then, you know, reasoning and exchanging with colleagues and also looking at, you know, leaders that were doing this very well, uh, mentors back to the mentor question. So, you know, to your question, Mohammed, I think this is really about, uh, about both, you know, uh, and I, I think there’s always.

Always an improvement margin, you know, whatever the level you start from, uh, there’s always, but you need to enjoy it. You know, you need, you need to, you need to love coming to a room with 200 people and say, you know, I’m going to, I’m going to try to inspire them. I’m going to try to share some, some, something with them, which actually will help.

them to actually thrive. If you don’t like this, well, it’s going to be much harder, but, but there are, I think, many types of leadership too. And there may be less, you know, I don’t know, inspiring leadership, uh, more intellectual ones. I don’t know, but, uh, you know, I think you need to like it and you need to be open to, to, to progress.

Those are the two concepts that I would keep.

ESCP Students: Well, thank you again for sharing your different ideas on this topic. Thank you again. And, uh, now I will let the mic to Rita for the next step. Okay, so moving forward to question number three, how to maintain the commitment and motivation of your team in a sector where obtaining result and progress is a very long and uncertain process, specifically in moment of transformation or reinvention of the company.

Jean-François Brochard: Uh, thank you, Rita. For if I had the answer, I think it would be a noble price for leadership. I don’t think this exists, but we may want to invent this. Uh, the truth is, uh, I don’t know if there’s a recipe for this, uh, maintaining engagement. I think there’s a few, uh, there’s a few, I would say elements that would definitely help this, at least in my experience.

The first one is, I think you need you need to keep true to to the somehow the vision if you want the the inspiring elements and honestly, they can’t be 25 of them or you know, they need to be a few, a few, a few when you do a transformation. I think you need you need to be able to articulate the why of your transformation or the why you need to embark on a kind of a difficult journey.

in a very, you know, concise and simple way, you know, what are the two, three, four elements that you really want to change. And, um, you know, to give you a practical example, uh, when we, we had a very deep, uh, transformation, uh, within Roche. A few months ago, a few years ago, and it was really about rewiring the company, uh, from, from, you know, top to bottom, if you want.

And there was actually four principles that we wanted to, to materialize in the future that were not materialized now. So we wanted to have a more. Engaging partnership like relationships with our customers. We wanted to have a more fluid way of allocating resources in the company. We wanted to, uh, leverage digital, um, uh, more, uh, effectively.

And four, we wanted to start with the need in the market, the need from our customers. So you see four elements, not 25, just four of them. It’s, it’s maybe already too much. And we kept on, you know, like four, if you want both stars that would help us. Navigate through it. And I remember even in difficult times, like the teams were feeling a little bit, you know, this is too much and there’s a lot of change we need to go through.

And also, you know, uh, work force constant relationships where people are saying, that’s a lot of layoffs for, you know, this, you know, we were constantly, I was, Uh, able to constantly remind the why we are doing things. So this is one element is really, you know, kind of, you know, let’s, let’s remind us why we do things.

And if you can’t answer the question, why I think this will, this will demotivate your teams because they say what, you know, Uh, and the good thing about being clear about the why people can also position themselves from the beginning about, you know, do I want to embark in this or not? And I, I, we had a few people, not few, but you know, some actually said at the beginning, you know what, we’d rather work in a traditional way.

So we can actually leave the company. And I was absolutely all right. And I think at least, you know, engaging with why helps you, uh, not only. You know, uh, while you are transforming and when, you know, some, sometimes the weather is a bit rough, uh, but also at the beginning in, in having people, you know, asking the key questions, are you, are you up to this?

You know, that’s kind of the initial, initial contract. So that’s one thing. Uh, then the other elements, I think it’s about, uh, how would I, you know, I would call it proximity.

It’s being close to topics, it’s being close to problems, it’s being close to people, more importantly. You know, it’s about being there, especially when the times are rough. Because people will want to ask you a few questions, they will want to, you know, have a look at you, whether they feel you are still engaged.

Even because, you know, in those in those transformations are always rough times always and I think you and sometimes it’s okay to say, You know what? I don’t really have the answer, but I’m here. You know, I’m here to support and you know, we’ll find we’ll find a solution together on you always do eventually.

So I think it’s really about, you know, getting this this very close to, uh, to people and topics to understand And although also there’s one thing, you know, just to give you an example, we did one thing with the, um, uh, with, with the leadership team in the French affiliate of OSH, where we had this, uh, we, we called it, if you want the changing rooms, uh, so it’s like, you know, when you do collective sports, uh, whatever, this is usually have a moments in the, in, in the changing room where you can tell things, you know, very open hearts.

And, you know, so we didn’t have any, uh, obviously agenda for, for those moments. They, they lasted about half an hour from, from time to time. And we were, you know, sitting in a very comfortable sofas and we were throwing, you know, the things that would affect us. Uh, and amazing things actually emerged because at some point we realized that one of our colleagues.

We’re actually bearing most of the weight of the pain in the change. And, you know, it allowed, you know, the team to redistribute a little bit this, this pain and actually support our colleague just because, you know, we had, we had a safe space. There’s this changing room space. where you could actually actually, you know, talk with an open heart.

So those are the, you know, little tricks, uh, that, that helped, you know, maintain the, uh, the, the, the team very much engaged. But I think what eventually keeps the, um, the team, you know, engaged, you know, in, in times of transformation and overall is the feeling that they’re very useful. You know, as long as you can set up a context and an environment for people including you where they feel.

They are useful, you know, they will thrive. And obviously, you know, you need to, you need to have more than decent compensation, incentive systems, and all those things are useful. But I think the most impactful one is really, you know, Making sure that, you know, uh, you, you, you ask them, you know, things where they feel very, very useful, useful for others, useful for the mission and useful for themselves in terms, in terms of, uh, personal development.

When you go through a Uh, transformation. You learn, you learned a lot about your own leadership. You learned a lot about and this, you know, really feeds, you know, the self confidence and, and the, uh, the, the degree of engagement of, uh, of the team. So those are the themes. Maybe I’m not super structured here in my answer, but those are the key thing, you know, the, why the proximity and, you know, feeling useful.

Uh, there’s probably many other things. I’m sure they are super theorists. Of this, I wrote full books about it, but as a spontaneous answer, this is what I would say.

ESCP Students: Thank you for sharing this, and we’ll move forward for a question about what, uh, what are for you the biggest challenge of today, both in leadership and in the pharmaceutical industry, and how do we overcome them?

Jean-François Brochard: I’ll start with the easy one, which is the challenge, you know, in the industry and then I’ll go back to, I would say, challenges in my leadership, if you want. I, um, I think the biggest challenge, you know, working in the industry is really the challenge of, of true and sincere partnership with our, with our stakeholders.

And this is maybe more true in some markets. Uh, it’s likely to be the case in France. I’ve lived in other markets in Belgium. It’s, it’s a bit different, for example. Uh, there’s a, it’s easier to set up, you know, uh, sincere, uh, partnerships, but in Mark, in some markets, it’s more difficult. So I think there is, there’s this thing about, we have, we have an image of an industry that makes a lot of money to some extent.

You know, it’s true, but we are delivering also huge amounts of values to a patient journalists across, you know, uh, the world. So I think it’s about how can we find, you know, the means to, to establish how do, how, how can we leverage our leadership externally to actually, you know, help our stakeholders believe in, in, in, you know, co writing things.

Together for improving health in one particular country. And sometimes we’re very much considered as a, you know, supplier if you want. So the lowest the cost, the better for them. And it’s truly hard to make them, you know, understand that this is much more nuanced and systemic and holistic than they think.

And the pharma industry, you know, is also a promoter of a, of a healthy, you know, knowledge economy. Uh, you know, it’s about, you know, uh, also working with the, uh, uh, academic centers across the world and developing knowledge. And this is, this is huge as a value and they don’t necessarily recognize, you know, those things.

So it’s, it’s really about establishing this, uh, how do you do this from a leadership point of view? Once again, you start with the, why you try to, you know, uh, be sincere. And you also need to be clear about, yes, you know, we also have some economic, uh, expectations, you know, uh, investing in research is, is a huge investment and, you know, we can’t have, uh, the U S market, uh, paying for, you know, uh, the world innovations, if you want, which is kind of the case today, maybe two third of the, uh, of the economic proceeds of, uh, of a new drug is coming from the U S at least in the last 15 years.

So, you know, we, we, we, we, we, we need to have, you know, to help our stakeholders realize that Paying the lowest price, you know, is not sustainable, you know, if you want to continue to have this, uh, uh, innovations, you know, therapeutic innovations and diagnostics, innovations, they need to evolve. So this is, you know, as far as the external, the pharma industry is concerned, I think this is, this is the challenge.

And I think. One of the ways to resolve those challenges is to make sure also, and Mohamed made reference to some of the responsibilities I have in the National Pharma Association, is also trying to align our colleagues in different, many other companies. And to the same kind of, uh, approach, but, you know, being a partner to the system.

And, you know, most of them are, you know, and they, they think alike, but it’s, it’s about the lining this now. It’s not, not just one company that can, that can do it. It’s a whole industry. I can start moving and also adapting their commercial models, adapting their partnership models, if you want. Uh, so that this becomes big, it becomes possible, but, you know, as soon as long as Our R& D organizations will continue to produce amazing, you know, therapeutic innovations.

I think we will have, you know, the necessary conditions to actually, you know, make this partnership work in the future. Now, you also asked me about my personal challenges in leadership, and I started by saying that I welcome, I welcome, uh, feedback and challenge. So, you know, I hope I have a good answer to this, uh, to this one.

I think the, um, the, uh, the key challenge or the key things that I would, I would, I would like to continue to improve is really about this, uh, being a systemic leader by systemic leader. Uh, it’s not about the leader of the produce, uh, performance or leader produced engagements. It’s really about a leader that produces systemic value, value for the company you work for, value for the people you work with, value for the system, the health system you work in, and value for the, you know, political world that’s around you, you know, what I said earlier about the knowledge economy.

So this is, this, so It’s not only about being focused on your team and, you know, making sure that, you know, they thrive, uh, they are engaging, they are motivated, but it’s about also linking this with the external world and your corporation. Because you could feel that you are autonomous in an affiliate and to some degree you are, but you know, you have to integrate those dimensions, you know, the society.

Uh your affiliate if you want and you’re the corporate and I think it’s about finding ways to be effective and navigate through through all of this Sometimes it’s easy. It’s easy. It’s easy because everything is aligned you know the interest of your system is the one of your affiliate and one of your corporate and you kind of You know, it’s like in sailing when your, when your wind is coming from the side, that’s kind of easy sailing.

And sometimes, you know, corporate and the affiliate and, and, and, you know, the, the local decision makers, you know, are not aligned and, you know, you need to, you need to find ways to, uh, to establish, you know, You know the partnership also, you know, say, you know, say clearly the things that needs to be improved The things you’re willing to put on the table and the things that you do you are demanding, uh that they improve so Most of my time is actually more on this kind of situation where you have to to manage through a bit of conflicting Priorities here or there But

uh, this is You know one I would say one of the key challenges making sure that what you do, you know work systemically and not just you know in your team or you just You don’t just pride yourself because you know, you know, you you inspire with your people and uh, that’s okay Uh, so and you need to do I think you need to do uh, you need to integrate Um, i’m not sure.

I like the word balance, but it’s more integrating those things. It is making them, you know, coherent one and another so this is Uh, yeah, what I’m I think if I can get much better at this, you know, I would be very happy. It’s very clear.

ESCP Students: Thank you. So now I would like to go to another section. We’ll give you one word and want to get your reaction about leadership.

Jean-François Brochard: About leadership. I think this is really what, what, what, what, what makes, you know, Miracle possible. I think this ability to, uh, to bring larger group of people, you know, do something which is meaningful for another group of people, uh, by leading them, by giving them the vision, by providing them the tools, by providing them the environments and the context, you know, this is.

This is just great. You can achieve amazing things. We can, we can solve huge problems, you know, like health problems, like, you know, people are dealing with, you know, difficult lives and you can just by, uh, kind of, you know, uh, this ability to lead, you know, different groups of people actually make this happen.

Uh, but leadership is never. I think eventually it’s never, it’s always about one individual if you want, but, but it’s always so interdependent. So we are so connected with the others that, uh, you know, attributing, you know, the quality of leadership to one individual, I think is a mistake. And it’s really about, uh, You know, working, you know, as a network and, you know, we are very, so much interdependent.

One of the things I know you asked me one word and I’m making a long, a long, a long speech here, a long answer here. But, uh, I think there’s a traditional leadership journey, I think is less and less about. Myself and more and more about ourselves. I think this is this is a natural direction I think I see many other leaders and that are sharing the same kind of experience.

It’s less about yourself It’s more about you know, the system and we’re trying to improve for others.

ESCP Students: Yes about innovation innovation, um, I think it’s it’s it’s both a um, well innovation is both a blessing and a curse Uh, it could achieve amazing things. Uh, like look at what we’re doing in health.

Jean-François Brochard: Bringing therapeutic innovations that, you know, are fundamentally, you know, making people live longer, live in better conditions. You know, sometimes actually, you know, garish from, from some of the disease they suffer. Uh, look at, you know, the promises of, uh, gene therapy is massive. So, you know, it’s, it’s both amazingly, uh, potent, but at the same time, You know, it’s, it’s, if you don’t, uh, anticipate some of the consequences of it, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s becoming a bit of a curse and, you know, look, look at, you know, we can have a long debate about, you know, global warming.

And, uh, so, but you know, the, the, the scientific evidence is there and some of the reasons why we are in this situation and, you know, the, the, the destruction of, you know, complete natural ecosystems is because of innovation too. So I think is, you know, innovation without wisdom, I think brings chaos. And I really think that we need to think very thoroughly, especially companies like us that, you know, you know, put, uh, innovation, uh, to the forefront of our mission, making sure we understand the consequences and how can we actually continue to innovate?

Without paying such a high price on global systems and, you know, I’m thinking about, you know, global warming as one, I think the, the reduction in biodiversity is, is, is one other. And I think we have a responsibility. We can’t just say, you know, we, we, we, we try to bring innovation at any cost. So once again, you know, to maybe to, to, to make a more concise answer about the innovation, it’s really, you know, uh, you know.

Use wisdom so that it does not become a curse. But you know, you keep the blessing. So about the general management, what about general management? Yes. Um, I think we need general manager. Now I’m gonna be a bit promoting here, but you know, I think this is, you know, you, you, and whatever it is, whether you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a plant, whether it’s, you know, an affiliate, whether, whatever, whatever it is, you need the general manager.

You need, you need kind of a, I believe in incarnated leadership. So, you know, it’s about people. So I’m fine. Yes. When I’m walking into the, into, you know, the office in Paris, it’s okay. They see me as, Oh, you know, yes, he’s kind of, he’s our leader. And hopefully I’m up to that expectation. And some days I am sometimes some, some days I’m, I’m less that’s okay.

But, you know, I think it’s okay. You know, you have to kind of, uh. Uh, be at ease with the idea that people will look at you and say, you know, you know, you, you, you have a responsibility to kind of help us, you know, look at, you know, what’s right. You know, what’s what’s the right direction? What’s the right mission?

What’s the right vision? It’s okay. So you need you need this and it’s to be incarnated. It can’t be something that I don’t know. An email you send through whatever channel or, you know, on an app and suddenly, you know, you become, you know, a leader, I think it’s incarnated, you know, people need to see you, you need to be able to articulate this, you know, drinking a coffee with one person or you need to articulate this in front of a thousand people telling them the same story.

Jean-François Brochard: So general management, general management is absolutely useful to, to, to companies and it needs to be incarnated. Yes, and finally about the spread love in organizations. Spreading love into organization. I, uh, that’s a, that’s an interesting one. I, uh, so the thing that would be many meanings to the world, uh, love, but I think there’s something that has to do, you know, the, the, the Greeks had actually three names, uh, for this.

Which I think is interesting. We only have one in English, only have one in French and many languages. We only have one. I don’t know about, you know, many, I don’t know, Far East languages, but the point is that there’s different ways of, so, uh, I think here we are dealing about, I think the essence of love.

Is this ability to, uh, wish well for others without necessarily being recognized or, you know, being, you know, incentivized for it. This is what, you know, love is all about. And there’s, there’s, there’s something around, you know, it’s okay to, uh, I think if we can spread that kind. Of, uh, attitude. If you want that kind of leadership that you know, as long as we do well, even though sometimes we are not recognized, that’s okay.

You know, if companies if systems can actually spread this kind of love, this is fantastic. At the same time, Rita, I think, you know, we shouldn’t be also thinking that you can manage, uh, you know, the way you love your family, for example. Is one thing and companies can’t, or I think it would be a mistake to manage a company in the way you, I don’t know, you know, you deal with your family.

Uh, so it doesn’t mean you don’t need to be generous. You don’t need to be supportive. You don’t need to be challenging, but I think it’s different, different orders. Of love, if you want. So, uh, my answer would be, you know, spread the love that actually, you know, do, do, do good for people and don’t expect to too much, you know, say return or recognition on it.

So this, this, this is, you know, what I, what I would say about spreading love. Perfect. Thank you. Many final words of wisdom for aspiring leaders in the pharmaceutical industry.

Yeah, maybe it’s, it’s really around, um, you know, think system, think, think partnership. This is not about, you know, going on revenues only. This is really about making sure that, you know, what we do has a systemic impact and a positive one, you know, on society. Uh, so rethinking also the way we engage with, with our stakeholders in a way that, uh, you know, we, yes, we improve patients life, but we also improve systems and, you know, we are conscious about.

You know, some of the constraints that our health systems or our political system have, and we can’t be blind to this. So I think it’s, you know, if I had one advice or, you know, maybe an invitation more than an advice, it’s about, you know, really think systemically, open, open your, your, your guts, your hearts, your brains.

To, to something that is, you know, in partnership in nature, you know, find the sweet spot about, you know, not only, uh, win yourself, but, you know, make sure that the system also wins because otherwise, you know, it’s going to be unbalanced and, you know, it’s, it’s going to lead to either you having a bad reputation.

And this is what happened to the pharma industry, to be honest. And, you know, let’s, let’s make sure that, you know, we, we deal with another, Uh, era here, you know, but more, you know, trusted partner era rather than just, you know, being predators of resources in their systems.

Yes. Thank you so much, Jean Francois, again for your time and such inspiring discussion. Well, thank you, Rita, Mohamed, and Naji.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spread Love and Organizations podcast. We have such an important responsibility as leaders of today to plant the seeds for the leaders of tomorrow. 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 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

Go the Extra Mile – Karine Duquesne

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Go the Extra Mile - Karine Duquesne

In this conversation, Karine Duquesne, general manager of LEO Pharma France, shared insights into her approach to leadership. She emphasized the importance of authenticity, vulnerability, and kindness in leadership. She also discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by hybrid work arrangements and highlighted the significance of belonging and purpose in the workplace. Karine’s focus on innovation in healthcare was driven by a desire to offer hope and treatments that can make a difference in patients’ lives. Overall, her leadership philosophy centers on being true to oneself and creating a supportive and challenging environment for personal and professional growth.

“Be yourself to be at your best

MEET OUR GUEST Karine Duquesne Vice President, and General Manager at LEO Pharma.

Karine Duquesne is Vice-President, and General Manager of LEO Pharma France. Karine previously held the position of General Manager at Actelion Pharmaceuticals France, and Johnson & Johnson’s rare disease subsidiary prior to its merger with Janssen in 2020.

She holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and has more than twenty years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry within various positions, from Medical Affairs to Head of Marketing and Sales.

Karine is French and has enriched her career with international experiences in the USA within Janssen’s Global and Strategic teams in Immunology and Neuroscience.

Karine is passionate about people development, innovation, diversity and inclusion.


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 Karine Duquesne, Vice-President, General Manager of LEO Pharma France. Karine previously held the position of General Manager at Actelion Pharmaceuticals France, and Johnson & Johnson’s rare disease subsidiary prior to its merger with Janssen in 2020. She holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and has more than twenty years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry…

Do What You Enjoy – Marc de Garidel

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Do What You Enjoy - Marc de Garidel

This episode is special and the first in a series of four. In partnership with ESCP Business School, I’ll be giving the mic to students, the leaders of tomorrow, to discuss with seasoned healthcare executives about their journeys and leadership beliefs. We welcomed in this first episode, Marc De Garidel Chief Executive Officer at Abivax. Marc shared his personal story and leadership beliefs with the students and several of his insightful learnings. In his closing advice, he encouraged aspiring leaders to pursue their passions, learn from mistakes, and not be overly concerned about others’ opinions.

“You can’t have impact if you don’t take risks at some point

MEET OUR GUEST Marc De Garidel Chief Executive Officer at Abivax.

Marc De Garidel, is CEO of Abivax after being the CEO of CinCor Pharma, a biopharmaceutical company that develops therapies for patients with cardiovascular diseases and recently acquired by AstraZeneca.

Marc is a graduate of École Spéciale des Travaux Publics (a leading French civil engineering school), and holds a Master’s degree from Thunderbird School of Global Management and an Executive MBA from Harvard Business School. 

Marc began his career with Eli Lilly, then in 2000, he was appointed General Manager of Amgen’s French affiliate and progressively oversaw an increasing number of countries before heading the Southern region of Amgen International,  the group’s most important region in terms of sales.  In 2010, Marc left Amgen to become the CEO of Ipsen where he helped transform the company by focusing on research and development and expanding Ipsen’s international presence. Under his leadership, Ipsen’s market value increased significantly. Prior to joining CinCor, Marc served as CEO of Corvidia Therapeutics, a private Boston-based biotechnology company that was acquired by Novo Nordisk in August 2020.

In addition to that, Marc has had extensive non-profit responsibility as VP of EPFIA (Europe Pharma Association) for three years as well as chairing the French pharma association G5 for six years. Marc is also a recipient of the French Legion of Honor. 


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. This episode is very special. In partnership with ESCP Business School, I’ll be giving the mic to students, our leaders of tomorrow, to discuss with incredible healthcare executives about their journeys and leadership beliefs. ESCP Students: Hello, we are Sarah Boutros and Bouchra Taha, Specialized Master’s students at ESCP Business School in Paris, and we are thrilled to be joined by an…


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.

This episode is very special. In partnership with ESCP Business School, I’ll be giving the mic to students, our leaders of tomorrow, to discuss with incredible healthcare executives about their journeys and leadership beliefs.

ESCP Students: Hello, we are Sarah Boutros and Bouchra Taha, Specialized Master’s students at ESCP Business School in Paris, and we are thrilled to be joined by an outstanding, innovative leader, Marc de Garidel, CEO of Syncor Pharma, a biopharmaceutical company that develops therapies for patients with cardiovascular diseases, and recently acquired by AstraZeneca.

Marc is a graduate of a cusp. It sounded probably a leading French civil engineering school and holds a master’s degree from Thunderbird School of Global Management and an executive MBA from Harvard Business School. Mark began his career with Eli Lilly. Then in 2000, he was appointed. He was appointed general manager of Amgen’s French affiliate and progressively oversaw an increasing number of countries before heading the southern region of Amgen International.

The group’s most important vision in terms of sales in 2000 and then Mark left Amgen to become the CEO of Ipsen, where he helped transform the company by focusing on research and development and expanding Ipsen’s international presence. Under his leadership, since market value increased significantly prior to joining Syncor, Mark served as CEO of Corvidia Therapeutics, a private Boston based biotech company that was acquired by Novo Nordisk in August 2020.

In addition to that, Mark has had an extensive nonprofit responsibility as VP of Europe Pharma Association for three years, as well as chairing the French Pharma Association G5 for six years. Mark is also a recipient of the French Legion of Honor. Thank you so much for joining us today, Mark. To start, we would like to know more about you.

So can you share with us the story or the events in your past that influenced your decision to pursue your current

Marc De Garidel: career path? Well, thank you. I’m glad to be here with all of you today. Well, you know, it’s, uh, it’s hard to say what, uh, you know, when you start your career, you don’t really, uh, exactly know where you’re going to end.

And if you had told me 40 years ago that I would be a CEO of biotech companies, I would have said you’re dreaming. But I think fundamentally what, uh, you know, what drives, uh, an individual and, and, and me in particular around the, uh, pharma industry is the fact that, um, it has some characteristics, which I think are, are, uh, are wonderful.

One is, uh, you know, you develop drugs for patients and, uh, knowing, uh, what you do can make a difference in the, you know, the life of, uh, of patients, of your family members or, or people you know, is, uh, And absolutely, you know, incredible, uh, you know, luck, uh, you know, to, to, to do something, uh, you know, for, for, for these people.

So that’s one, I think two, what’s also fascinating about this industry. It’s in the middle of the, you know, of a big evolution in science where, uh, you know, innovation is coming from, from, you know, obviously a greater knowledge about how the human body functions. And it’s a fantastic adventure. To be part of projects where you are in touch with some of the, you know, the, uh, leading doctors of the world in their specialty and where again, you’re trying to, to, to develop a new therapies for, uh, you know, for, for the benefit of, of patients.

That’s, I think, you know, extremely unique, uh, intellectually. Uh, to be part of that, uh, of that adventure. And I think the third dimension to me, which has, uh, also been, uh, uh, very rewarding is this is an industry which is really global. So you have to, to work, uh, you know, in different countries. You have to, you know, uh, you know, diseases are not, uh, you know, they are, they are spread.

They are widespread. They happen in no way. In, in, in every country. So adding as a taste for, uh, no, uh, understanding, um, different geographies. And certainly now see more and more, uh, the development of the pharmaceutical industry has been in the U S with, uh, it’s innovation engine, uh, is something that I always have been attracted.

And that’s why I did my MBA in the U S and why I, you know, I enjoy, you know, being, uh, you know, in different places of the world.

ESCP Students: That’s actually very inspiring. So let’s tackle the second question. Do you believe that everyone is suited to be a CEO? Is it true that the skills and traits necessary to be successful? A successful executive can be learned, or are they something that a person is born with?

Marc De Garidel: Well, I think it’s both. You know, you have some characteristic, uh, you know, from, uh, from a C e O.

You need a lot of energy. You need, uh, you need to withstand the storm, uh, because, you know, it’s not easy to, uh, to, uh, to deal with, uh, you know, a lot of issues, uh, as you, as you progress. So you need to be very, uh, resilient. Um, so there are, I think, you know, you’re going to be very, uh, very, uh, you know, dynamic and, and, uh, because it’s just, you know, the workload of, of doing things is, is, is pretty high.

So I think these, these are things that some people do have, they have good health and unfortunately don’t have good health. Uh, you know, uh, I think you also need to have the, um, appetite, certainly if it’s in the biotech industry. Uh, to, uh, you know, to, to, to withstand the risk and to, uh, appreciate risk to leave it under a lot of uncertainty because you never know exactly what’s going to happen to, to you, to the company.

If, uh, you know, the drug fails, you know, everything can, uh, can, uh, become very difficult. So, um, So I think that, that’s the part where I would say, you know, the innate, uh, you know, part of you and how you are born, uh, plays a role. But this being said, uh, you know, it’s not, obviously, uh, it’s not enough. It’s probably a necessary condition, but it’s not enough.

And I, I think part of the, um, uh, you know, becoming a CEO is the learning as you go through. I think having a great mentor, you know, I’ve been lucky, uh, in my career. I had, uh, always great bosses and I would say that actually when, when you look for a job, that’s probably, I think to me, one of the most important thing is make sure you respect the person that is going to hire you.

And this person, you know, will help you, uh, you know, grow and, and, and, and get better. So I would say, you know, the, the environment under which you operate. Uh, I think you need to have something in the pharmaceutical industry, a constant appetite of learning because science, technology are evolving very fast and you need to be curious to, uh, you know, try to understand what’s going on.

And certainly for me, probably even more because I was not, you know, medically trained. So you have to learn, uh, you know, on the go to be credible, you know, in the field. Um, so I think, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, You know, working in a, in a big organization first, at least in my case, has been, um, certainly helpful because I have learned, you know, how to operate, I’ve seen mistakes being made, I’ve seen, you know, good things being made, um, but having a big boss, also, uh, someone who can help you grow is, uh, is essential.

And then, uh, you know, what’s actually kind of, uh, I think, uh, you know, sort of, uh. I am sort of not a very traditional person because, you know, I started in order to work in big companies and the more I progressed in my career, the smaller it has become. But, but, you know, the more I have actually enjoyed the, you know, uh, um, you know, doing this, um, and, and, and, and fundamentally, you know, you need to, to, to like.

Having an impact on things. I think you, you, you have to, to, um, you know, there are some people who like to, to, to follow. There are some people who, who, uh, who like to, to, to, you know, to try to, yeah. To, to not change the world is a big, is a big, uh, is a big, uh, big, uh, probably to too, uh, to ambitious, but at is, you know, trying to impact, you know, the few things you can do.

So, um, so that’s, these are I think important for, for A C E O.

ESCP Students: That’s really impressive. And your answer actually makes the perfect transition to our next question. So as a leader, you’ve been confronted with several challenges. Can you tell us about the time where you had to make a difficult decision? And how did you ensure that you made the right choice?

Marc De Garidel: Uh, it’s, uh, Yeah, I mean, certainly when you are in, uh, in, uh, you know, in a more executive positions, you know, there are times where, uh, you have to decide, uh, you know, which path to take. And you have also to try to convince others that, uh, you know, this is the right path to go. Um, so. You know, part of that process is, is to, uh, again, to try to, uh, to figure out, you know, I’m talking obviously about big decisions, decisions that can impact.

You know, tremendously, uh, you know, the company and the people, uh, you are, uh, you, you have, uh, with you. Um, so I, you know, I use the example often about the Ibsen decision to go to the U. S. You know, when, when I was, you know, if Center was, uh, you know, a midsize company, uh, doing, uh, doing well internationally, but in the US that, you know, unfortunately failed to, uh, to, to do well with a couple of acquisitions that didn’t go too well.

So when I was confronted, you know, in the mid 2010, so it was around 2013, 14, I believe, uh, with the idea that we could launch our own drug. You know, in the U. S., the big question was, you know, Mark, is this, uh, is this realistic? We have failed until now. Uh, this could be a disaster if we fail again. And, uh, you know, and what, uh, you know, what are the consequences of that?

And I have to say, I was confronted with a lot of skeptical people in the company, including in my management team. I would say probably more than half of my management team thought I was crazy. It was a completely, uh, uh, completely crazy. But what I did is. Because first, obviously, I knew the U. S. market because I had worked in the U.

S. for a number of years. But, you know, what I did is I went with some of my, uh, with my medical director to, uh, to the number of centers in the U. S. to figure out, you know, what, what are the, the, uh, the, um, opportunities for a drug, uh, like ours. And even though we are, again, a tiny little company and we’re Novartis, which was obviously the big oncology, the sort of a big player, you know, I tried to figure out that we have a chance to succeed.

And, uh, you know, To cut a long story short, I convinced the board, I convinced, you know, my management team, this was the right thing to do, but there were a lot of risks. And, uh, I knew that, uh, if I had not been successful, it would be, you know, bad, obviously for, for, for the employees would be, but for me, because I would be fired.

But, you know, at the end of the day, we did it and, uh, you know, we became the market leader, uh, you know, we beat no artists, uh, in the U S. And, uh, that transformed ultimately Ibsen from becoming truly a global company. So these are, you know, these are decisions that, uh, the big decision, as I say, you need to take time.

Uh, you know, you need to, uh, to mull over them. You need to speak to a lot of people. You don’t have always, you know, uh, you know, the truth in yourself. So you need to consult a lot, but at the end of the day, as a leader, you have to, you know, you have to go and, uh, you know, and you have to live with the consequences of what you do.

And sometimes it’s good. Sometimes you make some mistakes. I mean, you know, a number of mistakes in my career, uh, in general, I try not to make once, but, you know, it’s part of, uh, it’s part of the adventure. You know, you can’t, you can’t succeed in doing, uh, you know, again, having an impact, a real impact on certain things.

If you don’t take some risk at some point, and that’s, I think, you know, for all of you, you know, while young and talented, you know, you have to go, you have to try and, uh, and then what I find is obviously in the US market, uh, yes, people tend to be much more forgiving, except that, uh, you know, when, when, when you try things, if you fail.

You know, you, you learn from your failure. It’s, it’s not, nothing is bad. You know, you learn, obviously you don’t want to repeat them, but you learn. And that’s part of, uh, you know, the journey to becoming a leader. So that’s the path.

ESCP Students: So, Mark, you mentioned previously having a mentor that provided guidance and support in your path to success within the pharmaceutical industry.

Could you share a story about their impact on your journey?

Marc De Garidel: Well, you know, I can give you the first example. Well, I mean, the first example was actually with Lily. I was a young, uh, young guy. I was, you know, sort of the pharmaceutical controller of the French subsidiary. And, uh, the head of Europe of India came to, uh, to do a business review.

And my boss said, you know, Mark, you’re going to present the whole of the budget presentation. And, uh, and, um, I say, well, I was a bit obviously stressed, so I prepared myself know a lot for that. And then when I did a presentation to this, uh, head of Europe, uh, you know, I think I was able to answer all the questions and I knew I was going on.

And then the person, you know, was Terrell, who became actually ultimately the c e O of, uh, of, uh, of Lilly. So, You know, he helped me, uh, you know, go relatively fast then in, uh, at leading to, to, to my start, which was obviously a great foundation for ultimately my success later on attention and so on. So these are, you know, this is just one example of, uh, of someone who, uh, you know, have me navigate, uh, in my early career in terms of, uh, you know, building the right, uh, foundation for, uh, you know, ultimately success, because, you know, if you go too fast.

So danger, you know, obviously when you are young, you want to do, you know, a lot of things. Uh, but, you know, in the pharmaceutical industry, it’s still very complex. So you want to make sure you, you, you learn, you know, the fundamentals gradually. So that again, when you are in the position of a real responsibility, you don’t make too many mistakes.

ESCP Students: We still have one more question before we jump to the next section. So what misconceptions do you think people have about the role of a CEO or executive? And how does your current job differ from your initial

Marc De Garidel: expectations? Well, probably, you know, the things that, that, uh, uh, I think the biggest change when you get to a CEO job, Compared to where you were before, before you were, you know, running a division or you were running something, uh, you know, but you were reporting to, to, to the c e o.

And when, when you become the c e o, you know, you, you, you’re the c e o. So you’re as a, you know, Ronald Reagan said the, you know, the buck stop here. So that’s, you know, ultimately you, you’re responsible. But what I think I, I fully, you know, underestimated is the fact that even if you’re c e o, you’re not the boss because you have always the boss and the boss is actually your board of director.

And, and what you have to do is to work actually extensively with a, with a board to make sure that, you know, the things that you are doing, uh, you know, the success, the failures, the things you, you know, you, you, you, you are with your board, you, you, you exchange, you learn from them, but you are very aligned with them in terms of the direction of the company.

And that’s, you know, I think that’s some, some, you know, that’s, that was to me a big, big surprise. Because I, I thought I spent a lot of time with the board, much more than I would have anticipated just running the operation.

ESCP Students: So now I would like to jump to another section. I would give you one word and want to get your reaction. The first one is innovation.

Marc De Garidel: Well, that’s a wonderful part of what we do in the, uh, the human body is extremely complex. There are unfortunately still a lot of diseases that need to be treated and, uh, Innovation is a way to, uh, to, uh, you know, to find, to try to find solutions for, for, for the patient.

So. Um, you know, innovation is accelerating, uh, you know, at a tremendous pace and being part of, uh, the process is again, is wonderful, but you can, you need to have, uh, you need to be ready to accept the failures that are associated, uh, since, uh, especially in the industry, as you know, in among 10, 000 drugs that are discovered in early stage and you want to make it, make it to the market.

So it’s a very, it’s also a very difficult, uh, you know, selective process innovation.

ESCP Students: All right. The second word is leadership.

Marc De Garidel: I think, you know, leadership, there are different ways to, to, uh, to be a leader. And, uh, I think there are different distinctions. I think, especially when you grow in your career, uh, you know, you are, you’re, you’re taught to be, to be, to, to, to be, uh, especially in the early days. You know, to be very strong technically and to be a great technician, but I think as you grow, so you’re essentially a manager.

And I think the difference between a leader and a manager is that over time, you know, you, you’re not going to do so many things yourself. You, uh, you, uh, you, you have to, to, the work needs to be done through, through your team. And, uh, you know, I do so often the analogy of the conductor of an, of a, you know, an orchestra to me, a leader is more, you know, you don’t play the music, it’s your people who play the music, but what you do is you, you know, when the music is, is kind of going wrong and you know, how to, uh, to orchestrate, so, you know, the different, uh, you know, different, uh, players, musicians, so that it rings, uh, you know, it sounds, uh, it sounds great and it’s very difficult, uh, It’s a very difficult, uh, uh, job to do.

And, uh, you know, again, multiple mistakes, but I think that’s one. And two, I think, you know, the team is so important, you know, you, you have to. You know, you have to create a team that, uh, uh, is, is, is together, is aligned so that you know, you can conquer together and you fail together. But it’s not, you know, just one person who, who can, uh, who does, uh, thing.

And, uh, you know, finding the right people, creating that environment for, uh, for, for, you know, for innovation, for success and sometimes for failure is, is one of the key attributes of, uh, of a, of a leader.

ESCP Students: So let’s move to the third word, which is biotech.

Marc De Garidel: Well, biotech is, you know, it’s a broad, uh, it’s a broad, uh, term, you know, which essentially is the, uh, industry that has been created at least initially, you know, back in, uh, by, I would say Genentech in the early, uh, you know, in the early nineties.

But it’s become symbolic of, of, of trying to exploit, you know, again, the understanding of how the human body functions to try to target, you know, more specifically some diseases or some, some things. certain things that happen in, in, uh, in diseases and to try to figure out how to circumvent that, that, uh, that, uh, that process.

And obviously it has exploded in different technologies. Obviously you have from gene therapy, cell therapy, uh, large molecules, small molecules. There are plenty of different modalities that are now, uh, being, uh, uh, exploited to, to try to, to combat, uh, you know, uh, um, you know, multiple diseases. And

ESCP Students: finally, the last one is spread love and organizations.

Marc De Garidel: Well, I think, you know, it’s part of the things that, uh, is challenging. But, you know, I, uh, you know, there is one person I really, um, admire when I was actually in the U. S. Uh, he was the, uh, coach of, uh, of, uh, a football team. His name was Lou Holtz. And he’s, uh, you know, he was with Notre Dame and he made Notre Dame the football team, one of the most successful ever in college football in the U.

S. And when, uh, you know, he’s talking, when he was talking, you can watch on YouTube actually, you know, he said, There are really three things that count if you want to be successful. One is, is, uh, you to trust the people. Two, you need to do the commitment of your people. But three, you need to care about them.

And I think the, the, um, you know, I, I think the leaders need to care about, about their, uh, you know, their, their employees. Sometimes, you know, caring doesn’t necessarily mean always, uh, You know, obviously you want to motivate them. You want to, to, uh, you know, to, to, to, to, to, to carry the company with them, but at certain times, unfortunately, caring about them is letting them know they are not in the right spot.

Maybe they’re not, you know, productive in, in, in the, uh, in where they are and they could do much better in, in a different position or, or potentially in a different company. So I think caring is absolutely critical, and that’s, I think, one of the role of the c any, uh, you know, leader manager to, to, to truly, uh, help.

Uh, you know, the employee on the person, uh, you know, as part of the organization to grow and to give them feedback and to have them grow.


ESCP Students: before we wrap up, do you have any final words or advice for aspiring leaders and the pharmaceutical industry or for anyone looking to excel in their role as leader? And their own organizations.

Marc De Garidel: I think, you know, one of the key things is do what you like, right? Do, do, do things you, you, you, you, you enjoy.

Because at the end of the day. That’s going to be critical, uh, for, for, for your success. It’s, it’s, you know, and don’t be worried. Don’t, don’t get worried about what people say about you and like that, not try to be meaningful to, to, to, to, uh, To, uh, to your passion. Uh, you know, do it. Learn from it. You’re going to do mistakes.

Uh, that’s okay. But, you know, do do really what you what you like to do and and don’t care too much about what the others think about you because, you know, they you’ll shine by yourself and you’ll, you know, you’ll succeed. So whatever you do.

ESCP Students: Thank you so much, Mark again for your time for this inspiring discussion.

It was really a pleasure, a pleasure to us.

Marc De Garidel: You’re welcome. Thank you so much.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spread Love and Organizations podcast. We have such an important responsibility as leaders of today to plant the seeds for the leaders of tomorrow. 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 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


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 Karine Duquesne, Vice-President, General Manager of LEO Pharma France. Karine previously held the position of General Manager at Actelion Pharmaceuticals France, and Johnson & Johnson’s rare disease subsidiary prior to its merger with Janssen in 2020. She holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and has more than twenty years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry within various positions, from Medical Affairs to Head of Marketing and Sales. Karine is French and has enriched her career with international experiences in the USA within Janssen’s Global and Strategic teams in Immunology and Neuroscience. Karine is passionate about people development, innovation, diversity and inclusion.

Karine, It is a pleasure to see you again and have you with me today!

Karine Duquesne: Thank you, Naji, and thank you for hosting me today for this podcast on leadership.

Naji Gehchan: I would love first to learn more about your personal story. So what’s in between the lines of you becoming a pharmacist and now leading pharmaceutical companies as a general manager?

Karine Duquesne: My career is more Link to opportunity to really something that I have decided for a long time, um, science and caring for people was something very important for me when I was young, but, um, deciding between medicine, being a doctor or being a pharmacist was more because of some leaders I met.

during my, uh, my, um, my studies. And when I started as pharmacist, as a student, I decided first to work in a retail pharmacy in France because of the relationship you can have with people, with patients. I was so dedicated to patients that I thought firstly that my Part to play was to be close to people.

And then I met a fantastic leader, a woman from a GSK. And, um, she, uh, she shared with me, uh, job, uh, passion for the industry environment and how you can impact being part of, uh, the industry, uh, uh, company. So. I asked for a change in my student part and I moved from a retail pharmacy to, uh, to the, uh, industry development.

And then I joined, uh, Johnson as, um, as a mentee, not a mentee, as a trainee. And I spent 24 years with Johnson growing through the company. I think I have done, I have held all the position you can have, uh, in medical affairs, in commercial, in training, in compliance, everywhere. And I, I grew up like that, more, once again, it’s not a straight line.

It was more opportunity, new project, new people, new leaders that who really inspired me. And then I’m here today.

Naji Gehchan: I love it. Thanks for sharing this. Uh, you, you’ve led through, uh, out your career, as you said, different teams, uh, different functions, metaphor, commercial, and now general manager. You’ve also led in different countries, different companies.

Uh, now Johnson was your longest company you stayed, but you’ve, you moved since. Do you see a common thread or kind of a leadership theme leading people across all those experiences you had?

Karine Duquesne: I think the, the common thing is more linked to myself first is that I am really authentic. When you see me at work, I exactly the same person in my personal life, and it’s one of my conviction supporting people to be themself at work.

It’s really important. Um, the other thing is about passion. I think it this type of job. Um, you need to be passionate by your job to be sure that you can deliver and you can, uh, Go the extra mile because in our job we need to deliver. We need to care to take care of people. We need to manage so many different topics a day.

Um, we need to to start the day be so passionate, but. By our job and the reason why and my personal purpose is to serve the patient across, uh, the French environment today, but across the world and be sure that I can be a small piece in a big part and contribute to that. So you shared this

Naji Gehchan: as you transition from being in retail pharmacy and working with patients directly to now this word and you go back to your purpose and passion that I think many of us, if not all of us in healthcare actually really have this helping patients live better.

Can you Tell us a little bit, because I have a lot of those discussions with still practitioners, how do you see your impact daily? How are you missing this patient interaction, for example, that you had in the pharmacy, or how do you see it today? Um, the

Karine Duquesne: way I am see today is more across the patient organization.

I had the chance that’s really important for me to keep a strong link and relationship with the, the, the people leading a patient association in France. It was really important in rare disease for sure, because especially during the COVID period, I remember. The time we spent with the head of the patient association we worked with at that time, just to be sure that we can, uh, be present even during the COVID period and to serve patients.

And we, we, um, we were so passionate to be sure that we can support them more than before, that we can push all the barriers with the support of the French healthcare system. And for example, for people, um, suffering from pH. going to the hospital during the COVID period to receive their injection, it was too dangerous for them.

And you can’t, um, bring the treatment to their home in France. During the COVID period, we had exceptional authorization for the health care authority to do that for them. So it was tough to imagine we can do that. But in two weeks, We make that possible. So that’s for me the best example about caring for patients and be close to them, even if you work in a pharma company.

So you can do that every day. Next week, um, we will organize, um, a race. And the race it’s about the patient suffering from, um, infirmary chronic disease. Uh, and we will all the employee of the company running for them. So there are different way to support and to be present, uh, for patient according their association.

And every day when I woke up, I wake up, I know that I will work for them. Whatever, that’s my way to think about that every day. It’s

Naji Gehchan: certainly why we wake up every morning. I’m interested now to take you a little bit back in time, but one of the questions that I frequently have since I also, like you, French, moved to the U.

S., I frequently get this question about your, your experience in the U. S. So I’d love to get your thoughts on this. What’s common and how did you lead in different cultures? What did you learn from those, uh, different experiences?

Karine Duquesne: Yes, the it was an amazing experience for me and for my family because I moved with my kids and my my spouse.

It was really amazing. The difference in terms of culture is huge. But when you talk about leadership for me, there’s no difference. Um, remaining who I am. So optimistic, so energized every day, so passionated by my work, um, how I can impact, how I can support my colleague, be a good partner. I guess I did that in the same way than what I was doing when I was leading an organization in France.

And very, very quickly, I was the French woman. People would like to have lunch. With just to share something new. And, um, when I was in France before moving to us, I had a lot of opportunity to mentoring people to mentor people. So I have mentee in Europe, um, in France, in my organization, outside of my organization.

And I’m, when I moved to us, I realized that it was known and. U. S. colleagues asked me to mentor them or mentor someone in their team. So for me, that means that, uh, being authentic, supporting people, look, be so, um, focused on people development. It’s something that you can drive or develop in the same way, whatever the country.

Naji Gehchan: I definitely share your view about how to lead and the way you lead people. It’s kind of human, right? Like the human way that you’re describing. I’m interested. You said, uh, you were the French woman when you were in the U S and I know. You’re passionate about diversity inclusion on those topics are sometimes tricky like we have different views you might have enjoyed being recognized a French woman or not, actually, so I’m really interested in your view about this specific example, but also more broadly, how do you think about diversity equity inclusion within within your teams?

Karine Duquesne: It took me a long time before being so focused on the Um, woman traits of leadership, because firstly, being a young leaguer, um, It was really important for me to be recognized as a leader before then being recognized as a female leader. But right now, knowing the, and having a young woman, um, I talked with about their career.

I realized how it’s still difficult to grow as a female and be authentic. And, uh, even right now with more mature female leader, they’re There is always this question. Can we be ourself as a leader? I am a mom of two teenagers. To be honest, my more difficult job is to be a mom. It’s more rewarding, but it’s so difficult every day.

So I think that being able to be vulnerable at work, it’s perhaps something that seems to be a female traits, but I’m sure that you are someone that can show your vulnerability, Najee. I know you a little bit. I know you can. So it’s not only female traits, but because the gender equity is not there, we need to be supportive and be sure that there are equal chance for young women to be, uh, Perhaps more supported and to have the same change that the young men to develop themselves and to be themselves and not trying to change their way of working to make people understand that they can be a good leader.

Can you share with

Naji Gehchan: us some examples where you helped young leaders, women, uh, leaders throughout your organizations and how do you do this to ensure that those opportunities, especially that now you have this influence and power, if I can say, you know, as a general manager, how do you ensure this is happening consistently across your organization?

Karine Duquesne: I do that through different ways. The first thing is that, uh, um, being a role model, Uh, not to be a focus on myself, but just to be sure that, uh, I can show young female leader that you can be yourself. You can be a mom. You can say, I can’t join this meeting because my son is sick or because it’s his birthday.

And it’s more important for me that this meeting, you know, these small things that in business, most often you keep for yourself and you manage as you can. And just showing that, uh, you can develop yourself, you can grow. In a company, in an organization, why be so clear that your children will remain your first focus and, um, same thing being authentic, sharing some, uh, personal difficulties, sometimes not my personal life, I can talk a lot, but just to share that.

It’s difficult for me too. Some days, I’m sick. Some days, I’m not in a good shape. And don’t try to hide this difficult moment because it’s human beings. So same word, being authentic. In another way, I use different mentoring program because I think sometimes it’s not only about someone being there. You need to structure the approach.

And help people just to say I would like to be supported or what does that mean to to have a mentor compared to a coach or compared to More senior leaders pushing on your back. So just giving some example and um and having um a structured approach meaning something that will last long time enough to be supportive because on only one discussion or one touch point is not enough to really deep dive and support someone in the right way.

Those are great

Naji Gehchan: practical examples. And I love what you shared about having your kids birthdays or any milestone in their life. I remember a great mentor once told me, uh, you will, you will always remember a missed birthday, but you will never remember why you missed it or the meeting you were in and what decision you made in the business side.

So I love those examples. Um, you, you. You’re talking a lot about authenticity, and I want to, like, ask you a question, and vulnerability, like, this is something, as you said, I also believe in. One of the pushbacks, or one of the things people would be afraid of is being perceived as weak, once you’re in leadership positions, if you’re sharing those vulnerable moments.

So, I’m intrigued throughout your career. Up to this, the now where you are and being able to say vulnerably, like I’m not feeling well, or you know, all the discussions we’re having on mental health, how do you think through this and making sure you’re not weak when people actually need you to be strong or being vulnerable when you feel is the right moment?

Is there a moment in time where you feel like you can share, not share? I’m intrigued about how you think about

Karine Duquesne: this. I think it took me time before really. Sharing that with authenticity. Um, for two reasons. The first one is that, um. I think I’m strong. People knowing me, most of the, the leaders I, I knew for years, they started to tell me, you are a man disguised in a woman.

That’s the worst things you can tell me because I’m a woman. So, but perhaps my self confidence and the way I, I say what I think. With a lot of transparency, I’m very direct. So people see me as a strong person and, um, as a man, you know, it took me a time to share vulnerability because it was difficult for me, for me to see my own for new vulnerability, but with experience, because life is about experience, you learn step by step by step that, uh, um, it’s more failures that make you learn than the success you had.

So with that in mind, um, I started to share and it’s about one person. I remember one of my extraordinary PA, my personal assistant, one day she told me, you’re sick, you’re not in a good shape, but you are still there. What do you think? What do you think about the example you give to the young people in your team?

That means that even if you will die, you will come at work. Are you proud of yourself? That was a wake up call for me. And from this day, I can remember this day, um, and I remember Nejima telling me that And with that in mind, I totally changed my thinking about that. And, uh, I started to, to listening to myself first.

And it, the starting point is to start with yourself before telling the other one about vulnerability. And, uh, and right now it’s easy for me to share that. Um, but most often, especially young female, they told me it’s easy for you to, to say you are vulnerable. Because people don’t see you like that. But for me, because I’m, uh, I’m, uh, young, I’m blonde hair.

I seems to be weak by myself. If I share something personal, people will say, Ah, she has too much emotions, too many emotions. Say no, you are who you are. But it’s, uh, it’s a kissing.

Naji Gehchan: No, for sure. Yeah. And, you know, thanks for sharing this and saying it’s just. Like, I don’t know if it’s absurd or not, but it’s the reality, right?

Like what you shared about you being a man disguised, right? Like we, we constantly hear this. It’s, uh, I’m sure we as men hear it less. I heard though, like it’s my woman side of things when I’m more into the humanistic part of, of leadership, which, which. Which is mind blowing, right? Like, it’s just how we separate these.

I’m in a constant fight also, even in retail stores about why my daughters can get their NASA shirts or, you know, astronauts shirts it’s in the voice section, it’s just like, this is how we construct all those biases, unfortunately. Socially. So thanks for doing what you’re doing and pushing people and the society to be better.

Karine Duquesne: Yeah. And my, my way to, um, I love your expression to spread love for me. My way to do that is to spread some of my tips and I do that with all the women I mentor and with all the general manager, female general manager, I am. I met, I told them if I support you, if I help you, if I am a. your mentor and you, you feel that it helps you.

I just have one, one question and one request to yourself is please do that to two other women after. Because if I support you, you need to do and to replicate the same at minimum to two other female. So that’s a way to spread. So I am, I check after they do.

Naji Gehchan: I want not to go into, uh, Kind of a game where I will give you a word and I would love the first reaction that comes to your mind. So the first word is leadership.

Karine Duquesne: Um,

servant leader, two words.

Naji Gehchan: Can you tell us a little bit more?

Karine Duquesne: Um, for me, it’s, it’s really, uh, related to what I mentioned before. Um, and it, it means for me a lot to be. Not only focused on people development, but to look how I can, uh, support the team just to be sure. Um, I will listen to all the voices and be sure that the time I will dedicated to them will be something really, uh, supporting COVID

period. I spent a lot of time to think about the way we will lead our organization after the COVID. And, uh, for me, servant leadership is one of the most impactful way of leading an organization right now. And, uh, be sure that, um, we can, uh, be part of a team, but be sure that everybody at of the, uh, organization as a world.

Uh, as a voice that, uh, will be listened and, um, as opportunity to understand that, um, they, they can make a difference and that really important in the organization. It was part of my introduction yesterday during my sales meeting that you are all. an important piece of our own team, of our own puzzle. And every day, the impact of the difference you will make, at the end, that will make a big difference for the patients.

And that’s for me, uh, the most important thing.

Naji Gehchan: And this has always fascinated me, right? Like in healthcare when comparing to healthcare provider, which is also an enormous noble purpose, right? And you help patients every day, but truly through leadership and our organizations, the impact that you can have and each one.

work is so important to change someone’s life. So reminding our people constantly about the importance of our purpose and why they do what they do is so important. I’m going to go through attention and not another word because I’m, I’m interested. Uh, since, uh, one of the big topics is hybrid work, you said you thought a lot about how, how to lead organizations after COVID.

It’s one of those big topics these days. How do you think of this as a, you’re leading a country and, uh, actually says it’s pretty virtual usually. So I’m, I’m intrigued. How, how do you think about hybrid work or future work, whatever you want to call it.

Karine Duquesne: For me, hybrid is, um, It’s still about relationship. I remember during the COVID, starting every morning with a coffee.

So we had time virtually to take our coffee together like before the coffee machine, but be sure that we can start together. And for me, it was an opportunity to check that, you know, the small signal, someone feeling alone, someone not doing well. And just be sure that this personal moment can make a difference.

Right now, it’s quite different because you have face to face meeting. You have virtual meeting, and you have this hybrid part where part of the team is, uh, is in virtual, the other one are in the same meeting room. And for me, whatever the mode, if you have built before a strong relationship and you take care of Each person in, um, in the meeting room, virtual or not?

You can, um, you can do the same. The difference is that you need to be more, um, explicit, uh, giving some rules. For example, be present when you are in a face-to-face meeting. You can be present and you can have your computer. just in front of you and looking at your emails coming and not being present to the meeting.

So in virtual mode, you can’t see that. So it’s something you need to check more or to share some rules that are part of the way to live together and not being in a meeting. So it’s about human relationship. And what is the most difficult things for me is, is COVID. Plus the new generation with remote time.

What will be the key clue to motivate people? How can you make and design a team or make people feeling they are part of a team or a company if most of the time they are working from home? The question is not about working or not working. It’s about feeling that you are part of the company. Because you are so far from your colleagues, you have not all these, uh, small moments that are more personal than professional.

And, uh, that’s a key question in, uh, for me. That’s a

Naji Gehchan: really important one. Belonging, right? Making sure that people feel they belong. And that’s one of the most important parts of diversity, equity, inclusion, actually, if you feel this. Feeling of belonging and part of a bigger purpose. The second word is innovation.


You have to share a little bit more.

Karine Duquesne: No, treatment for sure. Being part of a, of a pharma company. Innovation means new treatment. And for me, it’s, um. The hope we can cure most of the disease because most often I launched treatment that were for chronic disease where we were a treatment to make people having a better life with their disease, but the few opportunity I had in my career to cure a disease.

It was only one time in hepatitis C. So to be honest, it’s not enough. That’s perhaps. Innovation. It’s more about hop.

Naji Gehchan: What about general

Karine Duquesne: management? Diversity.

It means for me that every day you can touch so many different topics a day. And, uh, because I’m so curious, you have opportunity to deal with many different topic in your company. But being curious, that means you have a lot of external interaction. So it’s like, for sure, you lead your organization, you need to deliver your, your target.

But you have opportunity to open a lot of new doors. Giving opportunity to deal with new ideas and create something new, new ways of working, new ways of developing people. And it’s exactly what I love. And it’s not about the size of your company. It’s about the way you look at your job.

Naji Gehchan: The last one is spread love in organizations.

Karine Duquesne: Kindness.

And the reason why I use this word is because I love the word love. But when I talk about love with people, they told me it’s not for a company. It’s for your personal life and most often kindness when you translate in France, in French, it’s very mis, uh, misunderstood because for me, taking care of people, it means that you be, you will be supportive, but you will be.

Demanding in same time. So it’s not something a week. It’s something about looking at people with positive eyes, giving them a safety space when they can learn, they can grow, they can share their difficulties or this and be able to to be celebrated for success, but same time when you are authentic, you are direct and positive.

You can share with people constrictive feedback. Sometimes tough feedback, but you can help people to understand if they fit with their job, with their position. And it’s not about themselves. They are not bad people or good people. It’s about being sure that at this moment of your life, at this moment of the company with this culture, you are fitting with this position.

What is the core business you need to deal with and be sure that you are happy. With that. So it’s not you need to be courageous. So for me, kindness, love. Most often people misunderstood. What does that mean? And it’s, uh, it’s about challenge. It’s about caring. It’s a mix. Lack in personal life, huh? .

Naji Gehchan: Exactly.

And I love how you framed it because when you truly care, you’re supportive and extremely demanding actually. Yeah. Because you believe in people capabilities and you want them to be at their best. So I love how you framed it. Any final word of wisdom kain for healthcare leaders

Karine Duquesne: around the world? My final words will be, um, perhaps the one I started with, saying that, um, uh, being authentic, be yourself, whatever happens, it’s something that will drive you to your best, that’s my personal conviction, and, uh, it’s about alignment.

With yourself, your purpose, what you are dealing with every day, and I’m sure that the best way to be a happy to develop yourself and be able to support. and develop others around you. Well, thank you

Naji Gehchan: so much for such a great discussion and for being with me today.

Karine Duquesne: Thank you for the opportunity and, and, um, it was great to have opportunity to, to discuss leadership because most often we talk about figures and talking about leadership and people.

It’s really important for me. So thank you for this opportunity. Naji Gehchan: Oh, thank you for being here. And as you said, several times without leadership, you obviously cannot deliver exceptionally well. So it’s interlinked and thanks so much for all your vision about this. Thank you.

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 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

Propel Forward – Gaurav Mehta

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Propel Forward - Gaurav Mehta

In this conversation, Naji Gehchan sat with Gaurav Mehta CEO at Alveolus Bio, and discussed several deep topics from leadership to happiness and being content, and also the current biotech world and its challenges. Gaurav emphasized that leadership involves self-awareness and humility, aiming for productive outcomes that benefit investors, teams, products, and patients. He linked innovation to combining ideas with execution, highlighting the importance of bringing one’s best self forward to inspire teams and sell ideas passionately. Regarding entrepreneurship, Gaurav stressed shedding self-limiting storylines, allowing inner genius to flourish, and being open to pivoting when necessary. The conversation also touched on vulnerability, humility, and genuine connections as essential for spreading love within organizations. Gaurav encouraged us all as healthcare leaders to set ambitious goals to tackle significant healthcare challenges effectively.

“Get rid of the storylines you have in your head

MEET OUR GUEST Gaurav Mehta, CEO at Alveolus Bio.

Gaurav Mehta is the Chief Executive Officer at Alveolus Bio, a biotech Harnessing the power of the microbiome for the prevention and treatment of lung disease. Gaurav has raised multi-million dollars in the form of dilutive and non-dilutive money. He also has progressed long term global strategic partnership deals that authenticate his team, their capabilities, and science with the intent of obtaining investments for his company. He has also created a revenue-generating-business to create value, sustain the company in market volatility and mitigate dilution. While in this capacity, he also advises multiple life science businesses.

Gaurav has co-founded multiple companies. His 20 years of building and scaling depth include having led global operations, business transformations, top and bottom-line improvements, M&A execution, and a turn-around.

This experience has been across large to small firms around the globe in BioTech, MedTech, digital health, and tech.


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 Gaurav Mehta, CEO at Alveolus Bio, a biotech Harnessing the power of the microbiome for the prevention and treatment of lung disease. Gaurav has raised multi-million dollars in the form of dilutive and non-dilutive money. He also has progressed long term global strategic partnership deals that authenticate his team, their capabilities, and science with…


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 Gaurav Mehta, CEO at Alveolus Bio, a biotech Harnessing the power of the microbiome for the prevention and treatment of lung disease. Gaurav has raised multi-million dollars in the form of dilutive and non-dilutive money. He also has progressed long term global strategic partnership deals that authenticate his team, their capabilities, and science with the intent of obtaining investments for his company. He has also created a revenue-generating-business to create value, sustain the company in market volatility and mitigate dilution. While in this capacity, he also advises multiple life science businesses. Gaurav has co-founded multiple companies. His 20 years of building and scaling depth include having led global operations, business transformations, top and bottom-line improvements, M&A execution, and a turn-around. This experience has been across large to small firms around the globe in BioTech, MedTech, digital health, and tech.

Gaurav, so good to see you again and have you with me today!

Gaurav Mehta: It’s so great to see you too, Naji, and thanks for, for having me.

Naji Gehchan: Can you first share with us your personal story from biomedical engineering, manufacturing to now CEO of Alveolus, what’s in between the lines of your incredible journey?

Gaurav Mehta: Wow. That’s a great question. Um, I, I’d be lying if I told you that I was actually, you know, it was all planned because it wasn’t, you know, it, it was more about trying to find my own self journey and the process and trying to figure out what I really wanted to end up doing. I always knew that I, I wanted to help people.

In fact, I started out thinking maybe I should be a doctor, uh, a medical doctor, and it turned out that, I worked under a doctor and I realized, you know, that’s not something that I’m super excited about. Um, so I decided to go down this path of biomedical engineering, and I’m like, okay, is this is exciting.

I love stretching. I love growing, and I just kept trying different things, stretching myself, growing in different, different capacities. But over the years I finally realized that, you know, it’s not, um, I, I can bring value to people and to me, I realized I could take all these skills, these experiences that I’ve accumulated over the years to make a broader impact.

Maybe I can bring, uh, meaningful therapeutics or medical devices or whatever way I can collectively bring a team together, bring the right culture, bring the right mission, help bring these solutions to life. Be part of that equation. That ultimately ended up being where I’m, uh, today. And, you know, it’s been a journey where it’s been a lot of understanding who I am, uh, as part of the process as well.

Naji Gehchan: Can I double click on understanding who I am as you frame it? Yeah. What, what is, what are your learnings? How did you get to learn who you are through this process?

Gaurav Mehta: Yeah, that’s a another, uh, tough question. I think in the beginning, you know, I was confused. I was doing all these different things. I was very much like stretching myself in terms of I love challenges, I love problem solving, but I’ve always had this question about, okay, what is it for?

What am I going after? What’s my compass? Right? And, uh, it’s a process of. Constantly throwing myself in the deep end of the pool and starting to realize, okay, this is what’s interesting. This is what’s exciting me, this is what I can provide value to. But I think entrepreneurship is, uh, especially in the past several years, is what really stretched me so far.

Where it was like almost a breaking point where, I started to understand, you know, it’s okay. It’s not a destination, it’s a journey. And the journey is, you know, we don’t know what that final outcome looks like, and that’s okay. And we may not ever reach that. We may have an idea of what that may be, and we may not reach that.

But every day we’re peeling the onion. We’re kind of sculpting. Who we are, and I’ve come to to terms with that, where I’m much more happier and I’ve realized there’s two things in life. There’s the contentment and then there’s the happiness piece. Contentment is being at peace with yourself and being comfortable in your skin.

And going after what we believe in day in, day out. But then also the happiness is not necessarily the same thing as contentment. I could be doing anything trying to solve a problem, but that necessarily may not bring me happiness. Happiness is some deep calling that I personally believe. We all are unique.

You know what? What we wanna do, our dreams, our values. If we pursue that, we are happy. And especially if you’re content and you’re following your dreams, you’re following your values. I think that’s what really cultivates the happiness aspect of things as well. And so that’s my, I’m much more comfortable in my skin, especially because of this entrepreneurial journey and learning to be more mindful.

And that, you know, I’ve pursued these things, uh, like Headspace, which is like a mindful, uh, guided mindfulness and whatnot, which has just really allowed me to understand myself, witness myself, witness others, and realize what contentment is and what happiness is.

Naji Gehchan: I love it. We’re immediately in deep discussions right about yourself as a person, as a leader, uh, as, as you went through this journey.

And we discussed, uh, last time, uh, both of us, uh, really kind of turbulent. Time we’re in as, uh, in the biotech industry, something we’re both passionate about. Uh, I, I’d love to understand how you’ve been using those capabilities to keep growing, but also to lead teams in those moments at the end of uncertainty.

Right. I love how you framed it. It’s about a journey. We’re kind of wired several times to think about the destination we want to go to, right? And we wanna achieve it and reach it. So how have you managed along your personal growth, uh, as you gracefully shared leading teams to understand that the important piece is this one step at a time for us to uncover the next innovation for healthcare?

Gaurav Mehta: Yeah, no. To me, I, I’ve realized, uh, another piece is that I’m only a piece of the puzzle and part of that piece of the puzzle is the team that we belong to. Um, and so the people that we surround ourselves with can make or break you. Right? And, and I don’t mean just by functional work, but I also mean the energy that is an intangible.

Whether it’s my boss, whether it’s my direct reports, I feed off that energy myself and as a leader, we also have to bring our own energy to the table, which is the whole contentment and happiness aspect. But it’s also so important to, to be around people who are also like inspired and driven and it becomes like a system dynamic, um, where we’re feeding off of each other, right?

And so sometimes, you know, there are people. Within the team who may be down and we come to the table and also bring our energy to the table. And it’s just a self-fulfilling reinforcing loop where if, if you’re negative, it’s going to feed off and create that negativeness. But if you’re positive and you are pushing yourself to think out of the box, or if your team members are pushing you to think out of the box as a team, as an engine.

We, um, we propelled forward and I have a great team around me and, um, whether, who’s our executive chairman, who’s, uh, who’s also our founder, he is, you know, he’s very driven, he’s very motivated, and he’s thinking out of the box. I love that energy that I get from him. At the same time, the people that work within our team, they’re also coming up with different ideas and you’re like, Maybe it is possible, and you know, and so we keep feeding off of this, and I think that ultimately makes you think of different, different ideas.

Whether it’s like, Hey, maybe we can generate revenue off of this thing and try to keep ourselves afloat. And you’re providing value to other companies. At the same time, you’re thinking of grants, you’re thinking of foundations, you’re thinking of different, different things, and you’re like, Hey, that’s promoting our science moving forward, and.

I think we can also provide value to disease X, Y, and Z. You know, and I think that ultimately is progressing us in that direction. And we may or may not get to that destination, but I think we’re chugging along in times. It’s tough at at times. It’s like, Hey, it’s all exciting, but I think every day you have to wake up and.

Remind yourself that it, it’s a journey and if we fail at the end, it’s okay too. And coming to grasp with that takes that whole anxiety, that whole edge off. But when you do, you thrive, in my opinion, at least that’s the case for me.

Naji Gehchan: Can you share a specific example, about, you know, those challenging times. If it’s funding, if it’s data readouts science, like I, I always feel we’re, uh, in our space, we’re humbled with this double uncertainty of biology and business all the time. Right. So, yeah. How, how would you deal with this, with your teams in those times, as you said, that are challenging?

Gaurav Mehta: Yes. No, absolutely.

I think, look, I will say if the science doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out and we can’t do anything about that. It is what it is. And you have to be, integrity is one thing that if you’re not integral in our business, you don’t belong here. Right. And so I think that I can’t do anything about, we have to follow our gut and I personally.

Not only do I feel the science is amazing, but the gut tells me that this is very much de-risk. Now I have to convince that to others who may or may not believe, like for example, whether it’s microbiome, they would like, oh my God, all these other microbiome companies are failing. But I’m like, that’s the gut.

It’s much more variable. But the lung isn’t, you know, this is something that’s uh, found in the lung. And to me, I think. Not only the science, the data speaking very positively, so I wholeheartedly believe it Now to do that, we we’re like, okay, how do we convince people? Now we’re thinking of different animal models.

Even though the FDA doesn’t require us to do it, we’re looking at ferrets, we’re thinking out of the box to make sure that we can, um, de-risk this further, to get people to be more convinced. And, you know, even from an investment standpoint. We’re hitting every single angle. If institutional VCs in the current market are not willing to invest, that’s okay.

We’ll look at angel, angel groups. We’ll look at wealthy individuals, even though you have to be very careful who you, who you, uh, partner with. That’s another thing, but every day if we don’t try, we’re not gonna find that right partner. But at the same time, we’re looking at foundations. We’re like, okay, we’re thinking about Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for tuberculosis.

You okay? That’s one angle that we feel very confident. Cystic fibrosis Foundation, we feel like we can do, you know, and we’re thinking about combinational therapies, all of these things to just to try to see which way makes sense. Can we create a partnership with various different companies? You know, it’s, it’s a tough market.

Um, and we’ve had several that went, but even those companies sometimes may struggle, right? So again, it’s every day you chip away. I’m confident that one day something very favorable is gonna come about, and that’s what keeps me going.

Naji Gehchan: Well, that’s that’s great. And I love this iteration that you’re talking about that’s really this entrepreneurial journey that you said you’ve been embarked in and you’ve been enjoying for the past decade. Uh, so when you think about, uh, transmitting, if we go out of your specific company, I know you mentor a lot, you’ve worked with a lot of startups, biotechs, med techs. What is the one advice you give founders CEOs when they building that company? Is there, after your, all your experience globally and yourself as an entrepreneur and as c e o, what is this one advice you give to leaders founding their companies?

Gaurav Mehta: Um, yeah, no, I think in that regard, there’s several things that come to mind. One that’s very common is who are you serving? Who’s your end customer? What’s your game here? Um, how are you targeting? So there’s that business. Find mindset to make sure that you’re crafting a business around it. But I’ve often found a lot of, uh, companies, a lot of leaders within those companies, they get too hung up with the storylines that people themselves have created.

Whether it’s like, oh, I’m, I gotta have this equity, I gotta do this, and I’m like, A 0% of zero, uh, a 0% of whatever equity is still zero. Right? And so you have to make progress. You have to compromise at times to, to make certain things move in the right direction. And that those storylines goes back to the contentment piece that I was talking about earlier, because we have these storylines in our head to that, you know, prevent us from thinking.

In a peaceful way, thinking about what’s really the end goal? What’s driving them? What are their values? What are their dreams? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say, oh, we should take whatever dilution that comes your way. No, the focus here is don’t get stuck in, in, in your journey thinking about like, okay, you know, this is an end all, be all.

You have to start thinking about. What are the roadblocks and how do I get around it? You know, what are, what are, and those roadblocks are a lot in our head. And um, and I think a lot of the founders, a lot of the entrepreneurs break because of not being able to handle their own mental struggles. And you know, when I first.

Embarked in this journey. People told me, oh, entrepreneurship is is hard. I’m like, I’ve been doing hard work all my life. I’m not afraid of hard work, but I must say it’s been a hard journey and it’s, it’s a very, very hard journey because you realize, It’s a lot of emotions that are involved and it’s emotionally tormenting.

And so I think once you reach the self-reflection, self-understanding aspect of things, you give a whole lot more to your team, to your, uh, to what you’re trying to accomplish. And you are much more content. And, and if you’re following, if, if what you’re doing is aligned to your. Your passion, passion, your, your, your vision, uh, your dreams, your values.

Then you’re happy as well as content. Right? And so I think, I think that’s, that’s what I see a lot.

Naji Gehchan: Thanks for sharing Gaurav. I’m gonna give you our word and I’d love your reaction to it. And the first word is leadership.

Gaurav Mehta: Leadership. What’s my reaction? I think leadership is, It, it goes back to understanding who we are and getting rid of the storylines that are in our head and realizing that it goes back to the whole destination piece. You know, we may strive, we wanna, people wanna make money, we all wanna, you know, all do all these kind of different things, but at the end of the day, we’re not gonna die with all of this.

Yes, it’s important to do all those things, and it’s important to make money for the investors, but I think you can only do. If you realize that you have to be humble, you have to be, uh, you have to be aware of yourself and your team members and your surrounding to. To provide the most productive output that you can and that favors the investors, that favors your team, that favors the product that you’re creating.

It favors yourself. Otherwise it’s misery involved. And that’s, that’s my re reaction.

Naji Gehchan: That’s a great reaction. I’m, uh, we’re we, several times we’re used to have leadership and thinking of others, obviously. I love that your first reaction is, Self-reflection. It’s, uh, it’s deep self-understanding for you to be able to lead others.

That’s, that’s a powerful, the second one is innovation.

Gaurav Mehta: Innovation. Um, I think innovation, you, you have to define the word innovation and the word, in my opinion, innovation is combined with two things. One, It’s the idea, but then two, it’s all the execution that goes behind making that idea something that’s accessible to a broader market.

It’s commercializing it, right? And to do that leadership. And it, it doesn’t mean that you have to be leading a team, it’s just how you bring yourself to the. It goes back to the same story that we’ve been talking about, um, is in order to to to bring that innovation, we have to bring our best self forward.

We have to realize who we are to be our best self forward, and, and that is what takes two. Inspire people to, to get a team of people together, to get investors motivated, to be able to sell that in a passionate way. Um, people will see that people feel that energy and that’s what really ultimately moves the needle in terms of the business, in terms of innovating.

Naji Gehchan: The third word is entrepreneur.

Gaurav Mehta: Entrepreneur, entrepreneur is, um, the first reaction is getting rid of the storylines in your head and to be able to, to able to bring the genius in you out. Uh, I personally am a big believer that we are all born with an innate genius within ourselves. We all have a different offering, a value offering that we give to this world.

And the thing is, we oftentimes, including myself in the past, we sometimes get caught up in the storylines and we stop these beautiful things that we have just because we think that we have to conform to somebody else’s mold that we have to follow something else. To be our best self forward. And I think that is actually self-limiting.

And to be an entrepreneur, you have to be able to create, bring that genius to the table. And the only way that you do that is believe in yourself. And believe in, in the idea that you’re bringing to. But also be realistic. If you find out that the way that you’re doing it is not gonna work, either pivot or stop.

And I’ve realized pivoting is huge in entrepreneurship. It’s like constantly pivoting and you’re constantly trying to find that sweet spot that has to happen. But um, yeah, that’s my reaction.

Naji Gehchan: Get rid of the storyline you have in your head. I, I love it. You said it several times and I think it’s really a, a deep sentence.

When you think of the storyline that we create, the ones that even our parents create, I’m sure you’re familiar with. Yep. Uh, Debra and Kona’s Paper on the Ghost and the exec committee. Right. Like, I think there’s so much in it and so many storylines we built in our heads that sometimes prevent us from. Achieving the greatness we all have. ’cause I’m, I’m a big believer like you, that you all have a genius in us.

Gaurav Mehta: Yeah, yeah. It’s, it’s, you know, we, we unfortunately can’t lead our best life forward. And I finally at, at this age in my life, I finally realized this, we can’t live our best life. Unless we let those storylines go, unless if we’re willing to put our anxieties, put our self-doubts, put our, you know, false sense of securities aside, we just can’t, we can’t accomplish the dream that we want without it, without doing those things right.

Naji Gehchan: I’m going off the question, but I, I’m intrigued if there was a moment or crucifix or something specific that helped you realize this and just transformed, or is it really this continuous journey of, you know, pivoting, learning, facing, uh, yourself?

Gaurav Mehta: Yeah. No, I, um, I think it’s, it’s a very iterative process, but I, I often, you know, even if you asked me two years ago, I’d be like, oh my God, why did it take me so long?

But I think it’s constantly throwing yourself out there and taking risks and sometimes just following the path of, you know, what’s ahead of you. Um, my parents think I’m crazy. My, my sibling, one of my siblings thinks I’m crazy for, for, um, you know, putting my career on hold and going back to, to, to grad school, to, to upskill myself and go after this journey wholeheartedly and again, that’s the storyline saying, well, you know, Go to school, work hard, you know, make decent money and then you’ll be fine.

That’s a storyline. That’s a storyline of itself. Like you said, you know, we’re. And so yeah, your family members are like thinking you’re crazy and sometimes you doubt yourself thinking, oh my God, I must be crazy, but you, you keep following it. And I think there was no special point. I think that iterative process and allowing my perfectionism to also let go that comes with the engineering mindset is, is at least for me, and, and then just allowing myself to witness my own behavior.

Eventually that came about and I think there’s some great mindful, uh, tactics out there too that really helped the process.

Naji Gehchan: I certainly relate and. I think your openness, humility, and willingness actually to really test yourself. You’re not talking a lot about this, but you, you can transform if you don’t start being vulnerable yourself and willing to transform as a leader for you to, to bring this great transformations and growth.

The last word is spread love in organizations.

Gaurav Mehta: Yeah, the spread love, I think it comes naturally. Um, and it comes naturally if you’re willing to be, like you said, vulnerable, uh, like to be humble and to understand that you yourself are not perfect and that you are also work in progress just like everyone else, but it, you know.

Inspiration is one, but when you are opening up your own vulnerabilities, um, and you’re able to connect with people, I think people are also able to emotionally connect with you and they feel like, okay, they understand you have to treat people in a way that if you were to put yourself in those same shoes, do they, um, do they get it?

Now, don’t get me wrong, like if you asked me 10 years ago, I was more functionally oriented. Right. But now it’s like, over the years I started to realize we all have a very limited time on this planet and we, we need to, you know, just explore how best we can live this. And the best way, again, it goes back to the contentment, happiness piece, but it, it’s more like, how do you how do you make yourself, um, real? And if you’re real with yourself and you’re real with others, that love genuinely comes about because they, your team members also feel like they can also connect with you and you don’t create these arbitrary, like ridiculous rules that people feel like, oh my god, you know, has a high sense of anxiety.

When you’re able to connect and when you’re able to talk about difficult items, which is also very important. You can’t be just very much, you know, you know, never have to work. No, you have to be pretty aggressive, but at the same time, you’re, you’re also being vulnerable. You’re also being able to connect with people and understand and help.

The love aspect naturally comes when you bring yourself to the table.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world?

Gaurav Mehta: healthcare leaders around the world? Um, I would say, you know, everything that I’ve said here today, um, I think it doesn’t just apply to healthcare, it applies to. Any type of work that you’re trying to do. But I would also go far as saying, you know, one thing is, and this is going to, what I was saying just a moment ago, is you have to stretch ambitious goals.

You have to set ambitious goals. You have to go after it. Don’t, if you don’t aim high enough, you’re not going to be able to solve bigger problems. And I. We as humans also tend to have this self-limiting thoughts of saying, this is as best as it’s gonna get. And I think unless if you push the envelope, unless if you go after the big problems, you’re not gonna be able to solve the big problems that are out there.

And I think people limit themselves just because of that mindset. And so whether it’s healthcare, I’m a huge believer. I mean, I love the fact that now we have orphan drugs and all of that. Previously, all of these rare diseases people couldn’t tackle. But I think if you’re passionate, if you think that, you know, you wanna go after these things, don’t be afraid.

And I’m not a, I’m not a medical doctor, I’m not a PhD. Um, I don’t know every little thing that’s going around me, but I can put a team around me and I can connect with people and try to understand what they’re trying to accomplish. So you don’t have to have that. But set ambitious goals, I guess, is the last thing I would like to say.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much, Gaurav for being with me today and for this deep chat we had.

Gaurav Mehta: Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.

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 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

Dare to Jump – Marja Pronk

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Dare to Jump - Marja Pronk

In the conversation, you’ll hear from a changemaker, Marja Pronk, CEO & Founder of Global Young Leaders, Global experts foundation, and MH Pronk Healthcare Consultancy. Naji and Marja discussed various topics including leadership, health equity, and living life by design. Marja emphasizes the importance of leadership at all levels, including personal leadership. She believes that living life by one’s own design leads to happiness and optimal performance. Marja also highlights the necessity of love, transparency, and room for creativity in organizations. In her final words of wisdom, she encourages healthcare leaders to recognize the holistic nature of healthcare, encompassing both technological advancements and human aspects. Hear more about Marja’s personal journey, insightful learning, and the incredible impact she is having on young leaders across the globe.

“Take the fear out and bring the love in organizations

MEET OUR GUEST Maria Pronk CEO & Founder of Global Young Leaders, Global experts foundation and MH Pronk Healthcare Consultancy.

Marja Pronk is CEO & Founder of Global Young Leaders, Global experts foundation and MH MH Pronk Healthcare Consultancy.

Marja is driven by the patient, healthcare perspective ‘to have access to the right treatment’. Her training as a medical doctor at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and her years of experience at the pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, inspired Marja to create the first specialized market access consultancy firm in the Netherlands. She since then helped contributed to more than 650 cases in 35 disease areas across Europe bringing innovation access to patients.

She is also founder of Global Young leader where they equip young people with personalized life skills so that they can create life by their own design.


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 Marja Pronk, CEO & Founder GLOBAL YOUNG LEADERS, Global experts foundation and MH PRONK HEALTH CARE CONSULTANCY. Marja is driven by the patient, health-care perspective ‘to have access to the right treatment’. Her training as a medical doctor at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and her years of experience at the pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline,…


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 Marja Pronk, CEO & Founder GLOBAL YOUNG LEADERS, Global experts foundation and MH PRONK HEALTH CARE CONSULTANCY. Marja is driven by the patient, health-care perspective ‘to have access to the right treatment’. Her training as a medical doctor at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and her years of experience at the pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, inspired Marja to create the first specialized market access consultancy firm in the Netherlands. She since then helped contributed to more than 650 cases in 35 disease areas across Europe bringing innovation access to patients. She is also founder of Global Young leader where they equip young people with personalized life skills so that they can create life by their own design.

Marja, It’s a pleasure to see have you with me today!

Marja Pronk: Thank you, Naji. It’s a pleasure.

Naji Gehchan: Can you first share with us your personal story from becoming a physician, then going to the pharma industry, and now being a successful entrepreneur and life skills expert?

Marja Pronk: Yes. That’s quite a journey. Um, uh, I studied medicines in Rotterdam and, uh, finishing my, my, um, my study, I was thinking I’m not the type of treating patients directly, and I was looking for an alternative. And, uh, when I jumped into the pharmaceutical industry, they gave me that room. To develop marketing commercial skills. And I felt that that was more, uh, up to me. Uh, I, I felt that I was very commercial and, uh, I dedicated then my time to, um, organizing healthcare, uh, environments from first, uh, the pharmaceutical perspective later on, uh, in my con own consultancy from a broader perspective, from, uh, multiple stakeholder perspectives. My joy was to bring stakeholders together and to guide or lead them to a final result where everybody, uh, could work with that result. And by coincidence, uh, I came across a lot of young people because I’m a mother of, uh, three kids and, uh, a lot of young, uh, guys and girls, uh, were in our house and what I saw is that there is a kind of, uh, mental wellbeing. Issue among young people. And that inspired me being a medical doctor from a background, uh, for what’s going on. And, uh, while doing my my pharmaceutical reimbursement project, uh, at the same time I started to, to interest myself in the mental wellbeing. And that led me to, um, working with the life skills, what I’m uh, doing right now.

Naji Gehchan: This is incredible. Uh, Maria, so I, I’d love us to talk more about obviously mental health and your work with, uh, the young leaders. But before that, since you’re really an expert in market access and bringing innovations and drugs to patients, I’d love first to hear your thoughts and your views about healthcare access today in Europe and even globally.

Marja Pronk: I think that, uh, having seen so many cases, uh, not only in the Netherlands but also on the European level and, and a little bit from the us I’ve seen that healthcare is, is really a business, uh, that was. Confronting me the first five years of my, my work as a consultant. When I experienced that, even governments have to look at it as a financial, uh, aspect. And I always, uh, was looking for an integration of the human aspects with the financial aspects. I mean, uh, the trees do not grow into the sky, so there’s a limited healthcare budget. But we need to manage that in a balanced way, not only from a financial point of view, from a profit point of view, from pharmaceutical industries, but also from what works. And what I’ve seen in the healthcare today is that, uh, the real decisions are avoided. Uh, let’s say, uh, governments do not discuss societal, um, standards. It’s all about case after case, after case. And I think when we have a better, uh, communication, better discussion on what we really need as healthcare or as a healthcare package, I think, uh, everything becomes more clear to everybody, not only to the providers, but also to the consumers. And this has to do with, uh, what your organization is, is, uh, also talking about it’s the opposite between fear and love. From a fear point of view, maybe we want to have all the healthcare, uh, possible, but from a loving point of view, we, we need to stand still and see, okay, what do we want to provide? What is the person’s own responsibility? Find a mix there and to see what all the people together can do to create a better healthcare and not leave it up to, uh, some organization, some governments, but to take a common responsibility from a loving point of view and, and take out the fear there and, and to accept that life is real and, uh, to take decisions in that perspective.

Naji Gehchan: This is super powerful, uh, Maria, and obviously you talked about love already. You shared in the beginning really this co-working space that we need to get to in healthcare. You talked about bringing stakeholders together, um, and really kind of making those decisions as a society for a better health, and you’ve helped and worked ensuring access to innovation across geographies, as we said. Do you see any particular skill. These days, and especially for the future with more and more breakthrough innovations coming to patients, but as you said, at at a higher cost with other complexity, uh, in the systems, any particular skill for us healthcare leaders and pharma and biotech you think is crucial for us going forward through these milestones for the companies, but most importantly, for the patients we serve.

Marja Pronk: Yeah. Uh, I, I definitely see one, uh, common central skill, and that is communication together. So not, uh, act in these silos, eh, in these pillars, but to cooperate, to communicate. And that’s also about love and fear, not to fear the other party that what have, for example, pharmaceutical companies are only money driven. These. Uh, prejudice this, um, opinions. If you take that out and you create a, a, a floor where everybody can say what he wants, uh, then you have a real communication and you can find solutions, um, and, and take out the fight between those stakeholders. If you first create a a floor, then after you can do your own tactics. If you do not have a common floor, it, it’s, it stays like, um, yeah, uh, uh, tactics, uh, which are not sustainable in the long term. So communication and co-operation.

Naji Gehchan: So if we shift gears now to global young leaders and what you’ve been doing there. So you, you shared a little bit about how it started by watching, observing, uh, young talents and young leaders and the impact on mental health. Can you tell us a little bit more how it started and what you’re actually doing now?

Marja Pronk: Um, it’s. This leadership and, uh, this term, um, we call the global young leaders not to create new presidents for the future, but to make young people aware that they have to be the leader of their own life, um, and to lead your own life. We saw that some skills were missing. The today’s education is, and, and I, I’ve gone through this education as well, but what I see more and more is that young people are, uh, pressured to, to have a lot of, uh, knowledge, uh, to perform, have high grades, and slowly the, the, the life skills that you need to perform and to sustain yourself, um, have been skipped. So, What is the end product of education nowadays is, uh, a lot of, uh, young people with high grades, uh, with good university, uh, uh, references. But when they start working as a young professional, um, they find themselves, uh, running against the wall because they need skills to manage their daily life, their working life. Also, as a student already, you see a lot of students. With burnout, which is absolutely crazy. I mean, 50% of students are, uh, have a burnout. You see a lot of young professionals with burnout. And to me the answer is, uh, I’ve seen that growing. Uh, and, and when talking with a lot of young people that when they have the skills and simple skills and not, uh, complicated courses, uh, where you first have to get your degree. Before, uh, you have those skills. Now the skills are very simple and the simpleness to bring that back into the whole curriculum of young people and, and bring it also into organizations solves to me a lot of problems. And, and it has directly, uh, um, a relation to, to love. But I, yeah, we can talk about that.

Naji Gehchan: Oh, yes, I wanna talk about it. And, and you know, as you’re, as you’re talking, it’s obviously as, as a parent, you know, my two little daughters, obviously with my, with my partner. We think a lot about this and really those life skills, as you said, we’ve been educated in systems, uh, probably super strict academically. Uh, but then you get to life and you have those life skills, and I, I would argue that life is getting more and more complex, so probably we need to focus even more on, on those social and human skills. So I’m, I’m eager to hear. As you provide personalized life skills, as you call it in, in your, um, in your company, for people to be resilient, empowered, uh, to tackle important personal and professional challenges, uh, and really create life by their own design. I love how you frame this. So can you tell us a little bit more about your philosophy and maybe couple off tips, uh, on what are those key skills that we need to make sure our young leaders have?

Marja Pronk: Yes, of course. It’s a joy to, to give some examples. Um, if, if you look at those life skills, life skills to me are, um, the solution for, for the individual, but also for organizations, for companies, for groups, for, for everything. Because if you. Look at life skills and you, you have them on board. You can manage through all kinds of situation. Uh, life skills is about, um, learning that there is no wrong decision. For example, uh, learning to, to change your mindset. If you change your mindset, your reality changes and you see it already in daily practice. It’s nothing new. It’s just something that is not put on the table. For example, if you take an athlete, this athlete, if he wants to have that medal, he needs to have a positive mindset. I mean, that can be, uh, applied to somebody in a company. If as a company, uh, you want to be successful, you need to have the right mindset. That doesn’t mean same time that. You need to perform according to what the organization says to you or according to the, what society says to you or, or according to what, uh, your parents say to you. I think there’s the key. These life skills help help individuals to manage, to lead their own life within this whole environment. And, and to be, uh, transparent about it. For example, um, if your parents want that, you, you study law because that’s more successful than becoming a musician, for example. And you don’t want that. I think you need to be transparent because it doesn’t serve anybody, uh, to have an unhappy lawyer. Because he, he will not be kind to his clients and he will not perform at his highest level because the highest level is coming from within the human. So if you do not do what is, um, close to you, then to my opinion, you cannot perform to a max. That’s the same as in an organization. If a company wants to have all, uh, high performing MBAs, Uh, leading the, the company through success. That’s not possible. If you do not look at the, the people and, and you find a mix like in an orchestra, eh, you cannot conduct a, a company if you do not have a, a view for the human in that company and to find out what, uh, is his f what, what is triggering him, how the people within a company. Um, can perform best. And, and for that you need life skills. You need the love, the love in organization, not the fear. Because fear is not leading through transparency, eh, from a fear, from a performing point of view. Uh, also look at the, the person that needs to study law from a fear point of view, he’s going to study law. But that’s not leading to, to success because he will fake what works. But if he really finds his resonance, and if employees in a company really find their resonance and they get the room for that, and the company has to provide this open space, this non-judgmental space, and to to, to make the, the employees aware that with the life skills, Uh, how you can manage situations, how you can shift your mindset, how you can use your intuition, uh, how to take risk, how to not, uh, make a wrong decision. Then all of a sudden this person, uh, is, is starting yet to, to produce from within, uh, and to a maximum level. And then you, you, you come to success. So to me, To make this shift with life skills and to, to take out the fear. And to bring in the love. That’s why, yeah. The, the title of your, your organization resonates very well with me to bring in the love. Then you have the perfect environment to produce and I, I would love to, um, To give nuance here. Love is not a pink cloud. Uh, it’s not being kind to other people. To me, love is a reality can be hard. You have, as an organization or as a person sometimes, or in a family, you can take decisions that are maybe painful for other members or it can lead to saying goodbye that a person, uh, gets another job. But at least it’s, it’s transparent and with transparency, uh, it’s like, uh, snakes, uh, uh, uh, sorry, snails come out of their house. Only if there is an open environment. And, and then you can say, I don’t belong to this environment. If you find out that it’s not your thing and, uh, exactly as this lawyer, I wanna produce music and he becomes a successful musician. But you have to provide this environment. And then the company will also see, okay, uh, a few people leave the company or a few people, uh, simply, uh, restrict their job to this, uh, performance. And they can push other ones who want to be pushed. So you get like in the orchestra. A different composition and, and you have to look that because an orchestra cannot give high performances if the individuals are not heard. I mean, then they’re less successful, I’m sure about that. So that’s my passion to work with those life skills because they’re very simple and very simple to apply. But it’s, it’s, it creates a lot of clarity for, for the individual, for the company, for the organization. And it invites people to, to bring the best out of them, uh, in the open. And I think that’s, that’s success and that’s love. And then people are happy and not burned out.

Naji Gehchan: Oh, Maria, this is, this is so incredibly powerful and so close to my heart and my beliefs in, in leadership and driving high performing teams. You, you talk, you mentioned so, so many set, uh, really great concepts around diversity. I love the examples you’re putting this diversity in the orchestra and how, how we read this. There’s a lot of, there’s a lot of examples as you shared. Uh, on how a conductor and then all the team brings their best to be themselves. Uh, uh, it’s, it’s really. Powerful what you, um, what you just shared, and I’m with you. Love is transparency and sometimes it’s, um, it has to have a transparent, tough discussions, but with the other best, with the other person’s best interest in mind. So I. It, it all, this really resonates so much with me. Uh, my question is with those young leaders, as, as you are in contact with several of them, um, too, also, but more into hiring, recruiting, probably for me, I’m, I’m intrigued how you’re feeling those, uh, those young generations reacting to those skills that you’re building and also as you are nurturing those skills, how are companies. Reacting or endorsing or embracing those young generations asking for more loving environment in, in the corporate world?

Marja Pronk: Yeah. Young people are inspired because they feel that, uh, going through this whole education system wherever you are, whether you’re in Africa, India, us, Europe, They, they all experienced the same type of issues. That was very funny when we did our research with the Global Young Leaders Organization, um, is that whatever the context is, the culture, the environment where you in, if it’s an easy environment, the difficult environment, the the issues are the same. And that’s how we developed, uh, the, these life skills that are applicable to. All, um, all areas of the world because it addresses the, the key. And the key has to do with how can you, um, bring out the best in you to the table, uh, on a personal level. On a professional level, and you need skills for that. So if you combine that with your education, Then you can manage successful through all your experiences. Then you can manage successful through your first job and maybe make another decision after that experience and to go to another job where you perform even better because, and that’s one of the key elements. What we make clear is that you have to experience. You. What you see among young people is they try to find, they try to find the perfect, uh, position. They, they want to make perfect, uh, decisions. And that’s not possible that, that’s artificial. You, you cannot predict what’s the best, uh, decision because you only experience that, uh, when, when doing it. Um, and, and that’s where the key is. That’s. If they, um, allow themselves to jump into that experience, whatever, uh, comes out, it is no wrong decision because the experience brings you to new solutions because in, in the hard work, in the difficult work, in the challenges you have encountered, you all of a sudden see. Where solutions are or where your own skills, um, are where you are strong at, where you’re not strong at you, you, you learn more about yourself. And, and that is something that’s a, a, a, I would say, a backpack that you take with you in every situation, whether it’s a job, whether it’s in a family, uh, whether it’s on a journey. Because you have experience that in a challenge when it’s difficult, um, that you find solutions, you have, uh, found your own power. And it doesn’t mean that you only have this power when you are working in the same environment. No, it’s applicable to everything. So this experience to me is key. And if the young generation can be convinced that it’s not bad, Uh, to choose something and just experience. That’s the only way. That’s how you arrive at your point where you think, okay, this is it. Here is where I perform best, and that’s the only road. And you, you just have to jump, uh, in it. You can of course, do some research, but the final decision is a jump. And, uh, you only know, uh, how it is when you have experienced it. And that’s, I I often give an example. If you look at an athlete, he’s training, training, training. Uh, it takes a long time. Uh, he’s the best. He gets this, this golden medal if it, the, the decision that he was, uh, going to the Olympics and the moment that he has this golden medal are just moments. What is in between is something that you cannot capture. It’s not in a book, it’s, it’s not in the education system. It’s the experience and, and that’s something you have to go through yourself because this athlete has this package in between and he knows how to do it next time. And what the young generation sees today is okay. This person is successful. He has, uh, reached this golden medal, so I need to do this, uh, as well. And, and that’s the only goal to have this golden medal. But they forget that it’s, the experience is the holy grail because through this experience, you can manage yourself in every environment after, with this gold medal, if you have it, it doesn’t mean a guarantee for the next experience, uh, and, and for your success. Every time. Again, it’s the experience and the package you get with that. If you focus on that, people um, dare to jump. And I think that’s a concept we have forgotten. And that’s exactly the same concept for, uh, for the individual, for families, but also for companies. Because if the companies allow to, to work with their human capital, And, and let their human capital speak up and maybe do something new that the company didn’t do before, but to, to make a decision together to go for it. And if the company then discovers that this has led to success, then you create an environment where there is room for, for new things, for new experiences. To me, that’s, that’s leading to success. And you can be a wonderful company with a good, um, uh, profit, uh, profitability. But the real success lies in the creativity. And if you give room to creativity and you take out the fear that to fall because it can also go wrong, okay? Then the whole company learns from it. And maybe through this experience. They have another solution, found another solutions where they haven’t, uh, seen before. So it’s always leading to success. And, uh, in the end I say to everybody, if you give room to your human capital and you create an environment, whether it’s in a family, in a group, uh, for this, uh, for the individual. Uh, of course you need a strategy and you need objectives and, and you need clarity about the goals. But within that, if you give room to also these type of things and new experience, you will find new ways, new success, new innovation, because innovation comes from letting somebody work. And all of a sudden he finds something. But if there’s no time, if, if companies are so organized, so time manage, really organized, then you kill out, you kill the creativity. And without creativity, uh, to me there is not the top success. And for an individual, without the creativity for yourself, there’s not, uh, um, individual happiness. So that’s within the life skills. If you give room to this environment, um, this open environment, nonjudgmental environment, not, not judging, is also a life skill. If you give room for taking decisions where there is no wrong decision. If you work on the mindset, if you work on intuition, eh, that’s also creativity. And if you learn people how to deal with challenges, yes, it’s not easy. We learn from challenges. We learn new things about ourselves, about the company, so give room to it, let it in. And it’s like an all oil to me that you need in your personal life, but that companies need into their company life.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you for this. Uh, and I love how you framed it. It’s about the experience. It’s more the journey than the destination and getting this gold medal. Uh, I I want now to go to a different section where I’m gonna give you a word and I’d love your reaction to it. The first word is leadership.

Marja Pronk: Yes. Leadership to me is, uh, general is, is wonderful. Everybody is a leader. Uh, leadership is leading a company, leading a country, leading a universe, but it’s also leading a family, uh, leading a, a sports club, leading the army. Uh, In the end, leading yourself as an individual because if you don’t, do not take the lead about yourself. Um, it’s the same on a micro level. So macro, macro and micro is the same in everything. There’s leadership.

Naji Gehchan: The second word is health equity.

Marja Pronk: I didn’t hear health. Health equity. Health equity is a very interesting topic, um, that relates within me to transparency. If we create transparent healthcare packages, uh, accessible for all individuals, of course. Then I think it’s clear to everybody what’s afforded and what’s not afforded, and people can live with that. Uh, because it’s clear, you better have a clear answer than uh, uh yeah, an intransparent answer. So I think we need to create a clear healthcare package. Uh, and if somebody doesn’t like it, okay, it’s a pity. Um, but we need to have clarity because that is transparent to, to patients, to consumers in what can I get and what is not there for me? What about, and that’s, that’s equity to me. Sorry, that’s equity to me.

Naji Gehchan: What about life By own design?

Marja Pronk: It’s bringing the best out of yourself because if you reach that, um, that frequency, uh, to happen, you create life by your own design because you and what you’re doing, uh, are in, in the same vibration. And that leads to. Uh, happiness and to maximal performances. So to have the room for each individual to create life by your own design, even within a group, doesn’t mean that we’re all a bunch of individuals. It, it can be within a group, but there are situations also in organizations, even in the army and in groups where you need to have the room to create life by your own design and. This morning I came up with maybe a silly example, like, um, the, the token two film to me gave an example that even within a very strict, uh, discipline, nice environment, there must be room to create life by your own design, because that’s in, in some situation, there is no, uh, you, you need to have room for this creativity. The people that have that room or take that room can create the life for that situation in the army. And, and that was exactly, uh, presented in this top, uh, gun to film. It was very inspiring to me.

Naji Gehchan: The last one is spread love in organizations

Marja Pronk: really necessary, uh, urgent. Um, To get rid of this fear and not love. And I think company ha companies have, um, a fear for it’s, it’s all too, becoming all too soft. But love is not, uh, the same as being soft. Love is, to me, clear transparency and room, uh, give room and fear is not transparent. Is, is. Uh, killing, uh, creativity. So love, love is really necessary everywhere. And not as the pink cloud, because, but as something real, as as honest, uh, clarity.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom, Maria, for healthcare leaders around the world?

Marja Pronk: For healthcare leaders, I would say that we need back to, uh, the connection to the connection of, of our society, um, and define, um, what our lives, uh, mean. And that we’re not kind of, um, uh, how you say, uh, living units that can be fixed anytime, any place, anywhere. Uh, and to recognize that within all the technology, there’s also this, um, this human aspect, this mental aspects, this, uh, this, this consciousness. We haven’t even, um, Uh, yet I think, uh, we are at the beginning because it’s something that goes together. Healthcare is not a topic, it’s an an holistic thing of, uh, uh, an individual. And there’s more possible with technol, uh, with if, if you regard the human as as a whole, then with technology alone.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much, Maria, for being with me today.

Marja Pronk: It was a pleasure, Naji, and, um, wonderful.

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 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

We Are All Connected – Dheera Ananthakrishnan

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
We Are All Connected - Dheera Ananthakrishnan

In healthcare, we are all trying to make people healthier. It seems obvious that genuine care, empathy, and love should be prevailing, unfortunately though, it is still quite the opposite. In this genuine, truthful, straightforward conversation, you’ll hear Dheera Ananthakrishnan’s perspective on leadership, health equity, DEIB, and spreading love in organizations. Dheera reflects on the challenges of leadership in the medical field, emphasizes the importance of equity and the need for a more compassionate healthcare system. She discusses imposter thoughts and the pressure to excel in her role. Finally, we discussed the significance of spreading love through small acts of kindness and building relationships… It is that simple, yet not seen in healthcare; each of us can make it better.

“Listen to people that are not like you

MEET OUR GUEST Dheera Ananthakrishnan Orthopedic Spine Surgeon, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan is an academic orthopaedic spine surgeon, currently practicing at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.

Dheera is also a philanthropist and entrepreneur, having worked with Medecin Sans Frontiere / Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria and the World Health Organization in Switzerland before moving back to the US.

In addition, Dheera is co-founder of Orthopaedic Link, a non-profit that matches unused orthopaedic implants with surgeons and hospitals in developing countries. She has also most recently cofounded Women’s musculoskeletal initiative.

She also recently graduated from the Executive MBA Program at MIT Sloan, Class of 2023.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Dheera Ananthakrishnan

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 Dheera Ananthakrishnan an academic orthopedic spine surgeon, currently practicing at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta. Dheera is also a philanthropist and entrepreneur, having worked with Medecin Sans Frontiere / Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria and the World Health Organization in Switzerland before moving back to the US., In, addition Dheera is co-founder of Orthopaedic Link,…

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Dheera Ananthakrishnan

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 Dheera Ananthakrishnan an academic orthopedic spine surgeon, currently practicing at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta. Dheera is also a philanthropist and entrepreneur, having worked with Medecin Sans Frontiere / Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria and the World Health Organization in Switzerland before moving back to the US., In, addition Dheera is co-founder of Orthopaedic Link, a non-profit that matches unused orthopedic implants with surgeons and hospitals in developing countries. She has also most recently cofounded the Women’s musculoskeletal initiative.

Dheera, It’s a real honor and pleasure to see you again and have you with me today!

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Thanks, Naji. I’m happy to be here.

Naji Gehchan: Can you first share with us your personal story from breaking your leg at the age of 10, to your love of math and orthopedics, then your inspiring journey as a surgeon, philanthropist, and entrepreneur in healthcare?

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Oh, sure. Yes, I’d be happy to. Um, I, uh, I grew up in, uh, a little in Poughkeepsie, New York, which is a little bit north of New York City. And, um, I was born and raised there in Poughkeepsie. My parents are immigrants from India. They met and married in, um, in New York. And, um, I was a real tomboy growing up and, um, Really got into a lot of, uh, like dissecting animals and running experiments. And, um, these kind of culminated in me breaking my leg when I was 10. And, um, I had a huge crush on my orthopedic surgeon and I pretty much decided the day that he flipped those x-rays up that I said I, I wanted to really be just like him. So, um, This became my driving force. I like fell in love with orthopedics and it’s like 40 years later and I’m still in. And, uh, yeah, it’s, uh, I actually ended up, um, I thought I would go to kind of just straight to medical school, major in biology. And then my father, who was an engineer in India, he went to Indian Institute of Technology and, um, Illinois, came to the US and to go to the o, other i i t, the Illinois Institute of Technology. He was like, set on me going to m i t and I was like, I don’t know. I don’t really wanna go. But he said, you know what, we’re gonna go. I said, all right, fine. We’ll go. And the minute I walked onto the campus, I, I was sold. I just, I felt this amazing energy. Um, yeah, and it’s, uh, and I’ve been lucky enough like you to have gone back, uh, also and it’s still got that same energy. So I, um, yeah, so I, I, I went to m I t, um, as an undergrad and I was planning on major in biology and, uh, I, I didn’t really fit in with the biology kids so much. Um, but, um, I really liked that my math classes and I got involved in a. Prosthetic project and, uh, Woody Flowers Lab. Now, Woody Flowers, unfortunately, I think he just passed away like last year, but he’s an icon at M I t and um, mechanical engineering professor. And so I decided to, to major in mechanical engineering and, um, plan on going to medical school. Um, So that’s, yeah, that brings me to getting to medical school. And then, um, that was tough actually. I, I recently, I recently gave a couple of talks and, uh, you know, getting, uh, I had a, at least one C on my transcript as an undergraduate. And, uh, I had some undergrads at m I t asked me, how did you get into medical school with a C on your transcript? It really wasn’t easy, but, um, It was m i t was really tough as an undergrad, but it really, um, taught me a lot about problem solving and, um, and, uh, yeah, about being humble and learning new things and that, uh, served me well. But, um, yeah, I had a lot of, a lot of struggles, uh, getting into orthopedics and then even going through residency. We had a particularly brutal residency in, um, in Chicago. Uh, it was, yeah, it was tough. Um, but it’s, it’s all been, uh, I would say 20 plus years of doing this as a surgeon. Um, have, uh, there have been ups and downs, um, but I would say overall trending positive.

Naji Gehchan: thanks for sharing part of your journey and you. As you mentioned, I, I wanna go back to orthopedics and your journey there. Uh, you said it wasn’t an easy journey, um, and really now you’re one of the most renowned orthopedic surgeon. You take complex spine cases and solve ’em, fix ’em, treat patients. Um, how, what, what is, what was your biggest learning along the way? As you were going through those pieces, you also, I know we talked about this, uh, the part that you’re a woman doing, orthopedic surgeon, you know, I’m, I’m an MD myself, and that was like always the case, like, oh, women don’t do this. Right. So I, I’d love to get your perspective as you obviously went through this and achieved what you wanted. What, what is your learning, uh, as you reflect back on your journey?

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Uh, yeah, so it’s interesting that you say that because those, I, I actually got those messages really early. Like when I deci, I dec, I decided at age 10 I was gonna be an orthopedic surgeon. And then, you know, you go to dinners with your parents and people would say, oh, what do you think you’re gonna be, you’re gonna be a doctor like your mom. My, my mom is a pediatrician. And I said, actually, I’m going to be an orthopedic surgeon. And it’s amazing to me how. Um, just a chance encounter, people will take the opportunity to discourage, right? Like the first thing is like, oh, well, you know, that’s really difficult. Or, you know, girls don’t do those things. And the like, immediate, almost visceral response is a negative. Which to me is like, it’s terrible, right? I mean, why, why would you say that to somebody? Um, what happened to me was it actually was very motivating for me. Like, I’ll show you, you know, you think I can’t do it, I’ll show you. And um, fortunately or unfortunately, that’s actually become a lot of my life has been like that, right? Used to swimming against the tide used to it is like, oh, somebody thinks I can’t do that. I’m gonna show you I’m going to do this. And, and it becomes, Almost like a part of like, I, I don’t know. I can’t remember not being like that, like not feeling that kind of like drive to like prove almost to prove people wrong. So like, you tell me I can’t do it, I’m gonna do it. It might take me a really long time. I might get a c I might like cross over the finish line laugh that has happened to me in certain, certain, uh, athletic endeavors. But I’m gonna do it. Um, I’m not gonna, um, To me, it’s actually, it, it’s, it’s, it’s funny to me when you, you ask this question, like, if I’m reflecting, I’m actually really proud of the C that’s on my transcript because it’s easier to drop a class, right. And be like, oh, I’m gonna drop that. I don’t want this c on my transcript. And, and I think, um, finishing, you know, I mean, you and I are both in, you know, gone to elite institutions, we’re used to being at top of the game, but like, Being, you know, human and like kind of finishing ugly is not there. There’s a lot to be learned from that. I actually teach our students and residents and fellows that, you know, many times, um, you know, you, you have to like learn not only learning from your, your failures, but learning from your struggles and also learning from your successes as well. Right? Like just high fiving and being like, Hey, we did a great job. Maybe you did a great job in spite of X, Y, and Z. Right? You. And so doing a deep dive and really reflecting, um, has, I think is really important. But, um, I would say that that discouragement and being the only, I mean, when I was at m I t I was kind of used to being one of the few women, but like being used to being the only woman in the room and being, um, you know, the one who’s like, well, I’m, I’m gonna do that thing that you think I can’t do, I’m gonna. Do the hardest case. I’m going to, you know, stay the longest I’m going to just to prove that I can do it. And now it’s become a very difficult habit to break actually.

Naji Gehchan: And, and you’ve done it. And I love how you’re framing it and really reflecting both on failure successes and how you can get better and be even better, uh, while taking those challenges. Uh, if you think about your experiences within, uh, Uh, and w h o, how did those come into play and shape your, the leader you are now?

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Uh, yeah. So I would say that, um, I decided to go take this sabbatical with, uh, net San Frontier and the, uh, W H O uh, B. Because I was having a kind of a crisis of conscience. So I was in my first job in Seattle and um, it was my first job as an attending surgeon. And it was, it was tough. Um, I, I had a lot of struggles. It was a, it was a bit lonely. Um, and I had, um, I. I think, you know, everybody needs like a different environment. This is kind of speaks to this, the, the like con context of each individual situation, like where you are and what you need and what you get out of things. Um, really vary from place to place. So it, when I was in Seattle, and I would say if I went there now, it would be very different than going there as a junior surgeon, um, being sort of. Green and kind of being thrown into a very intense environment and where there was a lot of scrutiny, I was the only female spine surgeon. There were quite a few other women orthopedic surgeons, but I was the only female spine surgeon. And um, I. I mean, I didn’t have very many complications, but every time I had a complication, I was really under, under a, like a magnifying glass. And then the next week somebody, one of the guys would have a very similar complication and it would just get passed over. And those types of things happen kind of again and again and again. And I was really starting to doubt that maybe, you know, I, I started thinking, well, maybe all of this like, Pushing to be an orthopedic surgeon. Maybe I’m really not supposed to be an orthopedic surgeon, right? Maybe I am really, um, not good at this, right? Everyone seems to be telling me I’m not good at this, I’m not good at this, I’m not good at this. And that was kind of my message when I was a, a resident, but it wasn’t the message when I was a fellow and I was. Hoping that I would be in a better position to, um, but, but it was tough. And so I decided that I, I had wanted to do some developing world work for some time. Um, and uh, I decided I was going to, uh, leave Seattle. I was actually quite, quite miserable. It was sad to be in such a beautiful place and be really miserable. Um, and then I went to work with Doctors Without Borders and the W H O and they took about a year off. Before coming to Emory and I, I really, that was like a remarkable, remarkable experience for me because I went from a place where I was like, I don’t know if I know anything. And I got dropped in Nigeria and I realized I knew a lot. I could teach a lot. I was, uh, one of the nurses actually about a, after about a. I think I was there, I’d been there for about two weeks. She came up to me and said, you know, Dr. Dira, you’re the local expert on femoral nailing. And I thought, oh my gosh, if that’s true, like that’s a problem. And then it turns out it was true and it wasn’t a problem. Like I really knew what I was doing. And, and, uh, I was teaching Nigerian surgeons how to do things and how we do things back home and how they could do things better and. It was a, it was really a remarkable experience for me. Um, and so that, um, coupled with just like the o the other, the other thing that kind of came about at that time was the genesis of, um, the idea for orthopedic link. Um, because I mean, I would be rounding in the ward at, with M Ss F and you know, Trying to measure people’s legs to see if we had the right size implants for them and say, you know, you gotta wait till next week, the shipment is coming in. And then once I, I got to Geneva and I was working a little bit with some, um, Device companies and they told me, you know, we have a lot of surplus things that we just throw out and maybe we can try to kind of work together and, uh, and see if we can try to solve like a problem on both sides. So it was, it was really a transformative experience for me to, to pick up and go to a place that was completely, it was a little bit lawless. I was in Port Har court, Nigeria, and, uh, I kind of found myself there.

Naji Gehchan: Thanks so much for sharing, uh, also with your, with vulnerability and humility, this experience. I, I think those are things we rarely talk about. Uh, how, you know, how you feel the impact of others as you, you are delivering, especially for people who ha are humble already and have imposter thoughts. Uh, so it’s, uh, yeah. Tha thank you for, for sharing openly your experience and, you know, th this part of your journey. Uh, do you wanna talk a little bit more about Orthopedic Link? I think you’re doing just exceptional work there and helping so many people. So, uh, I, I’d love to hear a little bit more about it and that our audience know about it too.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Yeah, so Orthopedic Link. Um, as I mentioned, it kind of started after, um, after I’d been in Nigeria. I got back to start my job at Emory. Um, I was working with, um, Jim Kercher, who’s a local orthopedic surgeon in town. He was a resident at the time and his wife. Who’s a supply chain expert and he had been asking me about my experience and I said, you know, it’s really kind of strange that even in an organization like Met Sound so Frontier that we didn’t have enough equipment and that, you know, I’d also been talking to these device companies and he said, you know, this sounds like an, and both Jim and his wife Heather, were also engineers. We’re all like three engineers kind of in, you know, in the medical arena. And we kind of put our heads together and. I started, um, we started, uh, talking to implant companies reps to see, you know, is there like, do you guys have really have surplus lying around? And it turns out they did. Things were, you know, older generation of implants were sitting on a desk collecting dust. And um, and then we had to find a site and I started going to some international conferences just to, to try to meet people. And I happened to sit down at lunch next to. Dr. Gilbert Lon, who’s a Filipino surgeon, and he said, you know, I, he was like the perfect, it was just serendipity because he said to me, he said, you know, um, I am, I’m. Filipino surgeon. I trained in Australia. I trained in Hong Kong, I trained in Canada. I came back home. I have all these skills and I don’t have the equipment to treat the most, um, needy patients that we have. Um, and it was an equipment issue because they, you know, they had, they had mostly the infrastructure and, and then, um, started trying to work with some other NGOs that were in the space. Um, and we were able to, Had orthopedic links started. That was in 2009 with some, uh, older, like first generation Medtronic sophomore dynamic equipment for spine surgery. And, uh, yeah, took that over to the Philippines. And, um, we actually also based on the W H O, um, assessment tool, created an assessment tool of our own to focus drill down on orthopedics. And, uh, yeah, that’s where it started. And we’ve, we’ve helped, um, hundreds, I think it’s close to 400 patients, um, across multiple countries. The, we have. Least two self-sustaining, um, sites. Um, we’ve worked with the Scoliosis Research Society in Bulgaria, um, and that place has become a regional site of, um, excellence and the local surgeons have learned so much just from. All kind of related to us initially getting this donation planted there, so that it was really, um, a, uh, massive, um, impactful thing to just bring the implants, leave them there, and allow people to learn with supervision, but not be tethered to purchasing equipment or having to have it shipped in and out. Um, it’s been really, uh, yeah, it’s been really remarkable. We had really grand visions for what it could become. Um, and one lesson I learned from working on this project is that, you know, even if you. Your vision of like a big alliance on one side. Uh, like we had this vision for a corporate alliance with all device companies on one side and N G O Alliance on the other side, and we would go be the go between. That didn’t really happen, but even because that didn’t even. Even though that didn’t happen, um, we’ve made a really good impact and I’ve, I’ve learned so much from other, about the industry, from another side, from other sides, from the side of the donors, from the side of the device companies, from the side of the, um, manufacturers, from, and, and also of course from all of the surgeons and the patients on the ground and all the providers.

Naji Gehchan: Wow. As you said, like it’s really remarkable impact that you’ve done across the globe. You do it every day with your patients. You’re doing it with patients in need across the globe, so it’s really remarkable, uh, work that you’ve been doing. As you think about all those experiences, uh, JIRA, uh, is there one lesson you would highlight specifically for future generation of women getting in med school? Men, you know, who are with ’em in, in med school or who are in leadership positions in residency, et cetera. Uh, and maybe something that you wish you knew very early on in your journey.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Um, So I, I think one of the things that happens in medicine, and I can really contrast this to engineering and now with my Sloan experience to the business teaching, is that, um, medicine is a very, um, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of isolating. It’s funny, you know, when you, you and I have talked about this, you know, spreading love in organizations. We don’t have much love in our medicine, in our medical organizations. I, it sounds terrible for me to say that because we’re humans taking care of humans and humanity and there really is not much love and there’s not, even just getting into medical school is so difficult and it’s, it’s like you’ve gotta step on other people to get in. Right. Which is counterintuitive to what you’re trying to do in medicine, I think. And so one of the things that I, I mean, I learned this at at, at m i t and I, I learned it, you know, and I feel like I’m, I’m learning it every day, but that, that other people can teach you a lot, right? Like people, you can always learn things from people. It doesn’t matter. They don’t have to be another doctor. It doesn’t have to be another, you know, another surgeon can only learn from another surgeon. There’s a lot of elitism and, um, I think I. It’s to our detriment because everyone who is working in a hospital, in a healthcare system is there to, to care for a patient. They’re there to provide care and to make, and, and hopefully, and I don’t know that our healthcare system necessarily does this, but hopefully to make people healthier, um, I feel like we have a disease care system rather than a healthcare system. And so there’s a lot, there could be a lot of conflict in terms of people’s motivations. But, um, but I think that, um, really trying to, um, collaborate, reach across disciplines, reach across titles, um, having, I, I think a lot of times, uh, medical students, um, don’t think that nurses can teach them anything. Don’t think that physical therapists can teach them anything. Um, And, uh, I think we have to break down those barriers. Um, we’ve seen with the Covid pandemic how important nurses are that you can’t, I can’t do my job. That’s one of the things I actually learned when I was in Nigeria, that, you know, come in and think that I’m the, I’m the bomb. And then it turns out that the washer woman who washes the sterile drapes, her son got sick and she couldn’t come in yesterday. No sterile drapes. It was surgery. So it becomes very evident how connected we’re all connected. And I think, yeah, I, I feel like we have to bring love into medicine and it’s, um, to your point, I think that it has to start with the younger generation. It’s not gonna be you and me, Naji. Well,

Naji Gehchan: yeah, we, we have to inspire, but I agree it’s younger generation will help out. And I, I’ve been, you know, I had the privilege to, uh, to mentor, teach younger generations. I’m, uh, I’m very hopeful when you see what they worry about and the things they are focused on from the questions. Uh, really the social impact they can bring. How to work together. Yes. Um, I’m hopeful we can, you know, bleed from a place of love and be physicians and treat patients in all industries too, you know? Yes. Whether in, um, in a hospital, in a clinic, in the pharma, biotech industry that I’m in as a physician, I, I really loved how you framed it. We’re all connected, uh, right? Yeah. And, and truly we all have the same shared purpose. Uh, if we are here, yes. We want to make life better for patients we are serving and caring for. So we, we all share this. I’d love now to get a reaction to a word I would give you. And the first word is leadership.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: I have, I don’t have a good reaction to the word leadership. Um, I, I actually was a generous with somebody yesterday who said, um, you know, we have bosses in medicine and not leaders, which is, um, I, I think, um, it’s, and, and I, I don’t want to disparage anyone in particular, but I, I feel as though we, in medicine, Don’t model leadership well. Um, and um, I don’t think of myself as a leader really. Like, I feel like a leader. I. In my gut, I feel a leader is a person that has a title and is, you know, in charge of a big organization. Um, I, I know, I know intellectually that’s not true, but, um, but, and I feel that it’s very difficult to be a good leader. Um, I do, I do think if you put the word servant in front of leadership, I, I understand it more like I, I feel that the person, um, I. The kind of leader that I would like to be is the person who’s in the weeds, in the trenches with people maybe in the front trying to guide them, but is in, in there in the mud, leading people through difficult times.

Naji Gehchan: Well, that’s the leadership I believe in, and you are definitely, and certainly a leader, and there’s, you know, titles are very different than actually a leader. You can have a big title, but not being looked up for and not being respected, not being followed. So we had this debate. I know you’re certainly a leader and we look up, uh, to what you do. What about health equity?

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Health equity. Um, health equity is, that is a tough one because I, I don’t, I don’t think we have it. I know we don’t have it here in the us. Um, and I don’t know how to get it because I think it’s, I mean, it goes back a little bit to what I was saying with, uh, Um, us as you know, providers, physicians, and then even in your industry, in the food industry, in the device industry, we actually make more money if people are sicker, which is a counter like, you know, we, I don’t, I. I make more money operating on somebody than if I send them to physical therapy, get them to lose X number of pounds, get them to do their exercises every day, and then they’re feeling better. And you know what? Maybe they don’t need surgery or maybe they need a less invasive surgery that then I don’t make as much money from. So there’s a, a, um, There’s a conflict of interest I think in the system. The way it’s set up now. You can see it in the number of procedures that we do, um, and, um, in the number of, um, medications people are on in the level of health people have in their a s a rating. Um, and um, I think it’s a lack of, there’s a lack of education and there’s a lack of, um, Maybe ownership is not the right word, but a lack of a little bit of a lack of personal responsibility I think. Um, and uh, there’s also learned helplessness. I have a lot of patients that come to me and you had mentioned I do a lot of complex deformity surgeries. So they’ll have come to me having seen maybe five surgeons before. Um, sometimes they’ve actually had a surgery that’s gone awry. Um, and they’re hopeless, they’re depressed, they’re in pain. Many times they’re on narcotics and they come and they wanna fix, they will say that like, I want you to fix me. And changing, trying to be able to change the situation between a, like, I’m, I’m a person bringing my car to the mechanic and you’re gonna fix me. Versus we’re partners in this and this is a relationship and you are gonna need to do X, Y, and Z. Not only to get ready for surgery, but also afterwards. And there’s some things you can control and there’s things, things you can’t control. And if we enter into this relationship, a partnership, a contract, so to speak, then I think people, and and actually interesting thing to me is that when. Um, I approach these problems this way. These are complicated problems the patients have. They are very appreciative. They actually feel like they have a little bit of control. Like, it’s like, oh, I have a prescription. They’re not bouncing from doctor to doctor, getting a prescrip, you know, getting a pain medicine or getting something, and they’re being told. I mean, I can tell you. I do all my exercises every day when I’m in clinic because I demonstrate all of them to my patients like, you need to do this, this, and this. You need to do it every day. I give them a prescription for, for health and wellness, and then I say, you know what? I. You can get yourself to this point and then we’ll be able to do surgery and your outcomes will be better. And I can tell you, people come to my clinic and they’ll say to my nurse, oh, I heard Dr. Nancy Christian’s a hard ass. And she’s like, yeah, but you, you’re gonna wanna, you’re gonna like it at the end of the day. ’cause sometimes people need that. But I, I do think that the, our lower socioeconomic statuses really, really struggle. And um, those are the patients that, um, I. Our, our loss, I think with regards to their health and it’s a shame.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And you’re bringing a, a very important point, right, about health holistically, like from prevention to how you take care about your overall health versus like just treating or fixing, as you said, a symptom. Yeah.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Yeah, well, there’s a lot of conflict. Sorry to interrupt you. Go ahead. Yeah, no, go ahead. Go ahead. Yeah, no, I was gonna say there’s a lot of conflict, and this won’t be very popular, but you know, I mean, I work at Emory Healthcare and it’s, it’s funded by Coca-Cola, right? Like that’s a, there’s an inherent conflict of, of interest, even in the food that we have in our cafeteria. Um, and, uh, you know, I mean, I like a Coca-Cola as much as the next person, but I don’t think it should be in a hospital. But, you know, that’s the, that’s we’re fight. It’s tough to fight against that, right? Because we need the money from Coca-Cola. But one could argue that I. Coca-Cola is causing, or other soda drinks causing, you can X this part out if you want to, but they’re causing problems, right? You’re causing problems that then we’re having to spend more money to fix. So one could say, well, why can’t we just stop causing some problems or try to cause fewer problems? So, but yeah, these are controversial topics. Don’t know they’re necessarily spreading love, but I think that it’s important to, um, these are the things that are dragging us down, I think as a. Looking at our healthcare spending and looking at where we fit in the global scheme of things. Other countries, I think, do a better job.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. No, it, it is controversial and I think this is why as leaders we need to have those debates, right? And talk about ’em. And it’s, it’s not something that it’s with or without, right? It’s a matter of how you can think of those systems holistically and talk more about, because everything is interlinked, right? Like it’s either we wanna say things separate or we wanna really think from a something. We both love a system dynamic way. And start thinking about those impacts, right? Like you go from prevention to healthcare and even health, being part of a global ecological system, we can go into climate change, right? And all this are interlinked. Even though we wanna think of them separate. Yes. We just are not, right? Like we can go and debate like, should I go to work running or biking versus. Taking my car. Like that’s another piece, right? Because all these things are to health and ecology and

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: the other pieces. Yeah. And then I, I, I think to that point, like it becomes like we become kind of numb to it. Or you think, well, what’s the difference if I drive my car, like one day I drive my car, one Coca-Cola one. You know what I’m saying? Like it’s only like, when you see it in these small segments, it seems like it’s not that big of a deal, but the in aggregate. It’s, it’s huge and so, so impactful. So I think that that like, you know, how much personal responsibility that each individual person has, um, to, and, you know, to facilitate health and facilitate change is, it’s very difficult. And you know, I mean, you like your car, I’m sure. I’m sure you have a nice car.

Naji Gehchan: So the third word I have is, uh, impost, uh, imposter thoughts.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Imposter thoughts. Yeah, imposter thoughts. Um, those, I had those a lot. Um, I, I don’t, I don’t have them so much any anymore. I, I actually, to be honest, I’m starting to have them again as I’m like making a career transition. Um, but. I can tell you they, I think that those have motivated me a lot. So it’s like this, you know, yin yang, like good, evil, like the, um, goes back to maybe that, like I’ll show you, you know, I can do it and then it maybe inside I think, well, I think I can do it, but I also like a challenge. So, but the imposter thoughts, I mean, I can tell you when I, when I first got to Emory, um, I was, I’m sitting, I mean, I’m in a group with really world renowned surgeons and, um, really incredible people. And I kept waiting for the first probably three years to have somebody, um, tell me that I, they made a mistake and I wasn’t supposed to be there. I also, um, I remember reading Cheryl Sandberg’s book, lean In. Um, and she talked about sitting at the table and how like we as women, like never sit at the table. And I realized I did the exact same thing, like even as an attending surgeon. Like we had this conference and you know, all of the other attendings would be sitting at the table and I’d always sit at the back. Right. And somehow felt uncomfortable sitting at the table. Almost like, yeah, like, I’m like, well, I know I belong here, like on paper I belong here, but I still feel that I should. Not sit at the table. And, and some of it also is, it’s a little bit scary because if I’m sitting at the table next to all of these world renowned people, then they’re gonna expect me to have world renowned thoughts. Right. And I mean, I just feel like I have regular, everyday thoughts. So then there’s a lot of pressure. Like sometimes if you put yourself in the back, you know, the, I’m a, I’m always a sitting in the back of the class kind of person. So if you put yourself on the back of the class ab, you’re not gonna be expected to kill it every time you raise your hand and say something. So it may be, you know, there’s. Getting rid of the imposter thoughts also puts more pressure on you too, I think. Um, but um, yeah, I feel like as a, as a spine surgeon, I, I don’t have imposter thoughts anymore. For the most part, say 95% of the time. As a leader, I have a lot of imposter thoughts.

Naji Gehchan: We all do.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Yeah. Well, so that makes me good to, it makes me feel good to hear you say that because I. Every day. Okay. That’s helpful.

Naji Gehchan: That’s helpful to know. Yeah. And there is, there is actually, uh, I’ll send you the link, but I, I did a great episode with, um, uh, on imposter thoughts. Um, and, and I’ll share with you the link with some, um, with some good data and discussions. Uh, we had, um, sp specifically on this, um, on this topic, like there’s some good research actually from, uh, M I T. Uh, about this. So I’ll, I’ll share with you the link right after.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Yeah. I remember we talked a little bit about this at school, like, is it really real and does it motivate you? And is it really, um, is it imposter syndrome real? I. Yeah. Yeah.

Naji Gehchan: And it’s, it’s, well, professor Bafi, I don’t know if, yes. I had the, I can remember her. Yeah. I had the pleasure to be in one of her bosses and she did great research. I interviewed her. I’ll, I’ll send this to you.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Oh, okay. I’ll have to, you’ve interviewed a lot of people, so it’s been hard to catch up on all your episode.

Naji Gehchan: That’s totally fine. The last one is Spread love in organizations.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Ah, I knew we were gonna get to this. So, uh, yeah, this was for whatever reason, I, I would say this is like really tough for me, um, because, um, and it wasn’t until I, I think I shared with you that Khalil Giran poem about how what you love, you bring to your work. Um, and yeah, I think we don’t have much love in medicine in organizations, but it makes me sad. Sorry. Yeah, it makes me a little sad. Um, and I would like to think that I’ve spread love to my patients and to people that work with me. Um, but I think, you know, there’s a lot of burnout in medicine. I. And particularly after Covid, I think it’s been really, really difficult for, um, there to really be a lot of love in organizations in medicine. I’m curious to see what, what you think, um, on your side of the coin, but, um, I think it’s, it’s been tough. I think doctors have, um, Not had the brunt of it as much as nurses have, I think nurses have really, um, really not felt the love in healthcare for some time. I think that’s a lot of what’s driven this issue with, um, funding and the traveler traveling nurses. Um, Disrupting. Um, it’s very, it’s been very disruptive, um, for our industry to have nurses try to go off and like go across the street and make five times as much money working with someone else because they don’t wanna, like, organizations don’t wanna pay increased nurses nursing pay. And I do feel if maybe there was a little bit more like love and humanity in healthcare. Um, I think that, uh, it would, I, I feel like that type of motivation, the, I don’t wanna say mercenary, but maybe more financially driven, um, exodus from home institutions, that kind of thing would, would be better. Um, sorry, didn’t mean to get so upset, but it is, it is a bit of a source object.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And well, thank you to share this transparently and openly and honestly. And, you know, you, you asked me what I think, uh, you know, uh, we, we started this because I really believe we can, we can have a huge impact as leaders by leading from a place of love, at least making the world better for those around us in small circles, and then literally making the world a better place. And you’ve been doing it through your work with. Your patience with, uh, the nonprofits you have, but certainly there’s, there’s a lack of this in the world, but when you think even more holistically, I think we are seeing an increasing number of acts of hate, of wars, of hunger, of extremism. Uh, but I’m hopeful, you know, I’m still hopeful because there are leaders like you, we love to fix the unfixable and try to, you know, take the hard problem and make it better. And even if it’s a small piece with what you shared today, I’m sure you’re gonna be inspiring other leaders to really believe that they can do things differently and probably not. Take the examples of those. Others who lead from a place of hate and, you know, stepping on others to do better. So it’s, there’s still definitely a lot to do. But I’m hopeful when I talk to leaders like you, you’re, you know, you said I had many, I had the pleasure to have more than 120 episodes now, and it’s all really accomplished leader who have the same belief. I really think we will be able to do things differently and lead and deliver, you know, both for patients and also for the different stakeholders in the ecosystem. Um, but doing it from, again, a place of love to deliver even better results because we can deliver results, right? Both ways is just a matter of do you deliver it with people and people feeling good about it and wanted to do it again with you and together, or you do it. And everyone is burned out and you’re in a very terrible mental. Yeah, right. I think that’s kind of like the difference.

Dheera Ananthakrishnan: No, I, I completely agree with that. I, I think sometimes people don’t understand what it actually means. Like when you say, okay, we wanna spread love, but what does that mean? Like in what you do day to day? Right. You certainly, I don’t think anyone would say they’re spreading hate. Right. But it’s also more of like spreading indifference or spreading like, Disrespect or you know, like not engaging people, like people at all walks of life wanna have some agency into what their life is like and what their job is like. And they, if, if we’re, you’re asking us as leaders, if you’re assuming I’m a leader about bringing love to work, but you want everybody to bring. Love to work, right? Whether it’s your, the, the person who’s fixing your car or the person who is cleaning the hospital or the person who’s making the food. Right? And so how do you get those people to feel that they are seen and they are respected and that it makes a difference that they’re cooking your food Because they’re feeding me before I go back into the operating room. Right. And I, I think it can be as simple as, Saying hello to them and knowing people’s names and interacting with them and asking about their family. And then they know, they feel that they’re part of the organization and they’re helping you. Thanks so much because I’m hungry and I have to go back to finish my surgery. And, and rather than it being a transactional thing, right. And then, you know what, then it’s like, okay, well, It doesn’t matter if I serve food here or at a prison or at a, or at a McDonald’s or whatever. Like, it doesn’t matter, right? So I’m gonna go where they’re gonna pay me the most. And that’s what’s hap that’s what’s happened, right? Like, so that I, I think, I think spread love in an organization sounds like a really big idea, but it’s this, it’s a, what are you doing as an individual, right? Are you, you know, maybe. Maybe you’re driving your car versus walking, like maybe one day you just say hi to one other person who’s, you know, cleaning the room of your patient or like, those types of things. I, I, I think, I think that there’s a disconnect between what it means and people think it’s gonna cost something to spread love. That’s the other thing. It’s like, oh, we don’t have time, we don’t have the money to spread love. Right. Yeah. But that’s not true at all. Right? It doesn’t cost anything. Exactly. Naji Gehchan: I, and I love it because this is all about those. Small things and practical things that actually made a huge difference. You, you gave the best example I can ever think of. So thanks so much, Dira, and we can Thank you Naji. I, I’d love to hear your final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world. Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Um, my final word of wisdom for healthcare workers around the world is I think try to listen to people that are not like you. I love that.

Naji Gehchan: Thanks so much. I could spend hours talking and chatting with you. It’s been a real pleasure and honor to have you with me today. Thanks for being with 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 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

All About Patients – Jean Garrec

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
All About Patients - Jean Garrec

This episode is in partnership with Boston Biotechnology Summit, a bridge to collaboration and innovative synergies between healthcare stakeholders. I sat with Jean Garrec, Founder and CEO of Biophta to talk about entrepreneurship in the biotech world. Listen to Jean’s story, his leadership beliefs, and his journey in founding and building his biotech startup. Jean reminded all of us about our noble purpose; it all starts and ends with and for the patients we serve.

“As a leader, my job is to know where my limits are

MEET OUR GUEST Jean Garrec Founder and CEO of Biophta.

Jean Garrec is founder and CEO of Biophta, Bioadhesive Ophthalmics, a biotech startup company willing to transform Ophthalmology by relieving patients from the burden caused by their eye diseases.

Jean is the son of 2 ophthalmologists strongly rooted in Brittany, a pharmacist by training, ESCP MSM Healthcare Management alumni, and an Exec MBA at ESSEC. Before founding Biophta Jean held several leadership positions in pharma and medical devices for more than 20 years mostly in SMEs and family-owned companies and startups.

He is also a sailor who participated in and won several regattas, in France, the USA, Carribeans… Jean is passionate about sight&eye, entrepreneurship, and innovation, and wants to have an impact on ophthalmology & changing patient’s lives.

Listen to more episodes from Boston Biotech Summit here.


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 for this special episode in partnership with Boston Biotechnology Summit, a bridge to collaboration and innovative synergies between healthcare stakeholders. I am joined today by Jean Garrec founder and CEO of Biophta – Bioadhesive Ophthalmics is a biotech startup company willing to transform Ophthalmology by relieving patients from the burden caused by their eye diseases. Jean is…

Be Generous – Vanessa Elharrar

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Be Generous - Vanessa Elharrar

This episode is in partnership with Boston Biotechnology Summit, a bridge to collaboration and innovative synergies between healthcare stakeholders. I had the pleasure to sit with Vanessa Elharrar, VP of Vaccines at PPD to discuss “partnering with international sponsors to launch clinical trials in the US and globally”, the topic of her masterclass at the summit. You’ll hear Vanessa’s story and insights from her extensive experience in clinical research within NIH and leading a CRO. Listen to her take on diversity, AI, and COVID vaccine research, as well as several other leadership lessons.

“Spread love, knowledge, and goodwill

MEET OUR GUEST Vanessa Elharrar Vice President, Vaccines Business Strategy Lead, at PPD.

Vanessa Elharrar, MD, MPH is Vice President Vaccines Business Strategy Lead, Clinical Research, at PPD, part of Thermo Fisher Scientific. Vanessa has more than 17 years in infectious disease clinical research and NIH leadership. Vanessa joined PPD in 2016 with more than eleven years of experience at the National Institutes of Health where she served as a medical officer, deputy branch Chief and Director of HIV therapeutics research at the Office of AIDS Research. 

Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Science in Physiology from McGill University, a medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine, and completed her residency in Preventive Medicine along with a Master’s in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.


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 for this special episode in partnership with Boston Biotechnology Summit, a bridge to collaboration and innovative synergies between healthcare stakeholders. I am joined today by Vanessa Elharrar, Vice President, Vaccines Business Strategy Lead, Clinical Research, at PPD, part of Thermo Fisher Scientific. Vanessa joined PPD in 2016 with more than eleven years of experience at the National…


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 for this special episode in partnership with Boston Biotechnology Summit, a bridge to collaboration and innovative synergies between healthcare stakeholders. I am joined today by Jean Garrec founder and CEO of Biophta – Bioadhesive Ophthalmics is a biotech startup company willing to transform Ophthalmology by relieving patients from the burden caused by their eye diseases. Jean is the son of 2 ophthalmologists strongly rooted in Brittany, pharmacist by training, ESCP MSM Healthcare Management alumni, and Exec MBA at ESSEC. Before founding Biophta Jean held several leadership positions in pharma and medical devices for more than 20years mostly in SMEs and family owned companies and startups. He is also a sailor who participated and won several regatas, in France, USA, carraibeans… Jean is passionate about sight&eye, entrepreneurship and innovation, and wants to have an impact in ophthalmology & changing patient’s lives.  

Jean, I’m honored to have you with me today!

Jean Garrec: Thank you for hosting me today. I’m, I’m glad, uh, having this chat with you.

Naji Gehchan: I’m really happy to have you here, and first big congratulations on winning the first prize of the Boston Biotechnology Summit. And this is why you’re, you’re here, uh, because also of your amazing leadership and what you’ve been doing in healthcare. So before going into really biota and, and your biotech that you confounded, uh, I’m eager first to hear more about your personal story. What brought you to healthcare? What brought you to Pharma MedTech and now being a c e o and founder of, uh, of this new venture?

Jean Garrec: of course. Uh, so, uh, first of all, uh, I’ve always been attracted. Not to the medical and to the science, but to ophthalmology. Uh, being born and raised from, from two ophthalmologists. I’ve been soaked very early in my life into this world. Uh, I think the first time I went to the operating room for watching an eye surgery, I was like 15 or 16 years old and, and, uh, very early been attracted by this world of, uh, so I. Um, pharmacy, uh, school, and I completed, uh, my, my, uh, doctor of pharmacy, uh, degree. And, and then I always knew a second thing beyond ophthalmology. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Uh, I wanted to do something with my hands. It doesn’t have to be big. It could be a a, a one man show, but I had to do it, yet I had sat deep inside me. So, uh, and the third thing, uh, I learned is that brought, uh, brought me to this, uh, journey, uh, is, um, my, when, when I signed my first, uh, uh, job, uh, contract, my first employment contract, uh, it was a, after the pharmacy school and the business school. And, and my boss said, okay, very good profile, John. You did very well. Um, uh, proof is that we offer you a job after your training period, but uh, you’re still missing one thing and one thing I’m sorry to tell you, it’ll take you a long time to acquire it, and it’s very important is the utmost important if you want to be a good leader. I was like wondering, what is he telling me? Is he going to sign my contract? And he told me, what you are missing is experience, and now that you start working in our company, you will have to. Many different positions and, and try many different things in the company to, to different jobs. And at this point I say, okay, well, uh, I’m working in ophthalmology. I want to do a my own business. And now what this guy is telling me is that I have to make different jobs before I’m ready to be an entrepreneur and to do it on my own.

Naji Gehchan: I love this. Thanks for sharing this. Uh, Jean, I, I don’t know how you reacted to this, but I was smiling as you were sharing about this piece on experience. We constantly hear it. It frustrated me in the beginning of my career. I’m. Well, I, but I know how to do things. I wanna learn things. But actually, as you said, like those experiences build up and help you become an even broader and better leader and obviously be able to build the company. So can we, can we now move into biota? Obviously all those experience shaped you and now you are combining what you love, which is entrepreneurship, having those experiences and ophthalmology. Biotech biotech. So tell us more about what you do today. What’s your purpose in this company? What’s the mission and what are you trying to solve for patients?

Jean Garrec: Well, uh, a biotech, uh, is a preclinical stage biotech company, a French company, uh, but having also a footprint that is being built in the US as well, since we are going to do the phase one trial. Uh, in Boston and our company, uh, transform ophthalmology with a new standard of care, uh, which is made to replace topical hydros, but also invasive intraocular injections that are performed to treat retinal disease. And our technology is based on the new family of biopolymers, and this polymer allow, uh, topical, noninvasive, and self applied. Continuous control dose for one week for treating rein. Uh, so that’s, that’s in a nutshell what we are doing. Um, today. There are many disease, uh, of the eye that have treatment and, uh, and, and treatment which, which are efficient and marketed. But, uh, still, still millions of people continue to lose sight because of disease, which could be treated. And the reason for that is that, uh, approximately half of the patient don’t take their treatment, whether it is eye drops or injections, uh, the compliance is in. Uh, it’s really a problem, uh, that people are getting blind, uh, despite their treatment. And this is what I, I want, uh, uh, to, to fight, uh, to take one very simple example because you all know about glaucoma, about high, uh, degeneration, uh, about all these disease which are affecting our world. Um, actually, uh, the idea and the, the wish to make this company did not start it there. Besides the fact that we are doing a glaucoma treatment at the moment, that’s the first use case. But where we started is that, uh, you may have heard there is a disease named Oma. Uh, it’s a number one cause, uh, by the World Health Organization. It’s a, it’s a disease that affects, uh, 90 million people and there are, uh, 2 million people in Africa, which are blind because of, and it’s a very simple bacteria. That you can treat with Teraline. So a very cheap drug, existings. So why is there so many people who are getting blind? Because this is because it, in the area in Africa where people, uh uh, Cannot have access to an eye drops three times a day during, during six weeks. People just don’t do it. Uh, and if we were having such a simple treatment that could be applied topically for one week period, I’m sure that we would not have had two people, 2 million people blind because of tma. So this is what drives me every day. Uh, I, it, I, I think that 21st century, uh, people should not get blind because of disease. Where there are cheap treatment available.

Naji Gehchan: That’s, that’s really great. And we definitely wish you all the best as you’re, uh, really transforming patient experiences and hopefully being able to treat more patients and those who cannot be reached with your, with your technology that you’re building. Um, what are your biggest challenges? Opportunities as, as you think about it, uh, as a biotech taxi, c e o today and having started this company?

Jean Garrec: I think that, uh, uh, no wonder that, uh, money and raising, raising, uh, funds is, uh, is clearly an issue today. We, for all the, the startup, uh, founders and, and managers, I mean, that’s, that’s no surprise. I mean, uh, uh, the current economic context for that startup makes it not easy at the moment. And, uh, I’m pretty sure that we, it’ll become even more difficult in the, in the coming month. But I mean, that’s, that’s part of the game. And I would say that’s, that’s life. Uh, what the, the biggest, uh, issue, uh, I face at the moment is, um, try to, to, to convince. Uh, and convince talented people to join the company, uh, because, um, uh, as a matter of fact, uh, if the economic context is difficult, uh, people tend not to be quitting their job to go, uh, in a company where, uh, it may be even more uncertain. And, and, and that’s, uh, that’s the biggest difficulty because, uh, a startup company like ours, Uh, the most important thing is not our technology is, is the people who drive the project. Um, and we are always looking for the most talented people. And to be honest, it’s a, it’s a big challenge at the moment to, to find the right people and to find quickly, uh, the best people on the market who could drive this project forward.

Naji Gehchan:This is a great segue to my next question actually, because I, I wanted to go into people, so I’m, and I’m hearing it’s one of your biggest challenge, and you said it beautifully. There’s the technology, but also the team that will be driving this project forward. So how, how are you thinking about your team as you scale up your company, you scale up your biotech, what do you look for? The first employees, if you can share a little bit where you are now, how many employees you have, and then how you think about scaling up your team, specifically as you’re going through this first, uh, first phase, uh, on your job. Yeah.

Jean Garrec: Uh, first of all, I’m, I’m, I’m tried to be very humble, uh, about, um, about driving the company and managing the company. Uh, I had the original idea to. Uh, but the thing is that I know almost nothing. I know quite well of terminology, but, uh, I had a chance to meet my co-founder, who is named John as well, who is an expert in drug development. He’s a pharmacist as well, but he spent 20 years developing new drugs. He holds a. PhD in pharmaceutical science. He has been, uh, making, um, an academic, uh, research on, on developing new drugs as well. He has been the head of, of r and d in, in some Novartis, uh, um, uh, business units. So developing new drugs he knows, and that’s, that’s where we started the company. Uh, one knowing ophthalmology and the other one, uh, knowing how to make it happen. Uh, I mean, um, my job is to know where are my limits and, and where, uh, uh, where do I need, uh, to get some, some expertise in? And, and trying to find people who know things better than I, simply as that. Um, and, and, uh, so the first thing is, of course, uh, to bringing, uh, a chemist. Uh, our technology is based on biopolymer chemistry, so that was not an easy one. Uh, because we are looking for one specific expertise. Then we are looking for, uh, pharmaceutical development experts, uh, then, uh, an expert in pharmacokinetics and drug design. Uh, so originally, uh, as you may have understood, the team is very technical. Uh, uh, to, to, to, for the first early start of the company, uh, based on, on r d. Then, uh, we started to hire people. This is what we are doing now, uh, uh, rather in the field of clinical development, pre-clinical trial toxicology because, uh, now we are preparing the dosage, uh, to submit for the phase one clinical trials that happen in 2025. So, uh, at the moment, uh, these are the, the profiles that we are looking for. Very open to people. Again, uh, I don’t need to hire people who on things that I know already. Uh, but that’s very easy since I don’t know much to identify the people who know more and that could bring something to the company.

Naji Gehchan: I’m sure you know a lot, uh, you’re, you’re a humble leader and I I appreciate that Jean. I, I would give you now one word and I’d love your reaction to it. So the first word is leadership. Uh, teammate.

Jean Garrec: What about innovation? Transforming lives of people, of patients.

Naji Gehchan: Can you share more because you’re in the heart. Uh, with biotech, you’re in the heart of innovation. I’d love to know how you think about it since you have practically a platform, but I heard you’re specifically going for, uh, glaucoma in the beginning. So I’d love to learn how you innovate, iterate, get things done as, as you build your company.

Jean Garrec: No, the, the, the first thing we did, we did, uh, when before, uh, at the moment we were starting the company is, uh, try to understand the life of people. So, uh, uh, very simply, we contacted the patient association and ask them to, to talk to the patient, to talk to the people having glaucoma for. Uh, uh, 20 years, 30 years, and we, we were talking to people because glaucoma can’t be cured. Um, um, it’s a lifelong disease. And, um, these people are really desperate and it may mean nothing because they are not going to die because of glaucoma. They don’t have a cancer. But these people, they were telling me, okay, you know what? It may be nothing, seem nothing to, to, to people, uh, that I need to put eyedrops every day. I cannot stand it anymore. I, I put these stupid eyedrops three times a day since 30 years, and with a threat that if I don’t do it correctly, I will get blanked. So if you can do something for us, if, if you can change our life, um, and your treatment that you are explaining us once a week, uh, clearly change it a lot for us, uh, that will change my life. So, When you hear that, when you understand, uh, the perspective of the patient, what do they leave every day? Then uh, you can imagine how you can change their lives. And it’s not only, uh, about having a treatment that is easier. It, we see it that as fighting blindness, uh, half of the people don’t take the treatment. So we’re going to fight that. We fight blindness.

Naji Gehchan: I love, I love the straight purpose, and you’re bringing great examples about going to patients and really solving a real problem and a real patient need. What about sailing?

Jean Garrec: Uh, sailing is something that, uh, when I do it, I don’t think anymore about biotech.

Naji Gehchan: No, I, I love that. Can, can you, so I was, you know, as I, as I saw all you do with sailing and you say you don’t think about biotech. So I’d love to see if there’s any learning from sailing actually that you apply in your management, uh, or your leadership. Um, and probably it is not thinking about that, but like, I’m getting this headspace.

Jean Garrec: And I agree. And, and, and that’s, that’s, uh, um, yeah. Thank, thank you for bringing that because, um, uh, I’m, I’m used to sail, not alone, but in a team. Uh, so we are, we are having a crew on the boat, uh, five or, or between five and eight people. It depends of the, of the type of boat and, and clearly, uh, of course, uh, there is one that holds the steering wheel. Uh, but, uh, if there is no crew, uh, to, to, to, to, um, uh, make the sail, uh, to, to, to, to drive the, the speed of the boat and to look, uh, around, uh, where we are going, uh, the man behind the steering wheel can’t make his boat moving forward. And, uh, you have, uh, the skipper who is one who decides of the direction. But you, he needs a team. And we all depend on each other to make the boat move and go as fast as possible to, to where we, we are heading to. Uh, so, and that’s very similar to any company, of course. Uh, there is one who needs to be the leader and to, to, to, to, to, to drive the strategy of the company. But he can’t do it alone. And you need very talented people to. Uh, and that’s very similar on what it is in the, on the crew of a, of a selling boat.

Naji Gehchan: What a great example. I love it. The last word is spread love in organizations. Uh,

Jean Garrec: I see, and that’s very similar to the, to the. Is, uh, first of all, we have to help each other. Uh, we are a team, so, uh, uh, we, we, we need to, to, to work together within our organization. Uh, and, um, uh, and if we want to, to, to make it happen, to work together, um, we have to identify one common goal. And, uh, common goal is, uh, Within Biota, we all want to fight blindness and, uh, we want to have a noble cause to fight for, uh, and because, I mean, you all know that working in a startup that’s not easy. Uh, you have some days, uh, with big downs and big ups, and it’s, it’s not easy to manage. But if you always have this gold, uh, this goal in mind, which is to fight blindness, uh, then you can only spread love. Because that’s a noble cause that will help people. And, uh, I just want to, to, to make the life of people suffering from my disease better. And that’s my way of, of spreading love.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom, uh, Jean for healthcare leaders around the world?

Jean Garrec: I think that’s, uh, it’s all about, Uh, patients. And that’s, uh, where we started, at least with the company. Uh, o of course, uh, uh, in the end we always to have to, to work with VCs and, and, and, uh, different people who change the company. Uh, but, uh, again, don’t forget, uh, the origin of the company and the, the noble cause that you’re fighting with because this what.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much for being with me, Jean today, and really all the best with what you’re doing. I love the focus that you have on patients. As you said, it’s about patients. It’s definitely about. Um, also you mentioned funding. It’s about, you know, bringing all those challenges, biology, uncertainty of business, but at the end, the heart of what we do is to make life better for patients. So never forgetting this true north is so important. And thank you so much for such an inspirational chat, uh, and I wish you all the best with biophta and hopefully we will see your product soon.

Jean Garrec: Naji. Thank you very much for hosting me. I was glad having this discussion with you. Thank you,

Naji Gehchan: First congratulations on winning the first prize of the Boston Biotechnology Summit! I am eager though first to hear more about your personal story. What brought you to healthcare, pharma, med tech and now founding biophta?

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 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.


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 for this special episode in partnership with Boston Biotechnology Summit, a bridge to collaboration and innovative synergies between healthcare stakeholders. I am joined today by Vanessa Elharrar, Vice President, Vaccines Business Strategy Lead, Clinical Research, at PPD, part of Thermo Fisher Scientific. Vanessa joined PPD in 2016 with more than eleven years of experience at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where she served as a medical officer, deputy branch chief, and director of HIV therapeutics research at the Office of AIDS Research.  Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Science in Physiology from McGill University, a medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine, and completed her residency in Preventive Medicine along with a Master’s in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.  

Vanessa – I’m honored to have you with me today!

Vanessa Elharrar: Thank you Naji for the opportunity, and lovely to see you as well.

Naji Gehchan: Naji Gehchan: Before we go in your workshop’s topic of “Partnering with International Sponsors to Launch Trials in the US and Globally”, I am eager to hear more about your personal story. What brought you to healthcare, NIH and now being an executive in a large CRO?

Vanessa Elharrar: So goodness, where to start. I’ve always, always, always had an interest in science, I think since grade school truly. Um, and that continued through high school and then wrestling with myself on what to major in, in college physiology was what attracted me most. I was always very interested in it. Um, and I always also wanted to help people. Help people with health in particular and help a lot of people with health. And that’s something that I think followed me, not just through my undergrad but through medical school. When I decided, goodness, do I want to do clinical practice? Do I want to do research? If so, what kind of research? Um, and I ended up pursuing a residency in preventive medicine and public health specifically because, Of the millions and millions of people that that could be affected by the type of research, um, done through clinical trials. Um, I ended up at n i h, specifically in h i v prevention research for that same reason, truly because at that stage of the pandemic, it truly was out of control, um, in, in Africa and many other regions, especially as well in the us and I wanted to make a dent in that and, and. Hopefully do some significant work with the team, um, that could help people and a lot of people, not just one-on-one.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thanks for sharing, Vanessa, Vanessa, and it’s really around the impact you’re obviously now having also in your current role. So I’m, I’m interested to double click a little bit on this. So now, now being in clinical research, How, how do you see your impact today? You who really loves bringing this help for patients, as you said?

Vanessa Elharrar: No, that’s, that’s a very good question and I think that brings me to the part of my career where I’m now at P P D. I mean, there have been certainly some successes at N I H, um, in very large h I V prevention trial networks, H P T N trial network studies that have made. Big strides in H I V prevention, non-vaccine prevention. But my time at P P D I switched over from h I V to vaccines, and the first several years of my career at P P D was a medical monitor overseeing vaccine trials. Um, and about three years in, I decided to join the commercial organization, um, and learn a little bit about a different area of clinical research. And then of course, the pandemic hit. And there I go back to vaccines. Um, this time more in the clinical development role, which I used to occupy at n I h quite a lot and also in early customer engagement. So I think the impact, the major impact thus far in my career has been working in vaccine development, um, during the, the Covid pandemic and interacting with dozens, dozens and dozens of biotechs and biopharmas. Trying to develop interventions to combat covid. Um, truly the highlight and I think the part that has helped, um, and made the biggest public health impact really.

Naji Gehchan: So I’m gonna immediately go there and then Sure. We’ll back up to clinical trials. ’cause I know you’ve done remarkable work within the covid vaccine development. Uh, what, what are your biggest takeaways? Learning from this experience as you brought this vaccine to, to humanity?

Vanessa Elharrar: Um, I think, I think you’re referring probably to the Moderna vaccine, which is it’s public knowledge that P p D worked on that vaccine. We’ve been working with Moderna for, gosh, since they’ve gone into clinic, truly. So, um, that vaccine definitely had a big impact. I think the lesson learned is that we think vaccine clinical research, Can be done a certain way or takes a certain amount of time, and I think we broke a lot of barriers in terms of showing that, you know, we can do it faster, we can do it better. We can learn from this experience and take those learnings into everyday life, non pandemic life, and make vaccine trials move more quickly, make them more efficient, make better use of our resources. I think it also drove home the point that partnership with clients is key. Had we not had that absolutely rock solid partnership with Moderna for many years prior to the pandemic, those relationships and, and, and positive working relationships in place, um, I don’t know that we could have gone as fast and as far, quite frankly. So I think number one, challenging processes and timelines, and number two, the real true importance of partnership and how that can make a huge impact on, on success, frankly.

Naji Gehchan: So if you take a step back into clinical trials, so beyond covid, and obviously this. Uh, really the example as you shared about strong partnership and how we can move fast. So now when you look at clinical trials overall, uh, and vaccine where, where you said, but you also touch different therapeutic areas too, and you see it, uh, can you give us a little bit an overview of what are the main opportunities you’re seeing or the main challenges also in clinical trials

Vanessa Elharrar: overall? So, Challenges, what was the first one? Najee. I’m sorry I missed it. Opportunities. Opportunities. So I think we have, I’ll start with the opportunities, like to start with the positive. Um, so just recently, um, Varda came out with amendment to their b a a looking for next generation COVID vaccines. And that is an area frankly, that has been stalled. Due to lack of ability to procure comparator vaccine, so many biotechs that have had innovative technologies, different routes of delivery, intranasal, oral, et cetera, patches, um, have been steamed frankly in this clinical development and regulatory environment in their development because they could not procure comparator, um, funding was tight and now there’s been an. A new avenue of funding opened for next generation Covid vaccines. Um, the vaccines that are currently on the market are going to be commercialized soon, if not in process right now. So hopefully comparator procurement is going to be much easier and hopefully we can learn a lot about what works. For respiratory illnesses. In terms of vaccines, do intranasal vaccines truly work better? Um, what about patch vaccines? What about oral vaccines? I think there’s a whole area, um, of vaccine clinical research that’s gonna be opening up now that we’re in a different environment with Covid and the funding is there and hopefully comparator is now available. So huge opportunity. And I think that speaks to a challenge that we faced just recently in vaccine development. Um, and I guess with challenges come opportunity, right? So I think that as the landscape change changes, um, you will find new opportunities, but also new challenges. Um, and I think that’s the example of next generation Covid vaccine development. A good example of that.

Naji Gehchan: Are you seeing any challenges, uh, in clinical research for vaccine with also what’s happening in the environment? So beyond what we do in, you know, pharma and biotech and the science we have, obviously there’s a lot of myth around vaccines. There’s a lot of challenges from the public view around, around those. Have you seen this impacting, obviously clinical trials and then our ability to keep on innovating in the vaccine area?

Vanessa Elharrar: So I think that it has raised the profile of clinical research. The pandemic has raised the profile and education level on clinical research. To the population. People understand trials now. They understand the different phases. They understand why we’re doing it, the importance of participating, um, the altruism that goes into, um, participating in a trial. Um, and I think they understand the importance. I think the significance of the contribution they’re making is much more obvious given the global health threat that we all recently faced. Um, so I, I feel like participants are more inclined to really be interested and eventually participate in clinical research, um, because of the global education we’ve received from the pandemic. Uh,

Naji Gehchan: I wanna pivot to another, uh, theme that is obviously discussed as part of the summit. It’s discussed all over ai, you know, I, mm-hmm. Many of us now don’t like this word, these two letters anymore, uh, because we’re hearing it so much. But I’m, I’m interested in your view about AI in clinical research. Do you see any rule for it here? Are you looking into it, uh, as an organization and how to think, how do you think about it?

Vanessa Elharrar: So very good question. So we are looking into it as an organization. I am not quite public yet. There are certain areas in which it’s already used, I would say. Um, I, I personally, um, love the idea of using AI earlier than when you hit clinical trials. Meaning in basic discovery, for example. How best to present an epitope to the immune system. Can you model that? Can AI help you hone in on how best to do that? Um, or which types of neutralizing antibodies would be best for prevention? Which one would decrease viremia most quickly? For example, in chronic viral diseases such as H I V, um, it’s, I. I it for whatever reason, I see the benefit of AI a little bit earlier in, in, in the, in the process of, of, um, drug development. But I do also see that, um, it can be used in clinical research, it can be used in in lab type environments that are related to clinical research. Um, and we are actually in the process of, of honing in on that and seeing where we can apply it most, um, most effectively.

Naji Gehchan: I’m gonna give you now a word and I love your reaction to it. Whatever comes through your mind. Okay. So the first one is leadership.

Vanessa Elharrar: Oh goodness. First thing that comes to mind is altruism. Do you wanna share more? Yeah. I think that as a leader, it’s, it’s a huge responsibility and you need to think not just of yourself, but of your team and everybody that your team is impacting. So it requires a level of selflessness. And removal from, you have to lead from a place of, of very little. If no ego be, be altruistic, be selfless, and give of yourself. I love that.

Naji Gehchan: What about innovation?

Vanessa Elharrar: The heartbeat of clinical research. I think that innovation is what gets us new medicines new. New, new forms, new approaches to treating disease and preventing, um, infections. Um, it’s, it’s, it’s what got us all interested in science in the first place. I bet. ’cause it’s just so exciting. Health equity a must. It’s absolutely a must. Um, health equity is something that, In clinical trials, we manifest it as diversity and, and diversity and inclusion. In terms of the subjects we enroll in our studies, we absolutely must gather data, efficacy and safety in all communities such that our results are representative of the population and can be applicable to all communities within the population. Um, it, it’s critical and that’s, A critical way that we contribute to health equity in the clinical research environment. Yeah.

Naji Gehchan: Can you share a little bit more about diversity in clinical trials? Because this is definitely something we’re all striving for. Mm-hmm. And we should, so we’d, we’d love to hear if you have an example or a story around this.

Vanessa Elharrar: So I think the best example, um, was actually the Moderna phase three covid vaccine clinical trial that we ran. We enrolled 30,000 subjects in about three months, in exactly three months as a matter of fact. And, um, about, if I’m not mistaken, about eight to 9,000 of those subjects were minority subjects. Um, a good number were of Hispanic origin, African American. Um, so really we ended up with a a, a subject. Population within that trial that it was an, a true reflection of the United States of America. Um, and I think that helped give comfort to everyone that this vaccine is not only safe for certain communities, but for all communities and effective in all communities. Um, I think that’s the best example of, um, truly enrolling a study quickly. And doing so with the diversity in your study subject population that that inspires confidence in, in, in folks who are actually going to use the product.

Naji Gehchan: The last word is spread love and organizations

Vanessa Elharrar: I think be generous. Be generous with your time. Be generous with your mentorship. Be generous with your expertise and help. Um, I think that all of all, being open and always willing to give of yourself in an organization is a way of not just spreading love, but spreading knowledge and spreading goodwill. Because many times people learn from your example and also want to pass on the help and the time and the mentorship in return, paying it forward, so to speak. So I think that that’s something that’s actually worked well for me. And you never know. Also when, when that generosity is gonna come straight back to you. It usually does in one form or another.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom, Vanessa, for healthcare leaders around the world?

Vanessa Elharrar: Well, I would say, Do what you do because you want to do good and help people in whatever capacity that may be. It does not have to be in clinical research. It can be in technology. It can be in mental health support. It could be in any area. Just make sure that what you’re doing is of help and is doing good. Um, I think that’s key because that’s what’s gonna drive you and get you through the hard times and get you through all the obstacles, is the knowledge that, okay, what I’m doing is making a difference. It’s helping people.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much for being with me today. It’s been a real pleasure to chat with you and to learn from you. Thanks for being here.

Vanessa Elharrar: Thank you. Thank you, Naji very much.

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 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.

Do What You Want – Yvette Cleland

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Do What You Want - Yvette Cleland

This episode is in partnership with Boston Biotechnology Summit, a bridge to collaboration and innovative synergies between healthcare stakeholders. I had the pleasure to sit with Yvette Cleland, CEO of Cpl Life Sciences to learn about her personal story before digging into her expertise in recruitment. Yvette shared what she considers as key capabilities for talents in biotech and healthcare, and we discussed “Talent Management in the Era of Artificial Intelligence”, the topic of her workshop at the summit. Bringing humanity into the recruitment process is one of her focus areas. Hear Yvette’s story and words of wisdom for us leaders in healthcare.

“What sits in the heart of our business is kindness

MEET OUR GUEST Yvette Cleland CEO at Cpl Life Sciences.

Yvette Cleland is the Chief Executive Officer of Cpl Life Sciences, a global talent firm. In 2019 and 2021 Yvette was nominated by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) as one of the top 50 most powerful women in staffing globally.

After eight years working in the pharmaceutical sector, she moved to professional staffing and combines knowledge of both life sciences & staffing in her work at CPL. In 2012 she joined Clinical Professionals to scale the business for acquisition, drive growth and expand the brand portfolio and global footprint expanding into the US in 2017. Under her leadership, the business was successfully acquired, launched the award-winning Graduate Academies and CEO/CMO Biotech summits, and was involved in the UK apprenticeship trailblazers.

In 2019 she wrote a Parliamentary Review on life science skill shortages, speaks regularly for industry around the “wake-up call” and her passion is addressing the growing skills gaps in life sciences.


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 for this special episode in partnership with Boston Biotechnology Summit, a bridge to collaboration and innovative synergies between healthcare stakeholders. I am joined today by Yvette Cleland CEO of Cpl Life Sciences, a global talent firm. In 2019 and 2021 Yvette was nominated by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) as one of the top 50 most powerful women…


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 for this special episode in partnership with Boston Biotechnology Summit, a bridge to collaboration and innovative synergies between healthcare stakeholders. I am joined today by Yvette Cleland CEO of Cpl Life Sciences, a global talent firm. In 2019 and 2021 Yvette was nominated by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) as one of the top 50 most powerful women in staffing globally. After eight years working in the pharmaceutical sector, she moved to professional staffing and combines knowledge of both life sciences & staffing in her work at CPL. In 2012 she joined Clinical Professionals to scale the business for acquisition, drive growth and expand the brand portfolio and global footprint expanding into the US in 2017. Under her leadership, the business was successfully acquired, launched the award-winning Graduate Academies and CEO/CMO Biotech summits, and was involved in the UK apprenticeship trailblazers. In 2019 she wrote a Parliamentary Review on life science skill shortages, speaks regularly for industry around the “wake-up call” and her passion is addressing the growing skills gaps in life sciences.   Yvette – I’m humbled to have you with me today!

Yvette Cleland: Well, I’m very humbled to be here as well, so thank you.

Naji Gehchan: Before we dig in, talent management in the era of artificial intelligence, which was the topic of, the workshop you’ve done at the summit, I’m eager to hear more about your personal story, what brought you to the pharma world and now being one of the top 50 most powerful women in global staffing and healthcare.

Yvette Cleland: Um, I, I sort of fell into the pharmaceutical industry if, if I’m really honest, I started my career with a company called Janssen, part of j and j, um, working on their female health products. And then I moved over into, um, more of their palliative care movement and, um, pain control, um, within the farm industry. So, um, I worked on launching the first transdermal fentanyl patch within industry, which, At the time, and it was many, many, many years ago, it, it was, you know, such an advance in technology to have a reservoir patch that could deliver, um, pain control. Um, but I’m, I’m quite a creative person and I love the industry, but I, I love working with people. I started finding the role quite lonely. I couldn’t use a lot of the creative skills I thought I. I sort of fell into recruitment by Pure accident, and there was an organization that was growing quite rapidly. They were looking for individuals that had worked within the pharma industry to crossover and help develop out their staffing. So, um, I made what was seen at the time as an incredibly unusual move to be part of a large, global, very successful pharmaceutical business and move over into a tiny, tiny staffing business. Um, and I have to say the first four months were pretty awful. I didn’t have any training or development. Um, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Um, I wasn’t sure it was going to be right for me, but I made my first placement and I used my creativity to do that. A lady, um, I was actually going out to sell Enbrel, which again was a new launch at the time. She wasn’t a profile, but I knew she was passionate about the role, passionate about the job, and I really had to sell that to the vice president that was staffing that business up and. He kept rejecting me and saying, no, no, no. So I said, look, I’ve got three people that are the perfect profile. You say you are looking for, and I’ve got this lady as well. Will you interview her with the other three? And if I’m wrong and she doesn’t get the job, I’ll never call you again. And she got the job. So it shows me that really understanding people, what drives and motivates ’em, their passion, um, how they’re going to perform with a client. Their motivation and wanting that role. And that’s what got that lady, that job, um, and the VP listening to me and sort of giving me that opportunity and chance. Um, and that then I’ve never looked back from that day. Um, so I understood human to human. As long as you can always speak to somebody and you can rationalize why you want to do something, you can really move something ahead. And also the level of personal satisfaction. I gained in that lady getting that job. Um, and consequently, pretty much every placement I did as a recruiter, um, just continued to inspire me, particularly in the advances in medicine and having to find maybe people that don’t have perfect skills, but have the perfect competency to go on a journey with a business as long as they’ll develop and train them.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much for sharing this. I love it. And I love where we’re gonna be going because you shared really, really interesting pieces, uh, in how you think about leadership, how you think about staffing. So let’s start with staffing actually. So in 2023, um, this is like, we’re in a current environment. Things are moving. We’re constantly hearing, uh, about the challenges of finding the right talents for the right organization, especially in healthcare. Uh, so how do you. Really in a global perspective, how do you think about staffing today?

Yvette Cleland: So, um, staffing by some degree has been replaced quite a lot by internal teams, now, internal talent teams. But I would always say this to a client when you engage with a staffing partner they speak to or should do, if they’re a good partner. Of different people. If you are a talent person, you can only ever speak about your business and what you do. We go out often globally and can reach into. Passive candidates or corners of the market or because our expertise, um, are seeing how other companies have developed to bring their talent in. We can lend so much to an organization. Um, but, but quite often, I guess, Staffing can be seen as an expensive solution, um, where actually it can be very cost effective if you have the right partner, not the wrong partner. Um, so I guess one of my greatest frustrations and something that I’ve seen in the last 15 or so years is when I joined Janssen, literally 50 or so graduates joined in that year. Um, and everybody was trained and developed, and everybody stayed with that business for a very, very long time. Some of the people I joined with are still with Janssen, 30 odd years down the road. Um, so they’ve stayed a long time. They were looked after, they were trained, and they were developed several years ago, 10, 12 years ago. The trend was to outsource everything. Training and development of people. And we’ve then seen this surge in the last 12 to 15 years of really some incredible new technology, some incredible new biotech businesses. Um, Global pharma are not training people the way they used to. They’ve outsourced a lot of that. These smaller growing biotech businesses don’t feel they are in the position to train and develop people. So as a leader in staffing, I’m now seeing a diminishing pool of candidates. Um, Less and less employers willing to train and develop and to make that commitment. Um, which has then made the industry itself quite cutthroat. Um, it’s meant that we’ve got a lot of stability in companies because, um, every time somebody moves, they’re commanding a greater salary to move. Um, or they’re asking for a promotion and maybe that promotion is too early for their career development. Um, So I think we find ourselves at the moment globally within life sciences and a little of a turbine, and we’re about to go through another radical change with the development of AI that’s coming through and has been coming through the industry for several years. I. And again, around the AI piece, I understand fully how technology companies really engage deeply to get the best talent into their businesses. I’m not sure at the moment that the, um, MedTech industry. Are doing the same thing or as much to attract those incredibly gifted people into their businesses. And even if and can if, and they can do that, maybe the training and development isn’t there. Um, whereas the tech companies are, are really better down and making sure they get people through and they develop them. So I think we have some quite big challenges ahead of us as an industry and I think they’re going to grow year on year.

Naji Gehchan: So can we double click on the talent management in the era of, uh, ai? So you talked about talent management, um, globally and staffing. So if we go into this, Era of AI piece, uh, where do you see the challenges? So I love you linked also development, uh, developing people into practically even retention and helping people to grow and have a long career in a company and keep on building their, their capabilities. So where, where do you see AI getting in the way? Where, where is it, where are the challenges coming from in ai? Is it other companies hiring those talents and engineers and we’re not. Like, how, how do you see it?

Yvette Cleland: It’s, I, I, I think it’s a twofold problem. I think number one, the pharmaceutical industry really, and, and biopharma needs to look at how it is actually going to attract that talent in the first place because there are so many amazing technology companies. So that’s number one. Um, looking at that, then we have AI within staffing itself, and it’s a little bit to me, I’m not anti technology. I’ve seen what it is doing at the moment within drug development and some businesses, um, that. But I think where we’ve got a problem with, we’re always trying to get, um, technology to do a lot of the job that we should be doing. And I think one of the most personal things you can ever do, um, as a hiring manager or a business is, um, give people your time and your feedback if you’re trying to bring somebody into your business. And we as an industry tend to do everything we can possibly do. To not do that. Um, we put more and more barriers between ourselves and our hiring managers. Um, we. Sift cvs through technology. We, um, want chat boxes to go and speak to candidates. We want pre-assessment tools. Um, so every step of the way we’re sort of removing a little bit the humanity from that process. Now there are some really clever things, um, like applicant tracking systems. That can have bolt on products, um, that help you be expedient in terms of how you are hiring. Um, but then I want people to really sit back and think about what a candidate journey feels, feels like for another human being and what touch points you should have with that human being. Because you are in the most competitive market in the world for global talent in life sciences. And actually the effect, having the best talent available on the patient population is massive. So to me, let’s not, we, we don’t take the patient out of humanity. So let’s not take the one-to-one people connection out of our recruiting process. In fact, why not be really different and put more of the human into that? So I often get feedback from candidates that have been through an interview process, um, within the, in, within industry. And often they’re taking far too long, they’re not agile. So somebody has given up on some occasions, um, eight or nine hours of their time. They’ve had first interview, second interview. They have, um, spent time with your HR department. They’ve then maybe had a panel interview or gone and meet with six or seven different stakeholders. So they get to the end of that process and sometimes they don’t get offered the job. Oh, sorry, I’ve dropped my, um, so sometimes they don’t get offered the job, um, and they get no feedback. They get no feedback on their performance. Now the problem with that is that person that you turn, turn down on that day, a year later may be the perfect person for your job. Or they may be the brother or sister of somebody that’s perfect for. I think pharmaceuticals can often be a bit like a village. People talk about bad experiences and if you’ve given a candidate a bad experience, they will tell a lot of other people about that bad experience.

Naji Gehchan: I thi this is so important. I love how you frame that. Bring more humanity in our recruiting process. And certainly I’ve experienced it myself, hiring people, like giving feedback after, and sometimes before if we are actually not willing to have this person, you know, if they get into this process where they are presented to you and you just don’t go for it. I, it is just respect for people to take, to take the time to tell them, you know, because again, not Yeah. I, I totally agree on what you’re saying about this. If you. People you’re hiring for leadership positions in healthcare, uh, as, as you do frequently, what are the one or two top capabilities you would look for in those leaders?

Yvette Cleland: I’m gonna throw a little bit of a curve ball at you now ’cause I think there are two skills that we need moving forward into the future. Now, a resume is great at telling you what a person’s skill base is. Personal view of mine is the two most CRI critical competencies that will be needed in businesses moving forward will be an emotional quotient or emotional intelligence and critical thinking. We’ve got two things that are coming at us like a STEAM train at the moment. Number one is data. You have to have critical thinking. To really understand what data you do use, what’s important data, why it’s important, challenging that data. When I say challenging that data, you’ll have different stakeholders are looking at different pieces of data with their own motivation as to why something will or, or won’t be important to. So that sharp, decisive, critical thinking on balance, getting the tone right and, and being able to sort of negotiate in that field is going to be really important. And the other thing as well is emotional intelligence. Um, understanding what drives and motivates the team, particularly if that team is now less connected. Because we now live in a world where everybody wants work-life balance and hybrid working. They want, um, I, I don’t think the gig economy will affect the biopharm industry as much as it is other industries, but it’s definitely a pathway ahead of us at the moment. And I think emotional intelligence, um, you know, sometimes I’ll go on to a, a Zoom or. Meeting with a team member or a Microsoft teams meeting and I can see someone isn’t quite, um, happy. You can notice shoulders down, someone are not as quite as communicative. So sometimes we need to intervene because sometimes it can be lonely at home. Um, and people want that work life balance. But sometimes you need to create. Um, an environment that allows hybrid working and in team working and how you engage your teams and people knowing they’re not actually gonna have as much sort of touch time with you as they may have done in years gone by. So to me, um, and I do it now in all of my hiring, I don’t look at the person that’s joining the business today. I look at that person and think, what will they look like in two to three years time? Are they going to be somebody that can be in my leadership team? They’ve got to, um, be able to deal with a lot of data here now as well, um, in staffing. And they’ve gotta be able to read reports and, and know what to read from that report and what to share with a client and how to map a market. And they also have to work differently in, in a team remotely as well, and also in person, in offices. Um, and we’ve, we’ve seen people struggle coming back into offices after. It’s sort of forgetting really how to engage. Um, or, so here’s a primary one. I’ve had quite a few people come back into our offices and we’re, we’re a sales business. Um, and they don’t like noise. I’m sitting there thinking, oh my, but we are a noisy office. We’re full of people. We are vibrant, we’re full of life. But you’ve been used to working at home with no noise. And now you don’t like coming into this vibrant environment. So I think all those things, and I think exactly would translate to, um, a, a biopharma business or a medical technology business. These same things will, will transpire. So I think we just need a built in awareness around that. We need, um, people that understand people. And if you’re not a people understander, but you may be very gifted in other ways, we need to understand that too and how to accommodate that.

Naji Gehchan: This is so crucial. I totally relate to it. Right? Like and sometimes they are put one against the other, unfortunately, like it’s a people person or critical thinker, but actually it’s the combination of both that will make things work. Right. Especially for the teams and organizations to deliver.

Yvette Cleland: Yeah, absolutely.

Naji Gehchan: So Yvette, I’m gonna give you now a word and I want a reaction to it. So the first word I have is leadership.

Yvette Cleland: Okay. Um, emotional intelligence, vision and integrity. They’re the main things for me in leadership.

Naji Gehchan: What about women in life Sciences, glass Ceiling.

Yvette Cleland: Can you say more? I, I worked on a really, really senior role last year. I was approached by, um, I’m not gonna say who because of who they are, but it was big. And they came to me and asked me personally to recruit a highly significant role, um, within that trade body. And I hadn’t recruited myself for about 10 years. Um, and I was questioned when I did my final shortlist as to why it was all male and the majority of women that I approached for the role were either just quite not senior enough or didn’t feel they could compete within that’s sphere. And that made me quite sad. Um, I, I have met some of the most inspiring women, um, in life sciences I’ve ever come across. And my daughter works in technology and she also, um, has come across just some incredible, just incredible women. But I, when I went back and wrote the report, I wrote in the, I wrote a fully d n I report for the. Organization. Um, and, and I gave in-person commentary about what, how these women had responded to me and said, I, I don’t think that would be for me. I, I don’t think I would fit into that world. I’m not sure. Then a year later I had to recruit the role one below that, and for that I had a really diverse. Um, shortlist because there were more women at that level, more women prepared to go into that. So I think it’s a little bit industry and a little bit women. Um, if I approached you for that role, it was ’cause I felt you absolutely and utterly had the skills and competencies to nail that job. You should have had more faith in that. And number two, I did go to that organization with some slight curve or female candidates. Um, and they would, they, they wouldn’t look at them. So it was like, well, there you go. Um, I’m saying, this person has the future skills. You might need to spend 10% more time training them, but you’ll have a more diverse, you know, Application level for what you’re looking for. So, um, so that’s why I say glass ceiling, although I think we’ve come a very, very long way, a very long way from the years when I was in pharma.

Naji Gehchan: Sure. And, and I, I, I wanna double click on, on this piece, uh, especially, you know, your recruiting obviously diverse, uh, population and, um, and placing them in, in the industry. Um, We, we’ve seen, right, in research, like men would say they are more comfortable. Uh, they say they can do the job. Like, so how, how do you deal with this? ’cause the example you gave was women actually saying, no, this job is not for us. It’s higher. So, but probably it’s the same for men. They just came across more confident. So I’m interested as you go through those processes, how you make sure you’re taking those unconscious biases. That even the person doing the interview has in mind, like the glass ceiling is at the beginning within our heads, right? Not pushing us to go further. So how do you make sure you get into really those talents for you to push them to get placed in those roles?

Yvette Cleland: Sometimes I use my story because I never, ever, ever, Expected to be chief executive of a staffing business. Um, but no one ever told me I couldn’t. So may maybe I thought a little bit more like a man, I dunno, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that anymore, but I just never thought I couldn’t achieve something I didn’t expect to necessarily, but I never made the assumption I couldn’t. Um, and, and actually with one of the women, but I did speak to, um, I did go through that with her and she then did step up and say, do you know what? Then put me forward. I’m going to go for it. And I couldn’t then convince. To take her forward and allow her to compete alongside that panel, even if she hadn’t have gotten the role, it would’ve given her the confidence. Um, and there was an already really good shortlist there, so I think. Sometimes we have to realize we, we, we can sometimes achieve the impossible. I don’t know if it stems from, and maybe it will be different in the coming years because I think, um, when I think about my education, when I was younger and, um, and actually when I think about things like, um, when I first started in industry, men and women were paid differently for doing the same jobs. That happened to me. And when I went to HR and they said, well, he’s, he’s got a family to support. Well, I had a family to support. Uh, so that would never happen today. It, it just wouldn’t. And, and, and I shared this story recently on International Women’s Day, and there were gasps from the audience. Oh my God. You know, and somehow it

Naji Gehchan: happened. What, what, what wouldn’t happen is someone probably saying this to you, but unfortunately we still see discrepancies between pay. Even in large organizations between women and men, like we’re catching up, but we, we’ve all seen it.

Yvette Cleland: I think we, we have, um, and I don’t want anyone to think that women are wingy because we’re not. Um, but, um, You know, we, we get out there and do our bit and you know, um, fair pay is really important. Yeah. So the reason I bring that up, it’s not a wind, Ramone, the world has changed. The context of the world has changed. Um, put it this way, it may still happen in terms of there being some disparity, but nobody would would ever actually say to, or nowadays, I’m not paying you the same as your male equivalent because he’s bringing up a. Yeah, that, that wouldn’t happen anymore. Um, so we have moved on, but going back to the education system, I guess when I was a little girl, my head was programmed to be a certain thing or to go in a certain direction. Um, it’s not so much that I ripped the rule book up, but because no one ever told me I couldn’t do something, and actually one of my greatest advocates as, as a young woman going into leadership, I was actually a male that just always said to me, you can do what you want. Just get, just get out there and you know, you work so hard, you do this. So, um, The world has changed, but I think for, for certain women there is still that slight mindset. I know there’ve been quite a lot of, um, over the years research done around male and female graduates and how they approach things and their, their mindset around what they can do and what they can’t do. But those are quite, they’re relatively old pieces of research now. And I would imagine perhaps are young women graduates today. They have a slightly different mindset. They’ve been brought up in a different educational environment, a different world. Um, there, there’s just a, a different way of thinking now. So hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years we will see quite a shift. Um, But there’s always work to be done. So I always see myself really in a way, um, of, you know, wanting to go in and break those glass ceilings and, and why not? Uh, and why not share those experiences? If it only affects one woman that may not have thought she could do something, then my job’s done. I, I’m, I’m happy. So, yeah.

Naji Gehchan: Yes. What about Wake up call? I know you’ve, you talk about the skills gap in life sciences and that we should have this wake up goal, so I’m, I’m intrigued. Yeah. What are your thoughts?

Yvette Cleland: Like, um, I speak more to the industry than I do to the staffing industry, if that makes sense. So I’m more likely if I ever go and do a talk or if I’m, it will, and it will generally be on skill shortages. Um, and I’m gonna tell you, Something that I find so frustrating. Um, I, for the last seven or eight years have taught week in, week out, month in, month out about skill shortages. Um, and, and let me give you another example. This is quite UK centric, but we, um, I, I’m passionate, um, about diversity and inclusion and I include within that kids from maybe, um, A challenging background that maybe wouldn’t have gotten to go to university. And we in the UK have apprenticeship schemes and they’re degree based. We can take really talented youngsters gifted in science and put them through those programs. And if you are a c E O of a company and you ever want to really look at. What your property properly. Um, look at your ED and I program. If you just did that and nothing else, you would be bringing such a diverse, um, talented. Gifted, um, level of people into industry. Um, but employers don’t do it. So they talk a lot about skill shortages. I get a lot of inquiries about some of the things that we’ve done in, um, in, in engaging and training graduates. Um, and, and we’ve done that and paid for that and put the capital there to do that. Um, because we are passionate about it and we want give back, but I don’t see that coming from industry. Um, And if we don’t do it, and if we don’t seriously have that conversation. So every time I go and do a talk, I have an audience that’s nodding and agreeing and like, yes. Um, uh, and they walk out of that conference. So they walk out of that room and they never do anything about it. I get messages, you know, come and talk to me. I want to hear more about what you do. And I’ll try and call someone or message them. They never get back to me. I will always give my time. I’ve gone into schools, into universities. Um, we’ve developed award-winning programs to bring life sciences graduates and educate them into what the industry is actually about and then get them their first two industry role. Um, I’ve loaned my, um, IP to universities in the UK that are training, um, uh, apprenticeships. You know, we do a lot as an organization, but I do not see companies paying that back. They’re not, they’re outsourcing everything. They’re going to A C R O, they’re then expecting the c r O to train loads of people. But the truth is, the CROs can’t. They’re on thin margins to try and deliver work. They can’t. Blend into that. Lots and lots of training and development. Um, so again, we are fishing around in this same pool of candidates and we are not bringing into industry, um, enough new fresh talent. We’ve got. So many people that are going to retire in the next few years, and we just simply do not have the skilled workforce to, um, replace ’em. And then on top of that, we’ve got lots of new technologies coming down the road that we already don’t have the skills to do that. Um, and yet we’re not investing in that training and development. Pretty much every c e o that I’ve met from industry pays lip service to that. Um, and, and it really needs to get real. It really needs to get real. The four,

Naji Gehchan: uh, the fourth word is spread love in organizations.

Yvette Cleland: So, um, I think the greatest thing you can do in any business is be kind. Um, and that sounds a little bit oversimplified. Um, you can train, you can develop, and we do, we train and develop our people. We, um, we, we give them good work to do. We, you know, we pay good salaries, we pay good bonuses. Um, we offer, um, emotional support schemes for our staff because people sometimes sign themselves in difficult scenarios. But there’s one thing, everybody will wake up on a day and have a bad day, or they’ll have a tragedy in their life, or they’ll have something that happens where they need kindness. And for me, um, I won’t have anyone working with me that I don’t see that trait or that ability. I think it’s what sits at the heart of our business. Um, and we don’t always get that kindness payback, so we don’t do it. You know, it’s sometimes we’ve very kind to people and they let us down, but equally well, um, I’ve got a really strong, very long-term leadership group that, one of them has been with me 17, 18 years. The other’s eight, 10 years long, long time. And they’re good kind people. And my boss is a good, kind person. Um, and the business I am part of and the reason when it was acquired, we, we had quite a few people that wanted to buy our business. Um, and I went with C P L because. They’re good people. They’re kind people. They’re focused. When they say they’re a people business, they really mean it. So my c e o, Lorna, Is a really compassionate, kind, incredibly talented business leader. Oh. Um, and my, my direct boss as well, the person I deal with, um, globally for life science. Again, he is an incredible leader. Um, and I have that again in my leadership group, and I think that’s what retains a lot of our people. They know on a bad day we’re there for them and we do it with kindness and.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world?

Yvette Cleland: Please, please start training people. Put a budget aside. Look at what you’re gonna need as a business in the next five to seven years. Programs in place. Go and partner with other businesses, even if they’re competitors with you. Get academies going get apprenticeships, schemes going, don’t talk. Pay at lip service, go and get some youngsters or maybe some older people that have got fantastic skills that you can transfer into your business or younger kids that maybe wouldn’t get the opportunity to go to university, but you could sponsor that for them. You wouldn’t just change that individual’s life could change their whole family’s life. Um, to do that, if you’re gonna do nothing else, just do that. Invest in. Proper training and development. Don’t always rely on outsourcing for everything

Naji Gehchan: It’s been a pleasure and honor to have you Yvette with me today. Thank you.

Yvette Cleland: Thank you so much for inviting me. I really appreciate it. Thank you. Take care.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spread Love and Organization’s podcast. More episodes summarizing the Boston Biotechnology Summit are available on spread love or on your preferred podcast app. Follow spread love and organizations wherever you listen to podcasts and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement. Our world so desperately needs.

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 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.

Access & Connectivity – Nate Beyor

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Access & Connectivity - Nate Beyor

This episode is in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the healthcare ecosystem together. We sat with Nate Beyor, Managing Director & Partner at Boston Consulting Group, and discussed Digital Innovation, specifically data. For Nate, the key to all those digital innovations is the transformation of how we work with technology rather than adding tech. The biggest moves will be around automation and how we can “make steps go away” in processes to improve efficiency and experiences. With our current moves with data in healthcare, more interoperability, access, and connectivity will allow for further automation and improvements. Those algorithms will certainly be the less risky option for decision-making while ensuring we are empowering humans to make the final call.

“Build first. You’ll learn more by trying to do it than you will by spending a year debating what to do.

MEET OUR GUEST Nate Beyor Managing Director & Partner at Boston Consulting Group.

Nate Beyor is Managing Director & Partner at Boston Consulting Group where he leads Health Tech based out of Southern California.  Nate is passionate about the interface between technology and biology, with a healthy appreciation for operational rigor. He has spent his career exploring different avenues at this intersection, from microfluidics to biologics manufacturing, to stem cell therapy development, and now in digital health.

At BCG, Nate has hands-on experience launching digital solutions remote monitoring, clintech, supply chain, and precision medicine.  Nate believes in the power of technology to change how we treat, how we heal, and how we live.


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 for this special episode in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the Healthcare Ecosystem Together. I am joined today by Nate Beyor, Managing Director & Partner at Boston Consulting Group. Nate leads Health Tech for BCG, based out of Southern California.  He is passionate about the interface between technology and biology,…


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 for this special episode in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the Healthcare Ecosystem Together. I am joined today by Nate Beyor, Managing Director & Partner at Boston Consulting Group. Nate leads Health Tech for BCG, based out of Southern California.  He is passionate about the interface between technology and biology, with a healthy appreciation for operational rigor. He has spent his career exploring different avenues at this intersection, from microfluidics, to biologics manufacturing, to stem cell therapy development, and now in digital health. At BCG, he has hands-on experience launching digital solutions remote monitoring, clintech, supply chain, and precision medicine.  Nate believes in the power of technology to change how we treat, how we heal, and how we live.

Nate – I’m honored to have you with me today!

Nate Beyor: Nice to be here. Nice to talk to you, and good to see you since we first connected at MIT.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, good to see you again. Before we dig in, digital innovation, specifically data, uh, the topic of your panel, uh, at the the healthcare conference. I’m really eager to hear your personal story. What brought you to the focus on healthcare in a consulting world?

Nate Beyor: So, you know, you sort of led with the, the preamble there, which, uh, I’ve generally.

Always been intrigued and enthusiastic about places at the interface of different technologies. So for me, I, I came up more as like an engineering person. Uh, I studied applied physics in college and then very later on in my undergrad career, got into biology as well. But they were very distinct. There was like biology classes and then there were engineering classes and there were a few that were, where there was a nice overlap, but I would say it was still very early days there.

Um, And I got really into, uh, kind of exploring that interface and, and going into grad school, uh, in bioengineering. And I, I went to, uh, the joint program between uc, Berkeley, and U C S F. Uh, ended up at a lab at, at Berkeley, though. Started at one in U C S F. Uh, that was a nice way to explore that interface.

Uh, and, uh, how do you get into consulting from there? I, you know, I started doing some startup stuff along the way in grad school and realized that getting into, uh, top tier consulting, Was a way to get off the bench and I, frankly, I never thought of myself as particularly capable on the bench. Uh, but again, really worked well in interdisciplinary environments where I could bring that technical lens and more business environment.

Um, and yeah, ended up role in a role in consulting, you know, thinking it would be short term, but ended up liking it a lot and, uh, had been in and out on sort of consulting and startup side over my career. Well, thanks

Naji Gehchan: Nate for sharing this. Uh, if we go into, uh, digital innovation, uh, which was one of the topics you discussed in the panel, uh, how do you define that and what, uh, is included from your point of view in this large word of digital

Nate Beyor: innovation?

That is a large word. The the and, and so when I think about innovation, and I think my, my favorite joke about this are, you know, when you. Talk with companies that say we wanna be innovative. Show us someone where you’ve been innovative before. We wanna be innovative like them. And that’s sort of like, you know, by definition is not innovation anymore.

It’s, it’s repeating something that’s already been done. Um, so when I think about the word innovation, I think that it, it evolves doing new things in a, taking on risk. Uh, bringing together multiple disciplines is really critical here. Um, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that. I’m going to take a person that’s totally from the consumer world and drop into a healthcare setting and expect magic to happen.

Um, but it is about, uh, being multidisciplinary so that I can take someone that, you know, really understands what it means to have white glove hands-on services that consumers expect and apply that within a healthcare setting. But they might work alongside someone that understands the underlying incentive structures between, uh, clinicians and payers, uh, in order to.

To actually build something that’s transformational. Uh, the other piece that, that is key in innovation, and I I’d use the word intentionally in in the last statement, is build. You have to do not just talk about, uh, and so we work with our clients to build solutions. I’ve been. Part of many software solutions that we put in the market, and we tend to push our clients to get hands on as quickly as possible.

Uh, one of my favorite examples that’s been my dream project for years, I’m running it right now, is a, a slide free project. Literally zero PowerPoint slides. There’s only engineers on the team and they’re not allowed to make PowerPoint slides. They’re only allowed to, to create actual working solutions.

Uh, and you know that, that. I think for me is, is how we move the ball along a lot further. Uh, it get getting our hands dirty and, and building things.

Naji Gehchan: I love it. You talked about having a diverse group, uh, working together and then prototyping and building actually solutions rather than talking about it.

Uh, and this word digital that comes before innovation. Uh, how, how do you think of it? Right. In large organization, we can talk about digital from. Digital tech solutions that touches patients to just digitalizing whatever tools we were using commercially, for example, uh, into now whatever, you know, software we have.

How, how do you think of it when, in the broad length of healthcare and digital innovation?

Nate Beyor: Yeah, I mean, you sort of. You hit a good point of, uh, like the simple version is how do I go to screens versus paper, especially in healthcare where there’s just too much paper, but that doesn’t get you a lot of value, right?

Just going to a digital environment doesn’t necessarily change the way you work. Uh, for me, the litmus test is more along the lines of how did I remove steps to get something done? So if I have a 10 step clinical workflow, if it’s still 10 steps, but you know, the three paper steps are now three screen steps.

That doesn’t actually add any value. It just changes where I’m looking or you know, how I’m writing something down. I have to go from 10 steps to six steps to really get a fundamental change. And so, I think, and I think we’re getting there, and part of the enablement is, uh, due to better penetration of, uh, compute and storage, uh, and, you know, for the development of, of, you know, stronger analytics and algorithms.

We’re, we’re at this moment where we can see a lot of automation. On the horizon and, and happening already in some cases. So you can start to see places where the automation can take out steps in a process, whether they are in a direct clinical processes, processes in the background on the administrative side.

Uh, or I, I work often in pharma services. For instance, you might see more kind of B2B things on, uh, clinical development or supply chain or manufacturing, uh, where there’s a lot of opportunity for automation. So back to the critical piece, it is really, um, You know, digital is about changing the way you work through technology.

It’s not just adding in a technology component to something you already do. So

Naji Gehchan: you, you touched about algorithm and different solutions for us to improve the process. Actually, as you said, instead of just making it the screen, uh, be behind this, obviously there is data. So what is your take about data? Is it the new oil, as many would say?

And how do you think of data with, obviously in healthcare, we have a lot of this. Many times never talking to one another as, as the, you know, data rooms, et cetera. Uh, how do you think of this and what is the type of structure do you think we need to strive

Nate Beyor: for in healthcare? Uh, Well in, in health data, I think we’ve seen a lot of changes over the last few years.

Uh, even when I started at B C G coming on six years ago, the notion of integrating something within an E H R workflow was possible, but seemed so hard that. Nobody really wanted to deal with it. And a lot of solutions were actually stood up in kind of like a separate web environment that might force a clinician to go outside of their, of their E H R.

The, um, interoperability is much more real right now and know people understand the need to integrate within the workflow and within the systems that are in front of clinicians. The, um, That’s just in a, in a few years. And so, uh, I think what I’m excited about is from a data perspective, we are seeing, you know, a stronger infrastructure where these systems can talk to one another.

Um, even back then, five years ago it was harder to come by really scale data sets. But you have a lot of, you know, claims, data sets and, and, uh, associated solutions that are out there right now and easily accessible to drive analytics. I think we’ll continue to see more and more of that. Um, It’s not necessarily a consolidation at the infrastructure lever, uh, layer, but, but more access and more connectivity as that infrastructure layer that will go.

As I mentioned, we have claims we’ll get into clinical data. Uh, increasingly we’re having more remote solutions, whether that’s, you know, your Apple Watch kicking off data or, uh, eCOA systems as part of a clinical trial. Uh, those create other points of data creation and, and other types of data that we’ll have to, you know, connect to these systems.

Um, It will still be relatively fragmented there, you know, there’s still a lot of different players out there creating, creating solutions. There’s a need for, um, sort of a custom integration points, uh, through a p i or, or in other ways. Um, but I’m excited that we go from, you know, one dataset to the next.

Better connectivity, uh, ways to map identification or to de-identify. And then more power on the compute side is, is feeding this automation like we talked about before. So, you know, as,

Naji Gehchan: as you were talking through it, I, I get, but think about G D P R in Europe. I had to implement it as, as a chief marketing officer at that time, uh, in those countries.

Uh, what do you think about privacy? Privacy in the US is also kicking in, so I’d love your thoughts as all those interconnect and obviously we’re gonna be using those data to make better decisions for ourselves and probably for others. How do you think about privacy in all this

Nate Beyor: setting? You know, it’s a funny one cuz I, I remember building solutions and people’s people would have this reaction.

Like, oh, well they, I have to be HIPAA compliant when I build over in, uh, over in this way. And so that’s, that’s too burdensome. So I don’t wanna do that, do it. But I, I always felt like, you know, it’s a standard and a standard. It’s actually kind of nice cause it’s something specific you can build to. Uh, there are certainly, uh, sort of, uh, compliance, uh, associated, uh, aspects to it and regulatory ones that, that can be more burdensome and costly.

Uh, for instance, how you might have to set up Waldorf data environments or even distinct legal entities in some cases, depending on the type of organization you are. Uh, But in general, I like that there’s a standard, uh, and I think the standard is appropriate. So it, it’s a overall, it’s a good thing. Um, But you know, we don’t yet know the value of privacy at this point, which is, which is interesting.

I think there’s this general fear of people finding out about my health data, for instance. I don’t know what they’re gonna do with my health data when they find it. You know, my employer who pays my insurance already has all that data and can, you know, adjust premiums accordingly. So I, at the end of the day, I think we’re still operating very cautiously.

Um, But I do like the standards. Uh, I think they’re important. Uh, and, you know, we, we spend a lot of time worrying about this stuff, right? That engineering team I mentioned has been spending a lot of time thinking about, you know, how they operate compliantly, set up the right environments, uh, scrub the data when needed, uh, in order to meet those standards.

Naji Gehchan: So now that you talked about data standard and how to build, uh, to, to answer this compliant piece, you talked also about algorithm that will help us obviously make decisions either as healthcare, healthcare providers or as individuals to make better decisions for our health. I’d love your thoughts on.

Ai, which is obviously a hot topic these days, and chat G P T everyone’s talking about, and I remember during the conference there was this question about do you think AI will replace individuals and specific some healthcare professions?

Nate Beyor: What are your thoughts about this? I think inevitably AI is going to be the less risky option versus humans in some circumstances.

I think it’s. Naive to assume that humans are going to be making all the same decisions that they are currently making. And we are going to have to adapt to, uh, AI oriented solutions that are better at making those decisions. Now, are they generative? I don’t know that they might be a fixed algorithm in some cases.

Um, but certainly just very simply, we talked about data. There’s a lot of data getting produced. There’s more data than any one clinician can handle in the. 12 or 13 minutes that they see a patient. I’d rather have a computer looking at my data to make sense of it and at least triaging that and teeing up a range of insights that a clinician could then build upon versus completely relying on the human to to do that analysis in their head.

We’re already doing this to some extent, so the question is how far you draw the line. Um, that said, You do have to draw the line, right? If I think about it very simply in terms of like AI for radiology, um, you know, ultimately they, even in a triage environment, they’re going to have to highlight certain images or highlight certain areas of images that could be of interest for a clinician to make a diagnosis.

Depending on where they draw that line, which images to highlight or what areas we are making an assumption around sort of, uh, statistical tolerance, um, uh, around that AI system. Um, so there is some. Some critical design questions, uh, and that we have both from a systems level and from, uh, you know, a broader industry or society perspective in terms of, you know, how much tolerance we wanna allow for these AI system to have.

And, uh, even when they are, you know, feeding humans to make the final decisions. I love

Naji Gehchan: that. Certainly agree to it, and I think it’s, it gives also this power of a human connection at the end that only a human can do it, or a physician with a patient, but using the power of ai. To get us closer to a diagnosis somehow.

Nate Beyor: Although, did you see all this stuff last week about this, uh, this study that showed that the, the generative AI system, I, I don’t remember which one it was. If it was, I think it was GBT four, but it outscored the humans, uh, in terms of empathy. Um, Uh, in terms of the answers provided, I haven’t read the study in detail.

I’ve only seen the headlines and some lightweight analyses on it, so I can’t, I can’t claim to have a clear understanding of it. But, you know, there is, has been this notion that like, uh, one of my favorite posts was, was a friend say, say something on LinkedIn about, um, you know, they say the AI can’t hold your hand, but when was the last time your doctor held your hand?

You know? And, uh, and so, uh, Yes, humans are necessary and they add value, but realistically, where is that value and how do we double down on that and really sort of make that valuable and important and then automate what we can and use computational power, you know, where there is a lot of data availability, let’s use the computational power and take advantage of that and do the best most of it.

Yeah. Yeah.

Naji Gehchan: So when, when you look into the future, what are you most excited about in this technology? In HE healthcare?

Nate Beyor: Well, I’m excited about a lot of automation, um, making steps go away, not making me deal with chatbots instead of people along the way. That’s one. So like, you know, how can you automate, uh, scheduling and interaction points and, and, uh, delivery of information to patients and clinicians to, to make things more efficient?

Um, I am really excited about. You know, we talked about lightly on the, on the services side. I think there is a lot of headroom when it comes to clinical development. Uh, AI discovery is certainly one where there’s been a lot of investment to date. Um, now a lot of those companies are maturing such that you’re having compounds into the clinic.

And so we’re starting to see, you know, a lot of say AI generated molecules actually go through clinical development and we’ll see how that plays out. Similarly on the clinical development side, You have a lot of disparate systems in that IT chain, uh, that can be better connected. Um, and there’s a lot, uh, a lot of opportunity to drive towards more value, whether that’s through more focused trials around looking at an efficacy or safety signal or, you know, faster trials, uh, through more advanced protocols, uh, uh, being delivered, uh, in trial operations.

So I think at clin, clin dev side, ton of ’em for opportunity, uh, and that ultimately will lead to, um, you know, more and better therapies in the market.

Naji Gehchan: I wanna move now to a section where I’ll give you a word and I’d love your reaction to it. The first one is leadership.

Nate Beyor: Leadership. Uh, my reactions to it, so this is very open-ended, is it, uh, the, uh, You know, I’ll reflect on, uh, it’s, it’s funny, I think leadership, your first assumption is more of a top down leadership and, you know, guiding a group of people, I often found some of my best learnings were, you know, the, the people say managing upward, but it’s not necessarily about, you know, the political questions for it.

It’s, you know, how do you take ownership over. Something you’re guiding and create trust at cascading levels below and above you in an organization such that you can move it along as quickly as possible. Um, I think leadership really does is about an ownership mindset, having empathy, uh, upward and downward of the rungs in your organization and beyond, uh, in order to make sure that what you’re owning actually gets to success.

The second one is health equity. Uh, this is a very broad one. I’ve actually, this is the third time this has come up today in my conversations, um, that health equity is of high importance, uh, right now for all stakeholders. Um, I think one of the key things sticking out to me though is how closely it’s linked to data.

We can make a lot of calls around what needs to happen from, uh, for changes in health that could drive changes in health equity, whether that’s from an AR access perspective, whether it’s from a trials perspective. Um, But unless I have the visibility through data over where there are challenges and opportunities, uh, and I’m able to, to, you know, make changes by accessing the individuals that I, that, uh, are visible in that data, that doesn’t necessarily mean an identifiable way, but, uh, unless I can actually drive change, it’s not possible.

So I think there is a really close link between the technology systems, uh, and possible changes in health equity. So the

Naji Gehchan: third one was actually data.

Nate Beyor: Well, we talked about that a lot. I, I did. I want to double down on this point. We’re all excited about it. It’s really easy to forget how recent all this compute and storage is in the world, especially in healthcare.

I mean, all of. You know, US providers are not yet on the cloud yet. You know, I mean, it’s still, there’s still a lot of facts and so we talk about it like it’s all possible and it’s like right around the corner. There’s a lot of straight up work to do from an infrastructure perspective. Um, now, now to the cloud and compute, there’s a lot of opportunity.

To move things to, to cloud, um, and to leverage a lot of the computational power that’s coming online. And I’m excited about these gen AI tools because they are. They’re just creating such, uh, sort of enthusiasm in the market for people to get on there and start experimenting. And interestingly, some of the things that people are doing, they’re so excited about gen ai, but really it’s more traditionally advanced analytics.

It’s not necessarily, you know, true gen AI at this point, but whatever it is, uh, To, to get people motivated. I, I’m loving that there’s just a lot more traction right now to move things to cloud, get more experimental, and think about data as core to anything that we do, uh, in the sector of health tech. Can I, can

Naji Gehchan: I just double down on, uh, mixing both health equity?

You talked also about diversity in clinical trials, uh mm-hmm. And data. So there’s obviously data that we have, uh, available. Unfortunately, we know how diversity in clinical trials or the data that we have in healthcare, uh, that is many times. Inequitable unequal. We don’t have data for underrepresented group, et cetera.

Uh, and then obviously though these, this is the data that is feeding in systems for us to be able to make decisions. Uh, but also those data are helping us see where we have issues for us to be able to address them as we are building current clinical trials. So I, I want to have your views about.

Diversity, equity, uh, in, in healthcare using this data are things we don’t have. And we need to make sure that it’s a conscious, uh, bias that we’re looking at,

Nate Beyor: uh, and how to address that. I mean, there’s a lot of fragmentation, right? The, the, if you just think about, you know, one system to the next, and the way that they organize their data, Let alone how accessible it might be, you might introduce bias, um, purely in the friction it takes to actually connect to systems and for no other reason, right?

Um, and so,

You know, on the plus side, it’s a very hot area. Companies are investing in this. Whether or not they have any direct r o i, they recognize this as a necessity right now. Um, which is great. Um, it is a, uh, The connections to the underlying data infrastructure are huge. Um, and I think that, you know, with you, similarly on the data infrastructure side, people that wanna invest in that often struggle to prove their I r I.

So to have, you know, this kind of marriage between the need for broader data infrastructure, the imperative on health equity, I think there, there’s a way for, for these. Initiatives that seem distinct to actually push together. Um, and you’re also having a lot of conversation around sort of, especially on the clinical development side, on access, uh, to patients internationally too.

Um, which, which can support, you know, uh, goals for, for each of those threads too. So the

Naji Gehchan: last word is, is spread love and organizations.

Nate Beyor: I’ll come back. I mentioned the word empathy associated with leadership, but I think, you know, in healthcare that’s, uh, obviously a critical one. We, we think about, you know, how you are, um, empathetic to patients and for certainly patient centricity is huge. I’d like to be possibly a bit more cynical on that and think about, you know, empathy associated with, with all stakeholders.

Uh, and, you know, think about clinicians. Um, we often think about their workflow. Um, we think about the burdens, uh, placed in front of them. Uh, and we talked about the potential to automate a way the clinical work that they do. But right now data shows that half their day is spent entering information into their.

It systems anyways, so I’m sure they’d love to automate that away. You know, I’d love to consider sort of spread love and, and you know, broadly empathy, uh, around, uh, what they’re doing and, and to change the workflow. Because in my mind, unless we think about all stakeholders involved and, uh, you know, how their worlds need to change and that needs to go, like I said, well beyond just a patient-centric view as to consider all stakeholders, to incentivize them to make their lives better.

We’re not gonna see the clinic clinical clinical impact that we wanna see. I love

Naji Gehchan: that. And you find a word of wisdom named, uh, for healthcare leaders around the world.

Nate Beyor: As I said earlier, build first. Just get out there hands dirty. You’re gonna learn more by trying to do it than you will by, uh, you know, spending a year debating what to do.

So I’m, I’m just a big proponent of, you know, getting the technical team involved early and, and trying things. But always staying compliant. That’s a key aspect to all that. For

Naji Gehchan: sure. Thank you so much, Nate, for being with me today. I appreciate our discussion.

Nate Beyor: Yes, fantastic. Thanks for the opportunity.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spreadlove in Organizations podcast! More episodes summarizing the MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference are available on or on your preferred streaming app.

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 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.

C-4 Leadership – Chris Winton

C-4 Leadership - Chris Winton

In this OneMoment episode, we welcome Chris Winton, currently the Champion of the People at Tesla. Chris joined Tesla in December of 2022 after several years at FedEx where he was most recently the CVP and Chief People Officer. Chris is also an author, mentor, philanthropist, real estate investor, and coach and in 2020 published his leadership book C-4 Leadership: Ignite Your Career. Shatter Expectations. Take Charge of Your Life.

Today’s episode of OneMoment connects to one specific conversation Chris had with a colleague at FedEx which materially changed the direction of his career. If this moment had not happened, Chris would not be in his role today… What happened in this conversation? What was said that impacted Chris?

Simplify & Consolidate – Allyson Jacobsen

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Simplify & Consolidate - Allyson Jacobsen

Be kind and honest to maximize your team’s growth and potential, which ultimately means your organization’s potential. Those are Allyson Jacobsen’s beliefs around leadership, ensuring we build a culture of love, and care so that people support one another, feel safe to try things, and be at their best to deliver on our purpose in healthcare. Hear Allyson’s story, and experiences across marketing and other functions always putting the patient at the center of what she does. We’re on a mission in healthcare to solve patients’ problems and we should never forget that noble cause.

“Never forget your purpose and passion”

MEET OUR GUEST Allyson Jacobsen Vice President of Marketing at TeraRecon.

Allyson Jacobsen is a Global Marketing Executive who has led award-winning teams across the U.S., Europe, and Asia that were the recipients of 5 Gold Quill IABC Awards for Applied Intelligence, Beyond Imaging, The Future of -Ray, and Make Time Mammo, in addition to a Ragan Video, Visual, & Virtual Award.

With over 20 years of expertise, her background in entrepreneurship and technology expands across industries, including Healthcare, bio-pharmaceutical, Financial Services, and Public Sector. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Christopher Newport University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Texas A&M University.

She has led large-scale marketing efforts and strategies on behalf of tech & medtech global corporations at several premiere industry events, including AWS re:Invent, GE’s Global Data Science Symposium, SXSW, and the Azure Cloud Summit. She is a dedicated educator and thought leader on AI across Healthcare, Pharma, and Marketing topics.

Allyson is also a passionate mentor and presenter on topics around Women in Technology, AI, and Digital Marketing Transformation. She was in the Top 10 Most Listened To Podcasts of 2020 with Outcomes Rocket on How Data Can Improve Patient Outcomes. Allyson is dedicated and driven to change the dynamics for the future by using visibility, diagnostic tools, and technology to help save lives across the World.


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 for this podcast joined today by Allyson Jacobsen a Global Marketing Executive who has led award-winning teams across the U.S., Europe, and Asia that were the recipients of 5 Gold Quill Awards. With over 20 years of expertise, her background in entrepreneurship and technology expands across industries, including Healthcare, BioPharmaceutical, Financial Services, and Public Sector. She is…


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 for this podcast joined today by Allyson Jacobsen a Global Marketing Executive who has led award-winning teams across the U.S., Europe, and Asia that were the recipients of 5 Gold Quill Awards. With over 20 years of expertise, her background in entrepreneurship and technology expands across industries, including Healthcare, BioPharmaceutical, Financial Services, and Public Sector. She is also a passionate mentor and presenter on topics around Women in Technology, AI, and Digital Marketing Transformation. Allyson is dedicated and driven to change the dynamics for the future by using visibility, diagnostic tools, and technology to help save lives across the World.

Allyson – it is great to have you with me today!

Allyson Jacobsen: Yeah, it’s great to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Naji Gehchan: Can you please share with us, um, first your personal story from science to marketing and your passion for technology to save lives around the world?

Allyson Jacobsen: Yeah, I’d be happy to. You know, it’s interesting as I, um, I, you know, I was born and raised in Virginia, a little bit south of the colonial Williamsburg area, and as, as I went through school and I got into my career, It just naturally happened that I ended up in some of startups back in 1999, 2000 timeframe.

So I think that’s when my love for technology for innovations, right, for bringing new, unique things to market, really got solidified.

So can you share

Naji Gehchan: a little bit more how you ended up working with, uh, healthcare Biopharmaceuticals and also this passion around marketing and leading marketing teams?

Allyson Jacobsen: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I really kind of fell into healthcare, um, and I shouldn’t have been surprised. I was raised by a mom who was a nurse for 40 years.

And I can remember as a child, um, going to the hospital with her and, and gosh, this would never be allowed today, but I can remember sitting in the nursery and holding and feeding and loving on the babies or the whole time I was in the hospital. So when I was, you know, probably in my late. Thirties, early forties.

A really good friend of mine that I had worked with before went over to GE Healthcare to start putting AI into the medical devices. And I had such an interest for technology and for AI in general and thought, you know, wow, this is a great way to bring my historical knowledge and love of just hospitals and patient care.

You know, my mom’s history with the technology and start to. Use that and to use my marketing expertise to solve problems that really will help healthcare for my children, my grandchildren, right. Generations to come. Um, and, and just like I said, got lucky. Maybe it’s serendipitous, um, that I came back into something that I’m so passionate about and I have not looked back since.


Naji Gehchan: thank you for sharing. That’s, uh, that’s great. And you have led since successfully marketing teams, uh, across different sectors, different industries. Um, what made you be the successful, uh, global award-winning marketing executive?

Allyson Jacobsen: Um, you know, I think it is all about this crazy trajectory that my career has taken, if I’m really candid about it.

I, um, I spent the long haul, probably eight to 10 years getting my undergraduate degree. Um, I needed to work full-time as I studied. And then again, when I got out, I, you know, went to startup. Then I ended up in the Department of Defense, kind of owning and operating my own marketing, public affairs agency to then, you know, going to big ibm.

And I’ve just done this back and forth between. Industry sectors, entrepreneurialship, you know, large scale fortune companies that have structure and process and procedure and move a little bit slower. And I, I think it’s been that trajectory that’s allowed me to. Have that entrepreneurial mindset to be able to talk to our customers in a way that resonates and is impactful while.

You know, working within some of the boundaries and constraints of not having deep, endless pocketbook, not having, um, you know, months to deploy something, to generate leads and to generate revenue. So really having to bootstrap, be fast, be thorough, you know, test, fail, uh, revitalize, right. I think that’s the, that’s the cycle that makes a great marketer.

And I, you know, I still strive for that every day because within marketing, this digital platform, it, it does change. It does transform. It’s a, it’s almost a life source in and of its own. So you have to constantly, um, stretch yourself, try new things, uh, be educating yourself on new technologies and platforms and, and trans.

You know, transforming that to really be successful. So I think it’s just been that mixture of mindset that has allowed me to continually grow and outperform. So,

Naji Gehchan: Well, you, we feel the passion about digital transformation and how you’re framing it and you’re talking about, uh, marketing. Uh, can you share with us how you define digital transformation?

You’ve worked a lot on it. And where do you see the healthcare industry in its digital transformation journey today?

Allyson Jacobsen: Yeah, I think digital transformation crosses every, organi, every department within an organization, right? You’ve got, um, in healthcare today more, more particularly, we have physicians burning out at a rate that has just never been seen before.

We have populations aging, um, needing more medical care every day. We even have less physicians entering the marketplace. So it’s, it’s this cusp where being able to do more digitally and letting the physicians. Actually spend time with their patients is the most critical. You know, I read a study a couple of years back and I think it was Harvard, um, but, but I hope I’m not wrong on that.

That said, physicians only spend an average of 25% of their time indirect patient care. And that to me is. So sad and it has to change. So with digital transformation, we are able to now do things with AI that can elevate critical records in the workflow so the physicians see them faster. Can. Make manual tasks that clinicians of all type do more accurate so that we don’t have to do repeats, um, can help with, you know, smart scheduling so that a physician can take into account, you know, the number of patients who may cancel an appointment and ensure that they don’t overbook or under book.

Um, there’s just so many new ways digitally we can try. To simplify and consolidate all of the things they do operationally and administratively so that they can actually spend those times with patients. And that’s, that’s where we’ve got to get, we need more human element and not less.

Naji Gehchan: Sure. And really, as you said, using this technology to optimize, obviously, the time of physicians on their highest value, uh, versus all the administrative pieces that they, they have to do today.

Um, and as you’ve led this also internally in the different organizations that you add, uh, any key leadership, learning from your side, leading all those transformations,

Allyson Jacobsen: There has been, you know, it’s, um, it’s a windy road. I th and, um, I, and there are lots of lessons, and I hate to say this, but I think sometimes we as leaders learn the best lessons in the times of trial.

And what I mean by that is, You know, I mentioned it earlier when I was in my late twenties. I ended up starting and running my own marketing, public affairs agency and was really successful at that. Grew the business, um, really quickly and really large. But the problem was, I, I was young and the financing the business growth to keep up with the demands of the contracts became more than, you know, my husband at the time and my budgetary capabilities.

And we ended up, you know, selling the business off, you know, in our GSA contracts and that type of thing, and, and, Having that real moment of humility and having to let people go and having to know how negatively you were impacting their life and those stressors that you were putting on them. And their vulnerabilities, um, I think is when I became a better leader.

I learned a lot more about empathy and about connecting with my employees and, and how to lead them through uncertain times, um, and, and help rebound in those hard times. And I think that, Dramatically changed me and helped me become a better leader. It was no more just about getting the task done, meeting the business objectives.

It was about purpose and mission and passion and, um, that empathetic connection with every employee that you lead.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you for sharing, uh, sharing your learning across this, uh, journey. Uh, I would now give you a word and I’d love your reaction to it. The first one is leadership.

Allyson Jacobsen: I think leadership is, you know, uh, less about.

The job description or leading people to complete a job. I think leadership is about teaching skills and practices and teaching folks how to. You know, love one another, support one another, you know, drive towards a common goal and mission. It’s about building a culture where a team feels safe to try things right, and to stretch and to grow and, and to fail.

More importantly, and, uh, leadership really is. It’s a complex mixture of emotional intelligence, you know, practical intelligence, common sense. It’s, it’s all of these things wrapped up in one package to help folks grow.

Naji Gehchan: What about women in tech?

Allyson Jacobsen: Women in tech? Is that what you said? I’m sorry. Yes. Um, women in tech.

Gosh, for me, it’s, it’s, um, empowering any woman who loves technology to excel and to grow. It is still unfortunately, you know, balanced as more of a male industry than a female industry. And technology can be. So many things. It can be marketing technology, accounting technology. It can be actual coding and development.

It, it can be so many different things, and I want women to embrace the field and to not be afraid of the field, to have a voice and to, to grow their career if it’s something that they’re passionate about.

Naji Gehchan: Chat g,

Allyson Jacobsen: pt. Oh goodness. Chat G gp. You know, it’s really fascinating. We are starting to use it in a lot of ways in marketing. I’ll tell you just a personal example. Last week I needed to really quickly write a press release and I gave, you know, chat G P t, a couple of cues, and it spit out a press release for me in a matter of seconds.

It wasn’t right. I mean, it wasn’t. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t finished, but oh my goodness. It gave me a framework to really quickly modify and finish a project in. 10 minutes versus what might have taken me an hour to do. Um, I, so I love it. I, I really do love it. I think that there are some awesome opportunities for it.

I think like all ai, we have to interact with the ai, we have to train the AI with the, teach the ai, and it does still take that human. Peace to make it work. So do I think it’s gonna take over the world and eliminate, you know, jobs? No, not so much. But I do think back to that physician example, it’s gonna let us do so much more, um, with the limited number of hours that we have.

So, love it. Love it.

Naji Gehchan: I, I’ve been hearing a lot of stories from marketers actually using it already in, in similar ways as you shared. It’s funny, it’s also, I, I have another story exactly with, uh, with press releases. The last word is spread love in organizations.

Allyson Jacobsen: Oh, spread love in organizations. Oh, it’s so important.

We, you know, we live in a time where people are moving so fast and the race to succeed and to beat our competitors and to pivot. Um, it can be stressful, it can be scary, and. Again, it plays on those employees vulnerabilities. And I, I just love to turn that upside down. I love to, you know, inspire the employees, let them drive to achieve the company’s mission and objectives.

Um, to be empathetic, to be honest and kind and, um, You know, more importantly, not ask anyone to do something I’m not willing to do myself. So I think, you know, love in organizations is often overlooked. It’s often not really seen as a cultural initiative. Um, but we have to be servant leaders and we have to love on our employees, and we have to be honest to our teams to really.

Maximize their growth and potential, which ultimately means the potential of the organization.

Naji Gehchan: Oh, thank you so much for sharing those, uh, those great words and summary for how to spread genuine care and lead our teams to be themselves, uh, for them to deliver the outcomes. We’re, we’re, we’re here for, uh, the patients in healthcare specifically.

That’s right. Any final, any final word of wisdom, Addison, for healthcare leaders around the world?

Allyson Jacobsen: I, I think for me it’s like you said, never forget your purpose and your passion and why you joined healthcare. Um, that we, we really are on a mission. To solve some of today’s most challenging needs for the patients, and everything has to center around the patients.

Um, so whatever we can do to drive efficiencies or empower clinicians to be able to be better caregivers. That’s why we’re here and that’s our mission. And folks just, you gotta always remember that it’s gotta always remain a passion.

Naji Gehchan: That’s a powerful charge. And thank you so much again, Addison, for being with me today.

Allyson Jacobsen: You’re welcome. I’m, I was so glad to have the conversation. Thank you.

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 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.

Healthcare Catalysts – Gaurav Deshpande

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Healthcare Catalysts - Gaurav Deshpande

Together, different healthcare stakeholders, should join hands, and work to fix healthcare distribution inequities across the world. Those are Gaurav Deshpande’s words of plea for all of us healthcare leaders. After years in clinic, academic and global health, Gaurav is now leading one of the largest non-profits in the world in cleft disease: Operation Smile, helping kids get the surgery and cleft care needed wherever they call home throughout their childhood and adolescence. Access to safe and quality care is a universal human right. Hear Gaurav’s story, his experiences across different geographies, and his leadership beliefs leading teams and helping thousands of children across the globe have a better future.

“We should fix together healthcare distribution inequities for a better world.”

MEET OUR GUEST Gaurav Deshpande Head of Medical Oversight and Safety at Operation Smile.

Gaurav Deshpande is an Experienced healthcare professional with 12 years of clinical, academic, and global health experience. He is currently the Head of Medical Oversight and safety at one of the largest cleft NGOs in the world, Operation Smile.

Gaurav is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at PennState Hershey School of Medicine with several publications in the craniofacial and cleft field.

Gaurav is passionate about global surgery and constantly seeks to bridge the gap between patients and healthcare corporations by helping develop and disseminate high-quality products and therapeutics.


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 Gaurav Deshpande, an Experienced healthcare professional with 12 years of clinical, academic, and global health experience. Gaurav is currently the Head of Medical Oversight and safety at one of the largest cleft NGOs in the world, Operation Smile. He is Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at PennState Hershey school of Medicine with several publications…


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 Gaurav Deshpande, an Experienced healthcare professional with 12 years of clinical, academic, and global health experience. Gaurav is currently the Head of Medical Oversight and safety at one of the largest cleft NGOs in the world, Operation Smile. He is Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at PennState Hershey school of Medicine with several publications in the craniofacial and cleft field. Gaurav is passionate about global surgery and is constantly looking to bridge the gap between patients and healthcare corporations by helping develop and disseminate high quality products and therapeutics.

Gaurav – It’s a pleasure to see you again and have you with me today!

Gaurav Deshpande: Thank you so much, Naji. It’s a pleasure to be on your show. And, um, you know, I’m, I’m very excited, uh, about this, uh, um, this meeting. Thank you so much.

Naji Gehchan: Can you share with us first your story from dental to specifically cleft surgery, MIT Sloan, and now leading medical in one of the largest NGOs?

What’s in between the lines of this inspiring journey?

Gaurav Deshpande: Well, I mean, if I would write, uh, this story, it probably would inspire a Bollywood movie for sure. Um, because, uh, there are so many. Unbelievable events that happen in, in, in, in between all this, um, you know, phases of my life. Um, So I did my orals and Max facial surgery residency in 2010, and I was an assistant professor at one of the teaching hospital in Mumbai.

And there was this opportunity that came in where Operation Smile was doing, uh, a humanitarian, uh, mission, uh, surg, short term surgical program in the northeast part of India Guha, um, which not many people knew. You know, it’s, uh, It was considered a remote area. There was a lot of, um, insurgency problem at that point of time.

Lot of political instability, et cetera. So what’s, you know, not a very great place to go, but, uh, you know, when they came there and started a program with the, with the Ministry of Health, um, and I got to know about it. I, um, Signed on on that program as a, as an observer, because to be honest, I had never ever seen a patient with clef lip and p and you know, this kind of, um, facial differences in my life because all those usually went to the facial plastic surgery department, not as, So I was here, I showed up, I got selected as an observer, and the team leader asked me, how many CLEs have you done have?

How many cliff surgeries have you done? And I was like, you know, should I tell him a few? Or, you know, the devil was pointing me with his trident. But, uh, you know, I, I told him the truth, you know, was I’ve never seen a, a case patient with my life. He was just theoretical article from the books and, you know, you should have seen his expression.

Well, long story shot. Um, I started working with

Naji Gehchan: them. Yes. Sorry for, uh, for stopping you here, but can you share with us a little bit more about clef patients? I’m not sure everyone listening to us who they know

Gaurav Deshpande: about it. Sure. So, uh, so clef lip andal is, um, the most common facial congenital, uh, anomaly, uh, in very technical terms.

Now, let me make it simple. It’s basically, um, you know, when a human being is developing in a mother’s womb, um, There are chances, um, one in 700 times, uh, that that baby would not have a complete union of the facial tissues. So what that leads to is there is, um, you know, like a hole in the pallet or the lip as we see them.

Uh, you know, we probably have seen, uh, people with a scar on their lip. We’re not able to talk clearly, uh, when we speak with them, uh, either on Subway or one of our friends or somebody’s friends. Uh, and as I said, it’s um, you know, the incidents is one in 700, so it’s pretty common, and especially it’s more common in countries, uh uh, who lack.

Resources, you know, whether nutrition is a problem. Uh, healthcare is not very good. Diagnostics are not very good. So, so this is what left mentality is like. It’s, uh, it’s, it’s a condition that we are born with. Uh, so, uh, yeah. So I started working with this gentleman. His name is Alex Campbell. Uh, we became Friends for Life and he, he’s my mentor teacher.

Uh, and I was also inspired by this that I decided to shut down my practice in Mumbai and moved to Guari and work with them at the center. Uh, my wife joined later, after six months, uh, because she was running a clinic and, you know, it was not very easy for her to directly shut it down, but, She came in, she started a dental department there.

Uh, we worked for around four years there. I took care of 16,000 patients. Uh, was, was a, was a great experience for us, not just helping kids, but also to develop our personal careers and life. Um, and then we moved back to Mumbai, started a similar center at a teaching hospital in Mumbai. Stayed the same work for six years with the Ministry of Health, uh, uh, the government of, uh, um, family welfare and uh, and health, um, you know, helped more kids.

And I always wanted to do administration because, you know, when we were running our center, a lot of things we did at that administration. Flavor to it, but we never knew about, like, you know, formally management. You know what it is? I had no clue. Because doctors in medical profession, you know, the problem is they do not, and you, you’re aware of it.

They do not teach us anything about finance. They do not teach anything about economics, accounting, nothing. Right. And it’s so important because doctors in a way are business people. So, um, yeah. Uh, so covid hit, we had to shut down elective surgeries, which is, you know, we only were operating emergency surgeries.

So, um, that gave me an opportunity to appear for the G R e, uh, perform decently well then, uh, apply for, uh, for Sloan. And, you know, luckily got there and pursued, uh, my dream, uh, course.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you for, for sharing this. Uh, I, I, I, I wanna go, let’s start by the end. So, you said your dream course, you talked about administration, uh, and, uh, how, how to lead, you know, organization.

So you, you moved from academia, from clinical surgery, uh, where you were having immediate impact on, uh, majority kids. Um, to now leading a nonprofit organizations more on the admin side, uh, as you described it. Uh, what have you learned through this transition and do you have any advice you can share with those who are thinking about such

Gaurav Deshpande: transitions today?

Yeah, that’s a great question, Naji, and I think it’s very common these days for clinicians to, you know, um, Pursue their dream. Uh, and that may not be surgery. Uh, and you pointed it out correctly, right? When you are operating on a kid, you are impacting that kid and their family. Um, it’s a 45 minute operation.

It’s a, I’m talking about left surgery. It’s a very simple operation, but has such a big impact, right? Uh, I always thought that, you know, Whether it’s a good idea to, to leave this because you see that happiness in the mom’s eyes when you give that, you know, new smile to the child. Um, but then I realize is that okay, this is, surgery is great, it impacts one child at a time.

But what if I pursue this dream of administration and workforce, let’s say Operation Smile. At that time it was not, uh, fixed. But even healthcare companies, even bio, uh, biotech, you know, pharma, uh, any healthcare company would gimme an opportunity to impact larger audience in that amount of time. So I think it was that thought that, you know, the, the, the impact that I would create, Over a larger population in short amount of time.

Uh, that was very pleasing for me. Uh, and, and you know, that gave me inspiration to, to change this field. Uh, and I think the same advice goes to whoever is at this point thinking about it. You know, um, we all are passionate as physicians, um, but we all. Sometimes, uh, are stuck in that idea is that direct patient care is the only way we can impact as physicians.

Um, but I think there are so many other alternatives to that. And you’ve, you’ve been doing that Naji yourself, uh, and we have so many other examples where people have actually impacted a larger population with, you know, uh, in a shorter period of time when they pursue both. And for me actually, um, operation Smile is uh, kind of a dream job as well because I can operate on the medical programs, so I can go as a volunteer and, you know, continue that surgical skills and practice administration.

So, you know, I get to have, enjoy the, uh, uh, both parts of the world. That’s,

Naji Gehchan: that’s great. I’m talking about large impact. It’s just incredible what you’ve been able to do through this journey, and it feels like a full circle now, being in this organization and doing it at that big scale globally.

Gaurav Deshpande: Yes.

Naji Gehchan: I’d love to hear, uh, as you are going through it, and really you’re in the nonprofit with Operation Smiles.

How, how do you see NGO’s role. In the healthcare ecosystem several times, you know, and as you said, so I relate to your, to, to your journey. And also I’m in the biotech biopharma industry. We hear about several partners, but it’s true, nonprofit won’t. It is not one of the first that would come into place, even though it has such a big impact.

And usually unfortunately, with underrepresented or smaller populations or those places, Where healthcare is a need or is a lack. So I’d love to get your thoughts as you’re now a leader in those organizations. How do you see your role as NGOs in the

Gaurav Deshpande: ecosystem? So I feel, uh, naji that nonprofits are like the catalyst to the process.

Uh, they can never be, uh, the sole ingredients. I mean, they could be the sole ingredients of the, um, of the process, but, but to, to make things more efficient, to make things, uh, you know, work favorably. It’s always good to partner, uh, with. Other organizations and that could, that could be governmental organizations, which is very important for nonprofits, uh, given the work that they’re doing.

Uh, and when we work with governments or ministry of of health, um, you know, our work is kind of made simple by them because, you know, they know the lay of the land. Um, many times, you know, we are far into that particular place. So it helps a lot if you’re actually able to partner with the government. Um, you can also.

Uh, partner with corporates. I mean, that, that’s like, um, you know, might sound funny, but, uh, but with the CSR initiatives with companies that have similar vision, you know, like, um, uh, if, if there is, I don’t want to name any particular, uh, organization, but if there is any, any, um, big corporate partner. Who have similar vision, who want to do the same work in that particular area, then you know, we can work with them, uh, in making sure that we have, um, the right elements to the, uh, to the process.

So I think nonprofit is that catalyst. So it brings in the government together, the corporates together, it has its own team, uh, you know, has been doing this for, um, that particular, um, specific job for many, many years. That helps to build the contacts as well. So, um, you know, working together is always the, the best way going forward, uh, especially in the low and low middle income countries because, uh, again, you know, we can impact the lives of many more, um, people by doing so.

Um, talking about Operation smiled specifically. Uh, we’ve always historically been, um, a surgical mission, humanitarian and mission driven organization. Uh, so what we did was we used to form a team and then send them into the, into this countries to, you know, to take, and we had local foundation who would, you know, find these patients who needed the care.

We would go there, operate, give them comprehensive care, and then. You know, the team flies out with a few people staying in the country to take care of the after surgery, um, care. Right? But now we are moving forward towards strengthening the local healthcare system. So our focus now is on education and training.

So whenever we are taking care of children, we are making sure that we are actually harnessing the local. Healthcare, uh, resources like surgery, anesthesia, pediatrics, biomedical, and we give them the necessary training so that they can now start taking care of their own children. Uh, and this is again, done in partnership with either the Ministry of Health, um, large corporations, which for-profit, who help us, you know, in donations in kind cash, uh, which help us to, uh, You know, take care of the pa the patients, take care of the surgery, give them a complete care, not just surgery, which includes dentistry, speech therapy, psychosocial care, et cetera, which is also very important.

Um, so, you know, I dunno whether I was able to answer your question, but, um, uh, long story short, I think it’s the, uh, the non-profit role as a catalyst that is very important in bringing all this partner together and forming that good uh, uh, team. You, you

Naji Gehchan: answered this question and my second one, which was around bridging the gap, uh, it’s one of your passion between patients and corporations, and you, you definitely talked about how you are doing it with your current role.

So let me pivot it to another question that is more personal, um, and talking some m MIT Sloan language, I’d love to hear more about your leadership signature. How do you define it? And how your leadership journey has been going.

Gaurav Deshpande: I think, uh, to define the leadership, uh, in one word, I would, um, say it as, uh, being an empathetic leader is so important.

Um, you know, um, many times we are so engrossed into what we want to do. We’re very focused on achieving our goals. And that point of time, we forget that, you know, there are human beings around us who are also doing the same thing for us. I remember us, uh, I was working with a senior plastic surgeon in India.

He was an American plastic surgeon and spending six months with us at this center, he would operate all day. And in the afternoon when it was lunch, there was no lunchtime. But you know, whenever you finish your surgeries, you come and you have lunch. This gentleman would go and see the patients who are waiting.

And when I was to say, Sam, you know, you should come and have your food. You, you are must be tired. You’ve been working all day. He said, but these kids are also waiting for us all day, so, you know, let me take care of them so that they can have their food and I can have it, have it later. So that kind of empathy, you know, when you see from people, you get so inspired.

And I think, um, uh, Sam Fuller is the name of the gentleman who has taught me that. Uh, and I would never forget, uh, uh, spending six months with him. We are still great friends. Um, Is to care for others, to take them together, you know, join hands. Um, there would be instances where, you know, there would be deadlines, there would be crunch times.

Uh, but I think if you have developed this relationship with your team, um, I think it goes so far, uh, uh, to, to solve the purpose rather than, you know, being, uh, very objective about, about the, uh, the work that we do. So, um, so I think, uh, it’s, it’s a mixture of that, but to, to summarize it, I think being an empathetic leader, um, is so important, uh, in today’s world.

Um, and that’s, that’s all I can say. Uh, and

Naji Gehchan: Guo, you talked about something that might seem obvious, but unfortunately we don’t see it. It’s this empathy to word your patients when you are a healthcare provider. So it, I’m saying obvious because many times you think like, yeah, healthcare providers are built that way, which is, as we both know, not always the case.

And, and then you also talked about empathy towards the people you’re working with. To provide this, this care, or in your nonprofit world to be able to lead and bring even more impact. Uh, do. Do you have any thoughts or stories, especially in Operation Smile as you are leading across cultures across really different countries, how do you think about those really?

I don’t wanna say cross-functional, but really like putting people from different places with a huge diversity to be able to bring an impact in those underserved population. How does the magic work somehow for you to be able to impact, uh, kids’ lives?

Gaurav Deshpande: It’s, it’s such a great question, Naji, because it’s so relevant to us.

Uh, so Operations Mile headquarters, uh, are, is located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Um, And we work in 36 different countries. Each of them have their own foundations. Each of them have their own leaders. So, um, you know, it’s not the way that we can actually direct them to, you know, do things like this. But rather than, you know, respecting the local culture, respecting the local leadership is so important in this case.

And I think the communication is extremely important. Right. Um, Not just the communication, but the way it is communicated is so important. Um, what we do at Operation Smile Headquarters is, you know, uh, our, like a backend support for them. So we encourage the local leadership to take care of their own problems.

And whenever they have any pro any issues that are, you know, um, um, difficult to address, then we are always there with our resources to back them up. So I think the most important point here is to, to respect, uh, the, the local foundations, the local people. Many times what happens is, um, you know, we have the right experience, we have the right knowledge, but we do not know how that right knowledge and right experience can, um, you know, be, uh, of relevance in that local particular region, um, that we are working in.

So I think. Mutual respect to our colleagues from, from the local foundations to the local organization, the local, local companies is very important to get their perspective in rather than having a unilateral decision. Um, we believe in having that dialogue with them and discussing, brainstorming the difficult problems.

Easy ones are, you know, disolve it, we say, awesome, great job. Uh, when there are difficult problems to solve, we all sit together, uh, you know, get their ideas. We do. Definitely give some recommendations from our side, uh, and obviously offer help with other resources that, you know, as a headquarter organization would have.

Um, so I think it’s that combination of respect and good communication, uh, not being, uh, very, uh, direct about, you know, telling them how to do things, but rather getting the ideas from them and then mutually agreeing to what works best in that region. Um, is what is working so well for us. So I’ll give

Naji Gehchan: you now a word and I’ll want your reaction to it.

Okay. The fir, the first one is leadership,

Gaurav Deshpande: um, hard.

The second one is health equity.

Um, we are getting there.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. Do, do you think, so do you feel we’re, we’re striving, do you think we’re getting there? And what is your thoughts? You’re, yeah, but I’d, I’d love you to get your thoughts. You’re obviously working on equitable issues with Claf.

Gaurav Deshpande: Yeah. So, uh, you know, when, uh, during our time at M I t, um, I was, uh, in Healthcare Club and me and three other amazing, uh, individuals we worked with Biogen.

Um, on health equity, the same topic. And that was kind of an eye opener for me. Um, you know, when we were doing our research, the background research is how far we are, but the kind of, um, Excitement that Biogen showed with what our findings were and they implemented what we recommended, which was a big deal.

You know, these are four students from some business school coming and recommending them something. It’s a multi-billion dollar comp corporation, and they actually implementing that was. Such an amazing feeling for all of us. Um, and, you know, that showed us that confidence that, you know, people are really thinking about it.

And we have so many other examples. I’m, I’m probably ignorant about other corporations, but this is my personal example. Uh, same thing is with Operation Smile. Um, you know, as I said, uh, before, uh, the, the core now is. To make sure that we reach to the patients rather than the patient reaching to us. So what we are doing now, our strategy for the next decade is going to, uh, work in a similar fashion, like a cycle tire, right?

Hub and spooks. So what we are doing is now with the local foundations, we are trying to identify hubs which are this big, um, high activity. Academic centers, um, which can, you know, be the source of education, training, service, delivery, care delivery, clinical care delivery. And then we are also trying to find the spokes, which are, you know, well connected to these hubs, but are in the periphery towards the patient.

In doing so, what we are doing is, you know, we are trying to reduce the catastrophic expenses that the patients. Might experience and also make sure that they get the timely care, right. So, uh, instead of sometimes we have seen patients traveling for 16 hours, you know, sitting on a donkey, then riding a boat and sitting on a bus in a train, and then coming to the hospital for care.

And sometimes, you know, it just doesn’t work. The the kid is not, well, he cannot undergo the surgery. He has to go back. So that made us think like if we take that care and go to the patients, they have to just travel for less than two hours. That’s our aim. So whenever they need care, they can immediately go and get in there.

So, you know, that’s the way we are trying to, um, work on getting equitable healthcare to everyone. But again, you know, as I said, there’s, the journey is long, but I’m so glad that whatever my recent experiences are, uh, not just with my current organization but with with several other organizations, is that the journey has started.

We’ll get there. Yeah,

Naji Gehchan: I, I have the same hope. Uh, and I really think as healthcare, as a healthcare leader and all of us, uh, healthcare leaders, it’s just the right thing to do. We cannot be healthcare leaders and not think and act on health equity. And the example you gave is such a powerful example on, you know, thinking about the holistic experience, not only providing care, but actually for some patients, the journey for them literally.

To get to a center and get care or even what, what are the resources they have to be able to get and uh, and have care is, is so important. Thanks for sharing this. The third word is Sloan

Gaurav Deshpande: Fellows. Uh, the best possible, uh, the course. If you want to change to administration, um, I really enjoyed the, the experience, um, just because, you know, it’s in the, in such a, a unique kind of offering, right?

It’s not mba, it’s not executive, it’s a mixture of both and that makes it so special. So, you know, you spend time with young, very, uh, energetic. Folks from the, the regular two year mba. You also spend time with the senior leaders who are currently working. And then you have yourself a cohort, um, who are accomplished managers, uh, you know, with 12, 15, 20 years of experience themselves.

So I think it’s kind of the most unique experience that I, I you could imagine, um, Plus it’s m i t, it’s the kind of, um, you know, the, uh, the resources that just come with that name. Um, I always thought I was well traveled. I always thought that, you know, I’ve done fellowships at, uh, international universities, uh, I’ve done clinical rotations there, and I thought, oh yeah, well, I’ve seen the world.

When I came here, I realized I was living in a big pond, you know, uh, and. That was just an eye-opener for me. The kind of things I took away. The, the kind of people I met, the friends I I I made, uh, is just amazing. Um, and, uh, you know, there’s so much, um, positive energy that I took from there. So much positive learnings that I took from there, which are gonna be lifelong for me.

Yeah. So, uh, in one word it was amazing and, um, you know, a life-changing experience for sure. I, I was so

Naji Gehchan: afraid when you said the young mba, how you’re gonna describe, uh, the exec mba. So I don’t know how to take senior. It’s not all that please, but, uh, yeah. Okay. I, I take that the, the last word is spread love in organizations.

Gaurav Deshpande: Um, very needed. Um, and, um, let’s, you know, let’s do it together. Uh, that’s, uh, that’s a wonderful feeling, you know, when you, uh, give a compliment to your coworker, uh, when you just, you know, give them that encouragement when they are really down, um, when you, you know, in simple ways, very, very simple ways.

Show your appreciation. And the kind of, you know, impact that it makes on them is so huge. Um, you know, we’ve all, all heard and we have all, uh, in various fields have experienced toxic culture. We have also been lucky where we have found that one or two, or three or four, uh, coworkers who have been completely opposite, very positive, very optimistic, you know, full of love.

And we all agree that our. Uh, output. Our efficiency is the, is very high when we are actually working with these, uh, individuals who are positive. You know who, who mean love, who, um, you know, I keep using this word too often. Empathetic. Uh, it’s so important in my life and I’ve, uh, seen how it benefits. Um, so I mean, I am, whoever is listening, I can just request them.

You know, it’s a very simple, um, Uh, thing to do is just to, you know, be kind, be, um, uh, empathetic towards your, um, your colleagues. Make sure that, you know, you see their side of it. Sometimes, you know, we are, as I said, we are very focused on our outcomes and we do not see that, okay, this person is also human being.

May he also has a family, may have some issues, but when we start thinking holistically about all those things, I think, um, you know, just not. Um, better humans, but also better managers. So I, I sincerely hope that, you know, in the next decade or so we’ll be in a different place.


Naji Gehchan: final word of wisdom, uh, gu for healthcare leaders

Gaurav Deshpande: around the world? Uh, well, I mean, I, um, I have been very, um, honored to, to have, um, see and experienced, uh, different styles of healthcare leaders. Um, and the only thing I would, um, you know, um, suggest, I mean, I, I’m not sure whether I even have, uh, that position to, to recommend, but, uh, what I could just suggest from my end, the small experience that I have is, um, You know, there is so much need in the world.

There are millions of people who, who lack access to, uh, safe care, safe clinical care, uh, safe medicines, you know, safe diagnostics, and, you know, we are losing precious lives because of that difference. In the distribution. Uh, so my humble request to all the healthcare readers in whichever field, you know, they are, is if we can work together and think about this inequity in the distribution and make sure that, you know, we work towards that, uh, we make sure that, you know, we have the resources that we can, we can distribute it around the world where it’s most needed.

Um, I think that would. Be very helpful, you know, to humanity and, um, uh, in general, uh, it’ll be very, very impactful. So that’s, that’s the humble request to everyone. That is such

Naji Gehchan: an important, uh, issue and topic that needs to be addressed. Thank you so much, uh, again, for being with me today and for this incredible chat.

Gaurav Deshpande: Thank you so much, Naji. Um, you know, uh, you and. An inspiration for me. I’ve learned a lot from you, uh, with our short chats during Sloan as well. So thank you for this lovely endeavor that you’re doing. I, I follow it very keenly. Um, you know, and so many fabulous, uh, leaders that you’ve, uh, you know, spoken to in the past.

And I’m, I feel lucky and honored, uh, that you thought of me. Thank you so much.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much. Your words mean a lot. We’re, we’re so many leaders more than a hundred now, who are definitely striving to make life better around the world by leading from a place of love, and you’re one of them. It’s been an honor to have you, Gaurav Thank you.

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 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.

Innovation For Access – Jami Taylor

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Innovation For Access - Jami Taylor

This episode is in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the healthcare ecosystem together. We sat with Jami Taylor, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Protagonist Therapeutics and a global Justice Fellow at Yale University to talk about Accessibility in a Global Health Setting. It starts with courageous and tenacious leadership, leaders who believe we can do something about it, think of innovation for access, advocate, and think of affordability as they build new life-saving treatments for patients. Hear Jami’s story, and her incredible experiences bringing accessibility to patients and striving for global justice. For Jami, Spreading Love in Organizations opens the floodgates to progress for a healthy equitable world.

“Spreading love opens the floodgates to progress

MEET OUR GUEST Jami Taylor Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Protagonist Therapeutics.

Jami Taylor is Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Protagonist Therapeutics, and a Global Justice Fellow at Yale University, working to design new models to improve access to medicines in the world’s poorest and most challenging settings.

Earlier in her career, Jami held global leadership roles at Johnson & Johnson across key divisions and was a founding member of Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health. Jami has served as a member of the National Academy of Medicine Forum on Microbial Threats; the Private Sector Delegation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; the Chairman’s Circle at the Center for Global Development; the Global Health Advisory Council at Harvard Medical School; and on many other committees and forums addressing priority issues in medicine and society.

In 2014, Jami was named a Cross-Sector Leadership Fellow at the Presidio Institute, a program created by the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation to advance the work of leaders addressing society’s most complex challenges.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this special episode in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the Healthcare Ecosystem Together. Jami Taylor is joining me today for this episode. Jami is Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Protagonist Therapeutics, and a Global Justice Fellow at Yale University, working to design new models to improve access to…


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this special episode in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the Healthcare Ecosystem Together.

Jami Taylor is joining me today for this episode. Jami is Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Protagonist Therapeutics, and a Global Justice Fellow at Yale University, working to design new models to improve access to medicines in the world’s poorest and most challenging settings. Earlier in her career, Jami held global leadership roles at Johnson & Johnson across key divisions and was a founding member of Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health. Jami has served as a member of the National Academy of Medicine Forum on Microbial Threats; the Private Sector Delegation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; the Chairman’s Circle at the Center for Global Development; the Global Health Advisory Council at Harvard Medical School; and on many other committees and forums addressing priority issues in medicine and society. In 2014, Jami was named a Cross-Sector Leadership Fellow at the Presidio Institute, a program created by the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation to advance the work of leaders addressing society’s most complex challenges.

Jami – it is such an honor to have you with me today!

Jami Taylor: Thank you so much for having me, Naji. It’s great to be here.

Naji Gehchan: Before we dive into accessibility in a global health setting, which was the topic, uh, of your panel at, um, S H B C, I’m eager to hear a little bit more about your personal story. What brought you to healthcare and this inspiring journey of impacts you have.

Jami Taylor: Sure. I’d love to recount it. It, um, it’s something that I reflect upon a lot really. It’s the tension between innovation and access that’s defined my career and in many ways my own personal life and even my childhood. I grew up in Washington, DC and both of my parents worked on key legislation affecting the business model of the pharmaceutical industry, namely the Orphan Drug Act, and later Hatch Waxman known for really creating that split.

Between the innovator industry and the generic drug industry, which really defined that tension between innovation and access, and in some ways defined responsibilities between those two sides of a coin, so to speak. And so the innovator industry was. Tasked really with the work of innovation, uh, and the work of r and d and investments therein, whereas the generic industry was seen as sort of taking the baton on access after a particular IP period had expired.

And I think there was a satisfaction with this model, despite all the tension that remained within it for a long period of time. But ultimately, when we think it globally, and think about how the models played out. It’s fair to say that there are imperfections in it and the waiting period between the, the innovation as it comes forward.

And the medical sphere and accessibility, especially when we think about the world’s po poorest and most remote communities. It um, it strikes me that there, it always struck me that there were solutions that needed to come to the fore more quickly. And thinking about that sense of urgency, my childhood was really incubated in the crucible of the H I V crisis in the us.

I had an uncle who contracted h i v via blood transfusion in the early 1980s, and that sense of urgency and real desperation for innovation and for access was very much, uh, formative as I observed that as a child, and it imprinted itself upon me that experience. You know, well after his death many years later and is really a guiding light for me when I think about and knew that desperation at the time as it was experienced by my family.

And then now that I’ve traveled the world and spent a great deal of time in frontier and emerging markets and communities and all kinds of situations socioeconomically and other, economically and otherwise, you know, seeing that desperation as it manifests its itself. In many different contexts across many different disease states really drives my passion for expanding both innovation and access and looking for ways to innovate for access in the context of the innovator industry in which I now sit.

Thank you so

Naji Gehchan: much, Jamie, for sharing part of your story. Uh, let’s first, uh, talk about ACC access, right? You shared about accessibility and healthcare specifically. Can you share with us, how do you define this?

Jami Taylor: So, I define access, uh, pretty broadly. I use the term healthcare everywhere. I think healthcare really should be something that is integrated into every aspects of our lives.

Healthcare treatments within arms reach the ability to access physicians or train healthcare providers within a moment of need whenever that moment might arise. Thinking about healthcare very expansively and very ubiquitously helps us, I think, to set the mindset around access that we need to then drive innovation for access.

So if we

Naji Gehchan: take this into a global health setting, as was the panel, uh, discussion during the conference, uh, what are your thoughts, uh, as of today about ACC access accessibility in global

Jami Taylor: health setting? I think we remain in an urgent state where access falls far beneath the levels at which it should.

When we think about healthcare everywhere as a goal, as an ultimate aim, we fall far short of that. And I think obviously the recent pandemic laid bare many of those inequities, but those inequities. Are constant and I think we find too much satisfaction in the status quo. I, for example, find it completely unacceptable even when we’re able to scale old and toxic drugs and this sort of self-congratulation that accompanies that often on the part of, of, of companies in the industry.

It, it’s, Always important to scale. I mean every possible medication, but where we allow these sort of waiting games that I referenced prior and where we tolerate the absence of innovation, where unmet need is so clear and urgent. I just truly believe that there’s more that we can do and that sense of dissatisfaction is very much a driving force in, in my day-to-day work.

Naji Gehchan: So I love that you talked about dissatisfaction more we can do, and you really come from this, uh, place of, uh, urgency to ask, right? With the desperation that you shared. So can I double click on this and hear from you? What do you think we can do and we should do to improve accessibility?

Jami Taylor: Oh, absolutely.

Well, I mean, I could probably spend all day, you know, you know, a relative soapbox on this one, but I’ll just offer some perspectives just based on my own experience. One, it starts with the belief that we can do something about it. I know that’s many times, especially sitting in the pharmaceutical industry, we feel really almost straight jacketed by.

The systems in which we operate. There are legal frameworks, regulatory frameworks. There are just business models that in some ways have so deeply entrenched the status quo that I described, that it drives that sense of. Complacency around access to medicines. Uh, we’ve heard many times, at least in past years, even top leaders in the pharmaceutical industry accept that sort of bifurcation of responsibility that I mentioned, which I believe is a false dichotomy.

Innovation versus access with. Really generic industries responsible for access. I think we’re all responsible for access and frankly, I think we’re all responsible for innovation. And so driving an innovation for access MI mindset, grounded in that sense that we can do better. There’s, there are gaps that we can fill.

The status quo is not necessarily where we need to remain. I think there’s, I think it begins there. I feel very strongly that even. Where we feel like those deeply entrenched business models are, you know, sometimes insurmountable. There’s a role for advocacy and that can happen not only outside of our organization and the context of the policy and legal frameworks and regulatory frameworks that I mentioned, but it can happen in inside even large organizations and even small cap companies like where I sit, we can ad advocate for investment.

That has innovation and access as twin concepts and as pillars and priorities for how we allocate r and d dollars. We can advocate with our benefactors and shareholders for those who invest in our companies, we can push for an innovation for access mindset. And I’ve seen that kind of advocacy where it’s built upon, I think genuine intent.

And then of course, certain capabilities that can un unlock and realize a goal. I’ve seen that kind of advocacy really move mountains. Uh, early in my career, I worked with a group, kind of a ragtag group within Johnson and Johnson at the time. There was an attempt within j and j to turn around the pharmaceutical sector of the company, which wasn’t its high performing sector in the early two thousands.

And there was a huge profit margin imperative. A massive transformational INF innovation imperative, but less so at the time, an access imperative. And this was an observation that a few of my colleagues and I recognized. And so what we did was we created on our own an access and affordability team. It had three people, actually four, but one defected very quickly when he realized maybe this was radioactive from an internal political perspective.

But we, we began to really advocate around this idea of access and affordability and building into the priorities and the strategic, strategic pillars at a really critical time for the, for the company in this particular segment of the company. You know, at the looking back, it really was a risk in many ways, but in some ways we were seizing upon an opportunity of the moment where there was this appetite to shift a whole collection of innovators.

And it was a time when. Jansen, which is com comprises the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson and Johnson, was really begin to getting to brand itself and really understand itself as a single entity underneath the Johnson and Johnson umbrella. We seized upon, uh, a lonely asset that had been a development very quietly in our labs in Belgium for, uh, that appear to be very clearly effective against multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

Certainly that would not be, uh, a sort of, Big win blockbuster by any stretch, but we were able to really craft a narrative thinking about the ad advocacy angle as entrepreneurs where we were able to elevate this M D R T B asset as a driver of business model innovation a means of. Reaching communities and driving new access models that could help support our, our aims in terms of global expansion across the company’s portfolio of products and where we could push and test these new models.

In what, what, because there was no real profit to be had. That where we could test these models in ways that would confer reputational, gain, help to build rapport within new markets or markets where we had a lower footprint and where we could, where we could develop relationships and new public-private partnerships with governments in ways that constituted its own sort of innovative model.

That kind of advocacy proved to be very, very powerful, and I’m proud to say. That despite lots of obstacles along the way and a huge amount of internal and external skepticism, because we believed it was possible because we brought a mindset that said, access and affordability is a priority, and innovation for access is a meaningful direction.

Even for a major company with all of its pressures from shareholders and other stakeholders, we were able to, at this point save many, many thousands of lives around the world to prove out and new treatment regimen for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and potentially TB more broadly. And we were able to, uh, elevate what has now become from a three person team, what has now become many hundreds of people engaged in the formal work of global public health within that organization.

Naji Gehchan: Wow. Thank you so much, uh, Jamie for sharing this, and I love it. It’s a concrete example with impact, uh, that, that you’re sharing here and along with a lot of entrepreneurship that you know, I believe in. And obviously you’ve done it in, in large organizations, uh, and you talked about. I love how you framed it.

It’s belief innovation and access advocacy, and there’s the piece of access and affordability. So if I wanna double click on affordability, you know, especially in the poorest and most challenging places on earth, do you think cost is the only challenge? Or is, is it one challenge and there’s other pieces?

I’d love to get your perspective about how you think, uh, through affordability for the poorest spaces on earth.

Jami Taylor: One, I believe in models like the Global Fund to fight aids, TB, and malaria, where there’s. The opportunity to collect funds together in sort of a massive way even, and use that as a driver of effectively subsidizing costs for access as a priority for communities that otherwise could not afford innovative medicines or even generic medicines for that matter.

So there’s, there are models out there that I think offer us real guiding lights. But if, but as, as I’ll probably say through, through the course of this whole discussion, there’s more that we can do, right? We can never be satisfied as long as healthcare isn’t everywhere. And so to that end, one of the, one of the observations that I’ve made, you know, climbing mountains and Rwanda and, and trudging through, you know, banana plantations and Ecuador and really moving in lots of places in between.

Touring hosp TV hospitals in Chenai India. One observation has been this sense of absorptive capacity, where you have limited infrastructure. How can you bring some of our most sophisticated technologies to the market to really, uh, achieve the health health outcomes that you’re seeking everywhere. And that’s where that real innovation for access mindset can come in.

And where we can make palpable gains in that direction, we can obviate the need for heavy infrastructure for that so-called absorptive capacity. And one example is it comes from the company where I am right now, protagonist Therapeutics. It’s a moonshot company really taking areas of medicine or disease areas that are typically treated through heavy infrastructure treatment modalities.

Doctor’s, office based infusions, for example, of monoclonal antibody bio, large molecule biologic drugs. There are, um, diseases that are treated as first line with phlebotomy, for example. Where patients have to go in and have complic, it’s sometimes complicated procedures carried out, or even simple procedures are out of reach in some of these markets.

And so where you can look at those barriers and ask, how can we traverse those barriers through the power of technological innovation, harnessing a lot of human ingenuity along the way, that kind of creativity coming down to new drug formulations, new drugs that can. That can essentially displace and replace heavy infrastructure.

That’s the aim of the work that I’m engaged in right now. Really excited about the gains that we can make in that direction. Helping to solve for last mile problems and helping to keep some of these communities where. I mean even, uh, an an in reach healthcare clinic is out of reach. Putting ourselves in a position where we can scale medical therapy that can be used conveniently at home and preferably in pill form or even, or in long-acting injectable form or some way that keeps patients from having to go into, into experts to receive expensive medicines.

I think that innovation for access. Perspective and companies built around. It will really define the age of access, which I hope is very much upon us. So,

Naji Gehchan: Jamie, the, these are great example and really thanks for sharing what you’re doing daily, obviously to improve this, uh, this important, uh, issue we face, uh, since decades.

I, I wanna bring also this, you know, there’s the access piece. There is also a lot on the trust. Of the system, the trust of those companies. Um, everything around, you know, misinformation, miscommunication, which is becoming like even countries that can afford treatments. Unfortunately, we’re seeing people dying because they don’t believe in those treatments.

So I’d love to get your perspective, how you would, especially that you’ve gone through places, uh, that are underserved, uh, you know, countries where you have. Poor challenge to access. How do you see this fit in and how can we solve also this piece? Is it only about getting those drugs, for example, to this market or to this population?

Or is there more to be done also from, from a trust, from a communication standpoint, from any other aspect you, you think would be needed for us to solve this problem?

Jami Taylor: Naji, this is such a great question and I really appreciate it. It almost brings me to a very vulnerable place, reflecting upon the case study that I shared around M D R T B and the work that we did to bring Baklan now under the brand name curo to markets all across the world.

We really believed, I think, in our naivete that the moment we received F D A approval and were able to unlock that access to this drug, And given that, of course, that this was the first innovation in tuberculosis in more than 40 years, that there would be this organic outpouring of praise and celebration and uptake that we would be embraced as a company, that the drug would be embraced quickly across every community where it was needed, that we would have partners pouring out their own resources to, to support and shore up, and scale up all of that effort.

We were very surprised and frankly, at a personal level, I was very. I mean shocked and, and hurt at the time when we actually received quite a bit of criticism with the rollout of the drug. Much, much of that criticism looking back, was well placed. I mean, we struggled with the pricing model and attempted to be as innovative as possible and the pricing model around what we called equity-based tiered pricing.

But we did a really poor job of explaining the rationale there, and it almost looked like we were placing artificial limits on access. We’re trying to force a pricing model. Uh, in, in markets that where we hadn’t primed it, so to speak, we hadn’t done the work of patient intimacy in achieving that, that sort of deep listening to your customer to know all of the hurdles that they face, we were so engaged with the biology of the drug and, you know, understanding how it operated, you know, in that sort of physiological sense.

And so proud of that, that there was a lot of community engagement. That needed to happen pre-approval that we just didn’t even perceive as a requirement. And so when criticism came in, and I should say there it, there was that sort of organic that that slice of organic celebration, but there was also a fair amount of criticism in print and otherwise we took it very, very hard.

But in ways, in some ways, I’m glad that we did because. We taking that criticism so seriously, really prompt us, prompted us to reflect and reset and understand community engagement, stakeholder engagement at a whole new level. And from there, I think we were able to set a foundation for what would later become, as I mentioned, Johnson and Johnson Global Public Health set a foundation of intensive partnerships.

Intensive government engagement, intensive community engagement. We began to dispatch our teams into some of the most far flung areas of the world. We were camping with hippos in Uganda. We were touring hospitals, as I mentioned, TB hospitals throughout Southeast Asia. We were really beginning to understand the settings in which we were working.

Well beyond what our preclinical work in Petri dishes could indicate for us. And it takes both. It takes that scientific excellence, but also that stakeholder engagement excellence. And that’s really the lesson from that case study and certainly a lesson that informs so much of the work that I do today.

Naji Gehchan: That’s great. And really talking about this combination about science and underground, what people need in population. We’ve heard it several times during, during the discussion, uh, in the conference. W w with all that you’ve seen, you’re learning, you’re an expert in this field now. Uh, are you hopeful for the next decade that we will get there as a society?

Jami Taylor: I’m hugely hopeful. In fact, I’m, you know, with this sort of driving understanding that there’s so much more that we can do. I think that perspective helps to unlock a huge amount of optimism. On the research side, we’re seeing accelerating drivers of new research. New research timelines effectively where r and d can be compressed so that we’re not waiting 20 years for a drug to come to market, but rather through the strength of new regulatory pathways and certainly even new discovery modalities and lots of new tech being applied across the board.

I think we’re seeing our ability to move from bench to bedside. With a whole new, I mean, to use a term that’s become its own catchphrase, warp speed, and I want to see that, as I’m sure you do, and many in the audience here want to see that applied to the access space and the innovation for access space.

I think we’re seeing lots of other factors outside of healthcare proper that are coming into view, transportation and logistics, innovations that from drone delivery, for example, and, and so forth. Those innovations are helping us to traverse that last mile, which for many years just felt like was, it was such a firm barrier to access that we would never jump over it.

But by engaging some of those other actors in that space, we’re seeing some whole new ways of getting healthcare. Everywhere. We’re also seeing, uh, remote monitoring and telemedicine taking hold all across the world. I mean, even for some of the momentary quarterly earnings calls that suggest a decline in the usage thereof, maybe here in the US or other high income markets in in low and middle income markets, it is taking off like wildfire in ways that are very encouraging and hopefully we can continue to stoke that momentum.

We’re also seeing non-traditional actors, like I mentioned, like tech companies, seeing some of these longstanding gaps and creatively considering ways that they could help to fill those gaps in equity. And I think there are some powerful roles that some of those actors can play in ways that, uh, will emerge the benefit of, of everyone across the world.

I’m thrilled with the level of innovation that we’re seeing right now in diagnostics. I remember years ago listening to the president of Tanzania saying that the crippling aspect with of healthcare, the weakest link within their healthcare system there in Tanzania was lack of reliable and accurate diagnostics and access to diagnostics.

And here we’re seeing tests that are now reliable, accurate, and diffused. Everywhere and the power of some of those, those, those, the MedTech innovations that I mentioned to carry diagnostics forward at new levels across all kinds of disease areas. So absolutely thrilled about that. I think we’re seeing.

If not with the warming of the capital markets to this direction, we are seeing a lot of innovators jump into innovation for access. With access as an explicit priority for an innovation agenda among small cap players, your garage biotechs, some of your publicly traded biotechs, and I think we’re seeing large pharma really begin to set the tone.

I think. The industry is an entirely different place from a values point of view and how those values are expressed. When we think about, say, 1999, big pharma versus the large pharma actors today, and we see increasing evidence of this access imperative. All the time. And that advocacy within those organizations and outside of them can continue in ways that I think will really, truly bring us a new golden age of biomedical innovation, innovation for access, and will help to realize this vision of healthcare everywhere.

And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. I will shift

Naji Gehchan: gears now and give you words, and I would love your reaction to it. Okay, great. So the first one is leadership


Jami Taylor: Can you share, so a word, a word back, or

Naji Gehchan: I, I have to get Oh, yeah, you can, you can share more if you’d like. And, and I’m, especially when you talked about the values we have in biotech and in pharma, I think obviously leadership plays a big role on setting the tone and how you wanna drive this. So I’d love a little bit

Jami Taylor: more on this.

Oh, absolutely. Okay, good. Well, I’m glad you’re giving me more room too, to sort of opine. So, in leadership, I think there’s, there. Is something so powerful about that sort of fixed firm value system and how it evidences itself in every aspect of a of a, of a company or a movement. And I’ve seen that certainly in the case of Johnson and Johnson, where we were able to appeal to the fundamental credo values that hang on every wall in which are etched in stone at the company’s headquarters.

Think when it comes to leadership, there’s always something courageous about the best kind of leadership. And I mentioned early in our conversation all of these barriers that are deeply entrenched and systemic, right? I mean, where you’ve got, I. Uh, high regulatory bars to that, that dictate large timelines and large co or long timelines and large costs.

Takes a lot of courage to have a vision that’s often many years out. And to see that vision through many, uh, innovators today face, uh, lot of, uh, let’s just say heavy input. From investors, uh, the investors upon which they depend in order to carry out some of this, you know, more moonshot oriented work and sometimes, uh, whether it’s it, it’s shareholders of publicly traded company or early stage BC investors, what you find is that they can place pressure on you to adhere.

To the system as it stands and not to try to go against the grain in ways that, uh, potentially imbue more risk in the enterprise. And so leadership requires that courage and then that tenacity to see things through and to see a bigger vision through. And I think where the, where a vision can be expressed in ways that are deeply connected to values, then you can have the success of advocacy that we’ve discussed.

What about

Naji Gehchan: health equity?

Jami Taylor: I’m so glad we’re talking about health equity because, uh, years ago there really was almost wasn’t a place or a forum or even a, a, a phrase to really capture, uh, Inequality as it’s, it’s very clearly evidenced, uh, across either the healthcare access sphere, whether it’s in communities here in the US or, you know, certainly as those inequalities are present on a global basis.

And so simply the fact that we’re able to talk about health equity as this clear phrase and one that is familiar to probably everyone listening, I think it represents a leap forward in the dialogue that really governs the industry and where it should go. We talked about large cap pharma and MedTech companies, really setting the tone and leadership, setting the tone.

When I think about health equity today, I’m extremely encouraged and really enthusiastic over the number of CEOs that we see emphasizing health equity as a priority, and we see it not only in sort of you, I always worry about sort of glitzy social media posts or what I call the red carpet. The red carpeting of, you know, some of the, um, you know, some of the priorities that we’d like to see, you know, much more substantially connected to business models.

But we see health equity now connected to business models, and that’s evidenced in earnings call transcripts and, and. And the way organizations are being designed right now and the way leadership is being constructed across some of your largest healthcare players. And so I’m very enthusiastic about healthcare equity.

I’m, I’m extremely glad that it’s become such a familiar catchphrase and I believe that it is really is one that has teeth and will for the long term, and will be a driving force, you know, as it is a driving priority right now for many leaders of companies, large and small. Global justice. Okay. I love this word because it’s much more expansive than healthcare.

I love this phrase, global justice. I mean, we talked about some of the fundamental sort of framing tools that can help to give us the lens. That can situate a value system around healthcare access, and that can help to orient innovations and allocation of resources toward innovation for access. Global justice is almost even deeper than everything that we’ve talked about here and certainly much more expansive as a frame.

It suggests that there is something wrong with lack of access. To medicines and it does so, or it prompts us to consider that conclusion in ways that force self-reflection as across especially high income countries that are in many and, and markets and players that are in many ways responsible or at least partly responsible for injustice as it applies to healthcare.

And it’s, you know, in a world of a lot of moral relat, and I’ll certainly, you know, concede that everyone can have different views thinking about healthcare through a lens of global justice. I think it just hits deeper and it prompts us to think harder and it really raises that sense of urgency for moral reasons that I think cascade.

Across many different actors at many different levels within the healthcare ecosystem, and I hope that that justice lens can come more firmly fixed into the collection of lenses that we use to explore access to healthcare challenges going forward. I

Naji Gehchan: certainly, uh, deeply agree with you on, on this piece, and coming from a country where w we felt injustice, where even being in the US in a country where depending on the community or on you feel there is no justice and healthcare is delivered.

So it’s, it’s really, I think, a great point on how you’re framing it. The last word is spread love in organizations.

Jami Taylor: So Naji, I love this because in some ways it’s the thread. Looking back through our whole conversation. Yeah, that really opens, I would almost say doors, but I think that’s too modest. It really opens the floodgates to progress in this area. We talked about stakeholder engagement and patient intimacy. And I mean, I’m almost emotional reflecting on some of the moments where I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with patients who have multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, patients suffering from severe head and neck cancers and places like, like Uganda.

Without access to any kind of sophisticated care and the pain that they have to sit with is so powerful. And in those moments, sometimes it feels like love becomes its own medicinal force, but also this driver to bring. Medicines and tools and resources and expertise to really conquer these issues. It prompts us this sort of spread love approach prompts us to relieve suffering.

And I think that’s what love entails so much. And I think that’s the essence of compassion, which is the essence of access to healthcare, access to medicines. And I’m glad you reminded me of that today.

Naji Gehchan: Oh, thank you. Thank you, Jamie, for sharing those, um, those moments that you’ve lived a and I think we all have this, um, this responsibility as leaders in healthcare to ensure a better just word in in healthcare.

Any final words of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world?

Jami Taylor: I really believe that we are on the cusp of this healthcare everywhere era. I believe that we are entering a whole new era of biomedical innovation that’s ed up by. All these different factors that I mentioned. Diffusion of diagnostics, the leaps forward, innovation in transportation and logistics. The entry into the space of new tech players and MO technology modalities that can infuse with our work, whether it be on the r and d side or the access side and everywhere in between to really accelerate our progress.

I think it really just takes a pre. Prioritization of innovation for access, with access as an explicit priority of the work we do to drive new medicines. Technologies, medical care approaches forward. And as we think about speed and scale, as has been many times discussed in the context of climate, as we think of speed and scale in the context of healthcare access, and as we take that bigger lens of global justice and the even.

Bigger lens that you’ve mentioned here of really love, compassion, and relief of suffering. There’s no stopping us. I really believe the sky’s the limit as an innovative community and as a community of leaders in the healthcare space today.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much, Jamie, for being with me today.

Jami Taylor: Oh, I was thrilled. Thank you so much, Naji. I really appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spreadlove in Organizations podcast! More episodes summarizing the MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference are available on or on your preferred streaming app. Follow “spreadlove in organizations” wherever you listen to podcasts and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement our World so desperately needs.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spread Love in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform

Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on 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.

Do The Right Thing – Assaad Sayah

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Do The Right Thing - Assaad Sayah

This episode is in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the healthcare ecosystem together. We sat with Dr. Assaad Sayah CEO of Cambridge Health Alliance and discussed his personal story, his leadership beliefs, and the “Value-Based Care”, topic of his panel at the conference. Value = Quality / Cost, this is the way to think about value-based care; it has to be of great quality with the best patient experience at a contained cost. Health equity in this context is key. We need first of all to be in the underserved communities and be thoughtful, and purposeful about addressing their needs to narrow equities gaps. For Assaad, leadership is about providing the space for people to do the work, it is about trust, clarity, transparency, and accountability. The ultimate success of a “care delivery system” is for it to disappear because we worked on education, prevention, and screening for the community to remain healthy.

“Provide the space for people to do the work

MEET OUR GUEST Assaad Sayah Chief Executive Officer Cambridge Health Alliance.

Dr. Assaad Sayah, President and CEO of Cambridge Health Alliance. Assaad was named CHA’s President and CEO in January 2020 after serving as the interim CEO since June 2019 and Chief Medical Officer since 2013.

Before that, Assaad served as the chief of emergency medicine and Senior Vice President of Primary Care. In the Emergency Department, he led tremendous advancements at all three CHA hospitals, resulting in enhanced efficiency, quality, volume, and patient satisfaction. He spearheaded primary care growth by more than 50 percent, expanding CHA’s access in underserved communities and integrating primary care and behavioral health services and systems to address social determinants of health. Assaad also plays a key role in CHA’s commitment to the communities it serves, including his tenure as the co-chair of the Cambridge City Manager’s Opioid Working Group established in 2018 to develop recommendations for strengthening the city’s response to the opioid epidemic.

Additionally, Assaad is Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. His research and publications focus on operational efficiency, improving the clinical environment, and patient experience of care.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this special episode in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the Healthcare Ecosystem Together. I am joined today Assaad Sayah, President and CEO of Cambridge Health Alliance. Assaad was named CHA’s President and CEO in January 2020 after serving as the interim CEO since June 2019 and chief medical officer…

The Eternal Optimist – Andrew Plump

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
The Eternal Optimist - Andrew Plump

This episode is in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the healthcare ecosystem together. We sat with Andy Plump, President of R&D and Board Member at Takeda, and discussed his personal story, his leadership beliefs, and the “Challenges in Scaling Biotech Innovation” the topic of his panel at the conference. Hear his thoughts on the current and next decades of innovation, “will it be the decades of Life Science or Computer Science?” Most importantly, Andy leaves us with a message of hope. Every dark period in history anchored on the triad of war, pandemic, and social injustice has ended with greatness through science… We are on the edge of this, again, now.

“This decade will be remembered for Life Science or Computer Science… The potential is limitless.

MEET OUR GUEST Andrew Plump President of Research & Development and Board Member at Takeda.

Dr. Andrew Plum is the President of Research & Development and a Board Member at Takeda. His career spans nearly 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry and academia.

Andy has been recognized for his contributions to the healthcare industry, education, and the arts. He serves on several non-profit boards including the Board of Trustees for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation, the Biomedical Science Careers Program, and as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the PhRMA Foundation.

Prior to Takeda, Andrew served as head of Research & Translational Medicine, deputy to the president of R&D at Sanofi, based in Paris, France. Prior to Sanofi, he served as worldwide cardiovascular research head at Merck.

Andy received his M.D. from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), his Ph.D. in cardiovascular genetics, and his B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in medical genetics at UCSF.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this special episode in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the Healthcare Ecosystem Together. I am joined today Andrew Plump President of Research & Development and Board Member at Takeda. His career spans nearly 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry and academia. Andrew has been recognized for his contributions to…


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 today, excited to be joined by Enrique Conterno CEO of Fibrogen. 

A native of Peru, Enrique is a mechanical engineering with an MBA from Duke. He joined Eli Lilly in 1992 and spent the next two decades working in the U.S. and internationally across sales, marketing, finance, business development, and general management roles. Enrique became the President of Lilly Diabetes in 2009. In addition to those responsibilities, he took on the role of President of Lilly USA in January 2017 before retiring at the end of 2019 after 27 years of service with the company. I had the privilege and chance to work in Enrique’s teams, learn from his leadership, and grow in the culture he has created.

Enrique – I am so honored to have you with me today!

I would love to learn more about your personal journey? What is in between the line of the incredibly successful leader you are.

Enrique Conterno: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to have these chats with you and matching. Great. Great to see you again.

Naji Gehchan: Great to see you too. I would love Enrique to learn more about your personal story, your personal journey, what is in between those lines of this incredibly successful, uh, career and that either you are today.

Enrique Conterno: Thank you. I’m not sure exactly where to start, but probably I have to start when. I decided to, um, embark on the journey outside of Peru and pursue my education in the United States. At that time, I was a swimmer I think. And, uh, therefore I had the opportunity as a swimmer to get us a scholarship or scholarships in the U S but beyond that, I think.

Uh, what, uh, that, that was the start of something that I believe shaped me throughout my career, which is, um, we have to take chances, personal chances, certain risks. Uh, it was not easy at that time for me to leave Peru, but I decided to do so. Um, and I think throughout my career, I’ve taken a number of, um, personal risks and for the most part, um, I’m delighted that I took those chances.

Not every single one. Worked in the way that I was expecting them, but we do have to take, be thoughtful, take appropriate chances and, and, uh, And then adapt to changing circumstances. But, um, I think in between the lines, I, um, uh, we’re all, I think our product of our experiences, and I think that’s something that has really shaped me is basically taking chances, uh, thinking certain risks and then, uh, uh, manage in the, in the best way possible to produce excellent outcome.

Naji Gehchan: When you’re talking to Enrique about taking chances and tourists, obviously you said you took it personally. I know as a leader also, you’re taught a lot of risks and you gave people opportunities and chances. Uh, how do you, how do you do this? How have you managed to always build successful teams, lead them towards even bigger successes for the organization stats.

Enrique Conterno: Yeah, there’s no question that talent is at the very heart of successful organizations and creating diverse teams, I think is critical to do that. And, um, and I think I always reflect on. As we, uh, build teams and give people chances. And the opportunity to grow one has to reflect the, somebody took the chance on us to take larger responsibilities.

And in some cases, maybe for us to step up in position, the maybe we thought we were not ready to take on and we have to reflect on that as we basically provide opportunities for, uh, others. Um, At the end. I think there’s no formula when it comes to hiring people or building teams. But I do think there are a number of elements that we want us to look for in a culture that one wants to create.

Um, and we can speak a little more about that, but there’s no question that, uh, people and talent are at the very heart of, uh, continued success in, uh, organizations.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, I would love, I would love to hear about those elements. I’ve, I’ve, you know, I’ve lived that. I think the country, you build a caring culture.

I, you know, I personally call it loving culture, but truly from this shared purpose, the strong values, and then leading your teams to where it’s exceptional execution, uh, to, to deliver on, uh, uh, on this chair and common purpose. I’d love to hear more about the elements you use shared. You shared those, but I’d love to hear more about.

Enrique Conterno: Sure. So, um, and you are absolutely right. I think it’s, um, it’s all about, um, I think centering on our common purpose and, uh, key values and what do we basically expect from all leaders or, uh, employees? Um, all of our colleagues in an organization. Uh, all of that I think is. Part of, uh, starting to create the culture, to the extent that one lives, those values, you start to create those, that culture.

Just try to, uh, uh, not just retain, but attract talent to the, to the organization now it’s, uh, clearly I think, um, there are, um, a number of other elements. Claim to that. Um, I’m a, I’m a huge believer in looking at a track record of success when building teams, uh, not just experiences, but really looking at the track records of, uh, individuals.

And, um, this sometimes can be misunderstood. Um, yes, we look for. The outcomes and outcomes are critical, but it’s also how people dealt in many cases with failures, I think, or, uh, with maybe a, uh, a hand that was not quite perfect. And well, what, what were the actions that the individual then the individual took to improve the situation to, to, uh, make the situation better?

Um, as we, uh, I think about that. I think, uh, we need to, um, and we build this culture and you call it a loving culture, um, a caring culture. Although I think all of that is true. I like to think of it as an empowering culture and you’re right. I think the leader in many cases, trying to serve to ensure that people can basically give, uh, Uh, the most, um, um, given their capabilities, the opportunity that they have.

I think all of that I think is very much true. Um, at the end of the day, I think, um, uh, empowerment needs to also come with accountable. And, um, I’m a big believer on, uh, marrying those two, uh, which is, uh, people need to be empowered, but at the end, I think that empowering needs to lead to increased accountability.

And hopefully the organization then works, I think, in a much better way, um, uh, so that everybody can contribute as long as the priorities and the purpose is clear. I think it’s, um, everything tends to work, um, much more effectively and efficiently.

Naji Gehchan: And thanks Enrique. And I know you’re passionate about DNI and you mentioned that try trick twisting at the first team, uh, while building this culture.

Uh, any, any advice, you know, as you are. Bringing those leaders. Uh, many times we, uh, we are faced with some of the inclusion challenges, and I remember something you always talked about remaining yourself, be yourself and continue to be yourself as you’re, uh, leading and, and in the organization. What, what, what do you do to make sure that people, as they join, uh, don’t change to be in the mall, but try to be themselves and being able to deliver to the expectations?

Enrique Conterno: Yeah, a discussion that I will, that I, uh, come, you know, often have, is that the responsibility of both the leaders in the organization, but also. The, um, the, the, uh, employees coming into the organization to ensure that we can build an inclusive culture. Um, It is through, we need to create that type of environment, a leader, but there’s also responsibility on the person coming in, um, to, in some cases to take that person arrest.

To always, um, uh, be able to speak out and quite frankly, not to just, uh, sort of, uh, come in and be just like your organization that are coming into the reason we, um, organizations can benefit so much from new blood, from fresh thinking from new talent, new hire. It’s because of the unique perspective that they bring from the outside.

What a period would it be that the second day coming into an organization that we lose that because they’re trying to fit in. And there’s no question that there is a bit of a compromise trying to fit in. And, but, um, to the extent that those individuals can be true to themselves, who they are, I think we have a best chance of the organization thriving and ensuring that the individual collective.

Uh, growth, uh, uh, benefits the entire organization. So yes, there is a responsibility of the leaders and there’s also a responsibility of the new hires to ensure that this culture can be built.

Naji Gehchan: Pivoting now to, uh, I, I know you, you know, you share it and you did it on leading in crisis even before, you know, if we want to talk about the current pandemic. Uh, but even before that, I read one of the articles you wrote about leading through moments of crisis. Uh, so can you share more about your learning experiences and did anything changed, uh, leading in this global crisis that we’re all

Enrique Conterno: living.

Yeah, I, um, my, uh, sense, I think when you’re living in a crisis, um, uh, one of, one of the key, um, it’s, it’s always, uh, critically important to remain true to your values. And do the purpose and to understand where the north star is for you and for the organization. Um, otherwise one can, uh, get lost, um, whether it’s a crisis or a.

A moment where you’re going to Sage is thriving. I think we have to recognize that there are, um, a few, I, I call it a few critical decisions each year that really shape, uh, the business, uh, outcomes, the people outcomes, the cultural outcomes of the organization and being thoughtful about those decisions, I think is critical.

Um, it’s um, A crisis, um, tends to, um, uh, challenge all of us because maybe it was, uh, an outcome we did not expect, uh, or an uncertainty that got resolved in an unfavorable way or personnel exiting the organization for other opportunities, whatever the crisis might be. I think it’s always good to remember the crisis.

So. Both, uh, opportunities in itself, it becomes reframed in the right way. So it could be a matter of, um, somebody succeeding. It’s the opportunity to, um, promote somebody. You maybe bring new talent in the organization and, uh, how, you know, how welcome we do that. Um, it’s, it may be a matter of refocusing that priority.

So the organization, or for us to think about, um, um, um, what those new priorities are at the end of the day, though, I think one critical thing throughout crisis. Uh, we all need to be grounded. What I call that reality. Of the ground, the real yet, and the relatives of the situation. I think it’s critically important as a leader that we can objectively assess the situation.

And at the end, uh, provide the direction for the business on the enterprise. Our people, um, sometimes in a crisis is one, one vents to maybe color how things might be. It’s just critically important that we don’t have those roads with rose-colored glasses and we’re able to tackle, I think the challenges.

Naji Gehchan: That’s great. You talked about being true to the values, right? To your personal values. You started with this, uh, around the common and shared purpose. Um, looking at it from an opportunity standpoint, are there things to do to refocus and then ending on a objective objectively, always assessing the situation?

The communication I imagine you mean in this is super important, right? Like giving hope, but at the same time being realistic to what we’re going through. Uh, is key,

Enrique Conterno: right? It is, I think, without being realistic, I think it’s, um, the changes not very lasting because. You lose credibility over time. Um, and at the end of the day, people can kind of objective, really assess what the situation is as well.

Um, so it is, uh, I think it is critically important than, uh, that the organization or the other days align and needs to be aligned on those. In, uh, a grounded view of what the realities are, uh, because I think then I think the priorities are better. Understood. Uh, demonization can be best aligned. And at the end of the thing, then I think, uh, um, that, that grace, a certain.

Um, build trust and trust is critical. I think, to be able to execute with agility and speed.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, definitely. Uh, Enrique talked about failure. Uh, we, we, we, we look at you, we see huge successes all over even, uh, you know, we we’ve seen you in your, in the different leadership role that you had taking things and making them happen, right.

Like, Challenging pieces, giving again through a vision and taking all the organizations to amazing, huge successes. How do you do this? Like, and did you ha did you have some moments of doubt you started in the beginning saying sometimes you have to take jobs, even doubting that you can, even to them, what, like, do you have a story that you can tell us, uh, around this and how you manage to, uh, to build all that you’ve been building throughout the.

Enrique Conterno: Yeah, I, I, there are there, there are probably many that I can share, but I think we can start. I think, uh, you were mentioning, we both worked together in, uh, diabetes. You were, I recall when you were working in, in France and I really wanted to show that you could come to the U S. In, uh, and I was delighted that you were able to come in and so that we were able to work together.

But, um, uh, 1, 1, 1 piece, I think. Maybe people don’t realize is that those, those first few years in diabetes, while everybody looks a little bit diabetes today, and it’s an incredibly growing successful business, the first few years were challenging. Um, um, it, they were challenging because, um, we were having a number of setbacks.

We had, uh, uh, uh, we’re losing market share with some of our key products. Um, we, our pipeline was not where we wanted it to be. And we had some setbacks in our pipeline. And at the end of the day, I think we needed to. Take stock of really where we were at at that time and make some, um, some pretty big decisions.

Right. Um, um, all of that did not change overnight. Um, it was a matter of basically building, you know, starting, you know, uh, at one point in time, we entered into Alliance with Boehringer Ingelheim, um, with. That today, of course, highly successful. Um, but at that time there was, you know, um, those, those, uh, uh, products were, uh, promises, if you wish.

Um, we were trying to build, uh, GLP one pipeline. And, um, you know, we’ve had some, uh, also a challenging, uh, collaboration at that time, uh, with, uh, with another party. So all in all, I think it w we were looking at a business, the what challenge, but had potential. And if there was, uh, There was something that I can, um, maybe look back it’s I’m, I’m glad that we felt, you know, um, the, we were committed to our strategy and we allowed for the strategy to play out over time.

It took a little bit of. Patients, um, net, net and, um, vision was needed at that point in time, because I think for Lilly, uh, overall I think, uh, the situation was a challenge, but it was not just for diabetes. Um, but we saw the potential, um, while, um, we, we, we didn’t have what I’m going to call it the perfect plan or the perfect roadmap.

Um, we saw what were the key levers to try to.

We followed those I’ll be honest too. We had overtime, we had some good breaks and some people say we took advantage of them. That’s true. Uh, but some of the journey and some of these strategic initiatives took several years to develop anything from that collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim that is highly successful in everything from developing the pipeline and the new products.

Uh, from, um, being much more cost efficient or, uh, our cost structure. Those were the, your projects. And over time, I think, um, we, uh, we were able to build that thing. Together with a great team, I think, um, um, a great organization, but it, it took time and I keep in mind that I was in that job for what is it?

Over 10 years. Um, so I had a chance to see the cycles of it. Um, and yeah, I’m, I’m, uh, very proud of what we built, but, uh, yeah, it’s. Everything else. It wasn’t all always roses. There were, you know, what’s a little bit of a rollercoaster in particular in the.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, but it’s the, the millions of patients around the word help through, uh, what you’ve built and, and the value that your breath is just, is just immense.

Um, you, one of the things, you know, we always talk in strategy. Uh, and I’d love your take on this that you said you had to be patient, try to build this strategy. You believed in it. We all believed, believed in it, and then you have to be patient. And we here on the opposite side. So now being, uh, see, oh, um, in a, in a different company and in biotech, we hear a lot about agility, changing the gap, making sure that we understand what’s going on and change if needed.

Any, any thoughts about this when to change strategy and when not to change and be persistent on it?

Enrique Conterno: I think it’s, um, clearly the circumstances, um, um, the, the fine, what the strategies should be. Uh, the strategies should be able to overcome setbacks, but I think sometimes that’s easier said than done. And I, uh, Depending on, you know, the, uh, resources, the size of the company.

And, and so for some of his strategies might be more valuable than others. And I think we need to reassess and adjust the strategy as circumstances change. Right. Um, uh, you mentioned, um, I draw a lot from, um, some of the challenges when we’re building the diabetes business, as I think about five region where we are right now, uh, the fact that we have, um, yeah, we had a pretty significant setback, uh, when it comes to a complete response letter in the U S at the same time we’d been approved.

China Europe, Japan, uh, to be able to commercialize rocks, reduce that. Um, so to me, I think it’s, um, um, clearly, uh, uh, as I’ve mentioned, I, uh, drawing on all of those experiences and thinking about how do we ground ourselves in and the realities of the situation. How do we adjust our priorities? Uh, how do we basically think about greatest, significant value for our shareholders, their patients?

How do we keep our purpose, uh, in front of us? And, um, and once again, honestly, assessing where, where we are and, and, um, and what is it that we have to focus on right now? So, Uh, as leaders, I think, um, we have to keep in mind that all of these experiences serve to ground us, right. They give us confidence for the path ahead and the ability that we can have to be able to, uh, basically for job, a very successful future.

Naji Gehchan: Thanks Enrique. I would love to get your first reaction to a couple of words out. I will, I will be saying, uh, and the word, the first one is leadership. What would it be? The first,

Enrique Conterno: first thoughts on, on leadership is change agents. Um,

Bias for action and, uh, working doors, um, working towards, uh, outcomes, uh, aligning or, uh, organizations.


Naji Gehchan: about mentorship?

Enrique Conterno: Uh, And, um, and mentors should have been a bit different from sponsorship. Uh, but men mentorship is basically, um, providing, uh, the advice and, uh, they use sites. At the personal and professional level for, for talent to be, um, uh, you know, as successful as they can be and different from and sponsorship because sponsorship, in addition to all of that, I believe it also includes advocacy and a real action from the leader in terms of.

Um, you know, uh, taking a, had done, um, basically allowing for that individual to, uh, take additional jobs or, uh, responsibilities as they basically grow.

Naji Gehchan: And I know you’ve, uh, you believe in reverse mentorship, I think too, right at where it got it. Any thoughts on this too?

Enrique Conterno: All of us to make sure that we are truly at the other, they connect it to what’s going on and receive informal feedback. I’ve I’ve had reverse mentioned mentorship one-on-one and also multiple in one meeting, just being able to hear people. And I, um, to do that, I think curiosity is incredibly important, uh, and openness, the ability to really.

Um, uh, here and try to understand as opposed to try to justify. You know, uh, why sort of things are what they are. So that’s, that’s a thing, the, uh, the power of it, but, uh, mentorship is a, um, you said is, um, dual way street. And anytime one is mentoring somebody in the way that I mentioned one can be mentored as well.

One is open to that.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. I totally agree. Um, vacation.

And I’m asking this because you wrote about it. Yeah. It’s um,

Enrique Conterno: I’m a big believer on, um, uh, working hard and playing hard as well. Um, uh, Uh, I believe all of us need to take that diamond space, you know, to refresh and replenish ourselves. And to do that. Sometimes we do have to disconnect from our daily work.

So, uh, uh, allowing for the space and time to be able to do that, I think it’s, um, critical. Um, so I’m, I’m a big believer in, uh, Ensuring that, um, that, uh, balances is going to be there. Sometimes people ask me to quantify what that balance should be, but I think that balance is very personal. It’s like people say, well, define for me with a work-life balance is how many hours I think it’s different for.

Different people. And each one of us needs to understand our own personal boundaries. And what is it that allows us to basically be as effective, you know, at work. Um, and we have to be self aware to be able to assess and evaluate that, right. Maybe somebody is able to work many more hours than somebody else and we need.

Naji Gehchan: We’ll be able to

Enrique Conterno: respect those, those boundaries and what we at the other day should look for is, um, what are the outcomes? Um, um, and how are the, uh, how, um, how effective is each one of us, uh, being in the positions that we have. So no hard rules, but, uh, finding that personal balance is incredibly important and the organization cannot find this balance for you.

You have to find it for yourself. Yeah,

Naji Gehchan: totally agree. And I think you shared it at the beginning. You’re a swimmer. I’m not sure if you. Uh, continued to spend, but I know for a while, that was also because I’m thinking about how every day, not only taking vacations, but even everyday how to disconnect, try to refresh our minds as leaders super important for not only us, but our teams, our families, uh, as I know, for, for a while, swimming was part of this for you, but definitely it’s important.

I imagine to disconnect daily, to.

Enrique Conterno: Yeah. I, I, I, I, uh, whether it’s swimmer swimming on a different exercise, I think it’s good to be, uh, active and, uh, and I’m pretty big believer for awhile was swimming every day. Um, Maybe between, uh, you know, when I was in my mid forties to my maybe early fifties, I was swimming every day and even competing in masters competition.

Uh, um, and I, uh, I got a lot from it. Um, but I wasn’t doing it just to be active, you know? And, um, but it’s, it’s fun, you know, because you can see your progress and you are getting in shape. Uh, so yeah, I need, it’s fine to compete. So I, I it’s, uh, I got a lot of satisfaction from that. I’m not swimming today, but I’m doing, uh, I do go to the gym at least four times a week.

Um, and I do spend about an hour. Um, so it’s, it’s, it’s something that I believe in that I think is critical. I think it’s as part of, at least my personal balance.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, that’s, that’s great. And it’s great to hear because many times we have those idea. No, you cannot, you know, work, be successful, be have your family, your network, and then do also train.

But another amazing example, uh, your, your setting here, Andrew, uh, the last word I’d love your reaction is spread love and organizations.

Enrique Conterno: Yeah. It’s um, That’s, that’s probably an easier one, uh, from the, uh, questions, I think aside, um, as you work, I think in the organizations you, uh, closely with people and when you align on, on, on purpose and objectives and when you’re committed to, uh, to a cause or, uh, an objective.

You, you tend to spend a lot of time with, uh, with each one of our colleagues. And of course, as part of that, you, um, you develop a certain closeness and you, I think all of us care for the people that are all of our colleagues that are working with us, um, And I think though the way that I think about spreading to this is your quote spreading love through the organization is, um, is caring, truly caring for four people and demonstrating that in a number of different ways.

There, there are a number of, uh, maybe axioms or. Uh, truth that one has to abide one, uh, uh, abide by one of them is to really be, uh, completely truthful to people and not just for people to hear what they want to hear, but truly what they should be hearing. And I know that sometimes people say, well, that’s hard.

Love it is really not. It is just truly caring about the person. Why would you want to say some person that is not really helping them, uh, maybe make that interaction easier, but at the end, I think longer term, I think we’re not, uh, the person is not going to grow. So when it comes to, um, uh, spreading love or care, I think it starts with, uh, the intent having the right intent and, uh, having a transparent, honest relationship, uh, with, uh, uh, with, with your colleagues.

I think that’s the basis, uh, for that.

Naji Gehchan: I love it and I will definitely keep it in mind. It’s not tough love. It’s true love, which is definitely true. Any final word of wisdom for the leaders around the.

Enrique Conterno: No, thank you very much for, uh, you taking this initiative, uh, with this, uh, set of, uh, podcasts. Uh, it’s exciting to see you again, and, um, I’m glad that you’re doing well.

And once again, thank you for the opportunity to share some of these thoughts with you. Naji Gehchan: Uh, thank you. Thank you for being here and sharing a part of your story and amazing advice. And for this inspiring, genuine discussion.

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 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.


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 for this exciting episode from our new series focused on us as leaders. I’m joined by Professor Elsbeth Johnson, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and an expert on leadership, strategy and change. The main focus for her research is on what leaders need to do to help their organizations execute strategy, or deliver long-term, strategic change, without the need for the leader’s ongoing, personal involvement. Prior to joining MIT, Elsbeth was taught leadership at London Business School and London School of Economics.

Prior to academia, Dr Johnson worked as an investment banker, a sell-side equity analyst, and a corporate strategist. She also spent three years as a special adviser to the first Blair Government in the UK.

As a consultant and executive educator, Elsbeth has worked with a range of companies, helping them develop their strategy and the capabilities and culture that will deliver it. I had the opportunity to be her student this year in the MIT EMBA program and couldn’t but ask her if she can share her wisdom and advice with all of you!

Elsbeth – I am thrilled to have you with me today!

I’m eager to hear more about your personal story from investment banking to politics to now a professor of leadership! What’s in between the lines of your journey?

Elsbeth Johnson: Um, so I, I mean, investment banking was very much where I started and actually I loved the city. So the city has kind of what we, it’s the UK equivalent of wall street.

Um, lots of smart people, all of whom worked really hard. I really felt at home in that environment, but I’d always been very interested in politics. So as a teenager, um, as a student I’ve been interested and involved in. And so it was a bug that I had to kind of give into, um, until I felt like I didn’t want to be a professional politician myself.

And so I worked on, um, the labor campaign in 97, which resulted in, you know, the largest labor landslide and since 1945, not that, that was personally done to me. Um, but, um, and then I joined the labor goes or I left the city. Joined the government as a special advisor, uh, worked in three different departments of state.

Uh what’s on another two election campaigns. So it was very, very enjoyable. But what I, I guess I realized was there was quite a few things I missed from the private sector. Um, and there was quite a few things that I didn’t necessarily like about, um, doing politics. Professionally kind of for living. Um, but I guess if, if I looked at the red thread that linked.

Banking and particularly the kind of the kind of work that I did in banking. So corporate strategy, corporate finance, structure, finance, um, thinking about businesses and, and why they make money. I mean, that’s basically, you know, uh, sell-side actually almost essentially a well-paid financial journalist in many ways.

Um, and the sort of work I did in politics and the sort of work I’ve done since then. I mean, basically it’s thinking about. Two things it’s thinking about strategy. Um, you know what what’s, what’s not just the best way to do this, but what’s the right thing to do. And secondly, then once you’ve settled on what, what you’re going to do is what are the activities that leaders need to focus on in order to get that work done in the most effective way.

And so essentially, I mean, that’s that, I suppose to the extent that there is a red thread,

Naji Gehchan: Awesome. You touched it on, you know, this, um, this thread, uh, with your life or the decisions that you’ve made. And I know in, uh, in the very first course touch, we had video and the discussions we talked about, uh, you know, the green circle, blue circle, if you can touch it maybe before you say, but what I would love to hear from you is your, your personal green circle.

If I may, what is your personal purpose? I know you make us work a lot around this, so I’d love to hear that.

Elsbeth Johnson: So that’s a really good question. And, um, and it’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question and every time I’m asked it, I think, wow. I’m not sure my answer is very good. I’m not sure. My answer is probably as good as yours now is when, when not given, I asked you this question in class.

So I think, I think about the purpose of why, why I continue to do what I do with, particularly with clients, because I could just either teach all the time or retire or. I think what I really like doing is finding, and I think about, you know, the businesses with whom I work these days and the leaders with whom I work.

I guess what I really liked doing is finding and helping people find the work that they most love. Um, because an awful lot of people, um, you know, I, I don’t think spend enough time really focusing on the work that they really love to do. Um, you know, that a lot of people are very good at lots of things, right?

So they’ve, they, they’re in a spoiled position of, of having lots of options open to them. But if they were to focus on the work they really love doing, I think, I think that’s particularly interesting. I have to say, I think the most effective leaders out there are the ones who really want to lead rather than simply be senior in an organization leading and being senior are two very different things.

Um, the reason you, you do those things are very different, right? Um, so if all of our leaders are just the people who are obsessed with gaining and retaining positional power, then I suspect we’ll end up with leaders who are. It’s as good as the ones we, we could end up with. If we, if we really focused on getting people who really wanted to lead.

And so one of the things I really enjoy about my, my work outside of teaching outside of MIT is I get to spend time with people, both who are already like. But also people who are maybe one or two below C-suite who are thinking about, do I want to be on at the C level? Do I want to be a leader and really kind of helping, you know, finding the ones who really want to lead as opposed to simply be senior and then helping them get that is, is just incredibly real.

Naji Gehchan: I love where the discussion is going. Uh, you, uh, you know, I, I always say life is too short. , life’s too short. And I know sometimes it’s hard. It’s easier to say that into, but it’s just incredible when your personal, why isn’t total coherence with what you’re doing. I just think good morning. This is where I think magic starts.

Elsbeth Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’m not sure that I’m, I’m always as disciplined. Like I really need to read my own slides a bit more than I do. Right. I’m not sure. I’m always as disciplined as. Could be about the Y I mean, you know, I really have no excuse to not focus on, um, you know, the stuff that I really enjoy and the stuff that I think has most value, um, because I’m in a privileged position of not, you know, not needing to work.

And so I have no excuse not to be doing the absolute, um, You know, most value adding work or most enjoyable work. And yet, you know, there’s still days when I just think, oh, why did I agree to this? You know, we’re all, you know, we’re all we all, we all, sometimes aren’t quite as focused as we ought to be. Um, but it’s the 80 20 rule.

As long as you’re doing it. Most of the.

Naji Gehchan: Exactly. As long as work is not more than, you know, 20% not liking a trap. We all have our jobs, things we do with sort of the people at that 20%. I do the same rule when you were talking about leaders, right? Is senior execs, C-suite leaders, younger managers, leaders that you have.

Is there a, what is for you the most important trait? For the leaders of the 21st century. If there’s one thing I know we discussed of different topics in class, taught us a lot about this, but for you, what is the most important one to have?

Elsbeth Johnson: So for me, and you’re right, there’s lots of traits that we know from empirical research or really.

But for me, and this probably says something about my own value set and upbringing. I am always looking for a combination of two things. One is high capability, and I guess what I mean by that is really high capability. Uh, really clever, very applied high capability with low. Now I have one or two clients who in my mind personify exactly that combination of high capability and low ego, and they are just a treat to work.

But I think if we can get more leaders who are in that combination, I just think regardless of the culture of the organization, that’s always a great combination because what that enables that, that what that combination enables is obviously high capability, right? People are smart. They’re able to get stuff done.

They’ve got a lot of processing power, but low ego means that they, they put the work, they put the business. They put their clients, they put each other, they put the people, the next generation of leaders before themselves or before their own. Need for validation or, um, or promotion. And, and I do think that’s important.

I think, you know, history is replete with examples of when, if an individual or a collection of individuals put the greater good, the quality of the cause ahead of their own need to, um, to benefit then. Chances are higher, that good things will happen. Um, I mean, as someone once said and forgive me, I can’t remember who this was, but it’s amazing what a mate, it’s amazing what good things you can do if you no longer care about who gets the credit.

And that’s kind of what I mean by, by low ego that they put the work and they put other people ahead of their own need for validation or.

Naji Gehchan: And do you think if I followed a double pick on this, do you think those are skills that can be developed? That can be COVID right.

Elsbeth Johnson: So, I mean, what, what psychology would tell us is that, um, you know, I mean that capable of both capability and low ego are a combination of, um, How we’re brought up and a little bit of nature, um, particularly capabilities.

Some of this, some of these intellectual or, um, cognitive skills are, are to some extent inherited. Uh, but our environment, particularly our young, early age environment is very, very important. I think, I think the low ego stuff is largely around how. What we, um, what we come to value and also, um, what our organizations value.

So, you know, I, I grew up on an island, um, where most people knew each other, a lot of people were related to each other. It didn’t matter if you were really, really clever. This island did not suffer tall poppies. So, so, um, you know, like you, you had to get on with everybody because you know, when, if the blizzard came and you needed somebody, hell you better have not been a joke to them at any point in the previous three years because people are on an island have long memories.

Right. So I think to your point about, is it, how, how do you, how do you get this combination of high capability, low ego? I think some of them. It’s nature, some of it’s nurture, but I also think it’s what we’re brought up to value. And so, you know, I’m, I’m pretty allergic to high egos because I grew up on an, in a, in a world, literally an island where hikers, just one tolerated, you know?

Um, so, so I think our own sensitivities to these things are, are largely a product of our value set. However that that’s been.

Naji Gehchan: You, you, you, you talked also, you know, we talked here about the traits of leaders. Um, you talked about you in your book. I, I have to, uh, relate to it and honestly the, the strategic leading strategic change and the framework that you, uh, that you give and, uh, and step up and step up that book is really amazing.

And you’ve touched on something that is called meaningful autonomy. So I’d love to hear about it. But before that, Why I’m talking about the book, because you summarize it in one sentence at the end of the class, and you talked about it, uh, just in the introduction here, you said something I would always remember is that the most essential Java either is to create more leaders.

So that, that is so powerful. And I think it clinks into the skill ego and how you care about your people, how you bring you sat in the beginning of the next generation. So a little bit more about the

Elsbeth Johnson: office. Well, let me, let me explain a little bit more on that. Talk about, um, meaningful autonomy. But, but I, I do think, I mean, this was, um, Mary Follett who’ve, um, originally came up with this idea that, or the statement that, you know, that the primary job of leaders is to create the next generation of leaders.

Now you obviously at one point or in one way, as a leader, you use your positional power to create the next generation of leaders just by promoting. Choosing a pipeline of successes and deciding who’s going to get the top job. I think the problem though, is that that either creates a vicious or a virtuous circle.

If the existing set of leaders are all, um, highly ego, um, you know, value certain things. What we know about human psychology it’s called the affinity bias is that people will choose. Um, they will essentially self-replicate, they will choose successes who look and smell like them. And so the real risk or danger is that if you’ve got an existing set of perhaps quite high ego leaders, is chances are that, that for, for a set, for a set of reasons, including that people self-replicate, but also that the candidates for leadership will look up above them and the low ego ones will go.

Oh, well, there’s no point in me trying to be a leader around here because when I look up above me, the only people who are in positions of power are high, he goes, so either I need to change and stop being low ego, or I need to go somewhere else and try and be a leader where my low ego tendencies are, are not going to be punished.

So the cell replication that we very often see in organizations around leadership and who gets promoted typically means. It’s quite hard to break the vicious circle of high ego leaders. But assuming that you can then, then yeah, your, your job as a leader is, is, is to create this next generation who can understand what good leadership looks like.

Who’ve been taught and coached about how to do it well. Um, because, because then it becomes, you know, you just cascade that down. So.

Naji Gehchan: Before you jump, make it to the autonomy piece, because it’s a very important one. You talked about affinity bias, self replication. Um, and I want to extend that even more.

It’s something I constantly have in my mind, try this. At some point, I remember very early in my career, someone told me, usually we recruit our clones, which I hate, you know what I think about it. Yeah. Especially when we think about diversity equity inclusion, right? So. Yeah. So this circle that we need to break on high ego, it’s the same that we need to break on.

Man. Women do diversity ethnicities. How do you consciously and intentionally look into those unconscious biases and every recruitment I make with the teams and the things specific you’ve seen and been successful on breaking this vicious circle last week.

Elsbeth Johnson: Well, I think two things. Um, I think first of all, getting as many people involved in the recruitment and promotion process as possible, um, if you like that, that’s not to reduce any individual affinity bias that any individual leader brings.

That brings to the table, but all it does is create a portfolio of hopefully different affinity biases, assuming that, you know, not all of your leaders are white, straight able-bodied men. In other words, assuming that there is some, both cognitive and social diversity amongst your leadership population.

If there isn’t, then you need to be looking outside for some help on that. Um, from, you know, recruitment consultants or, or head hunters to really force you to look at candidates who you, whom left to your own devices, you wouldn’t think of as plausible candidates. So that’s the first thing is to broaden the portfolio of afinity biases as to say, as individuals, we all have these biases because we’re human the best, almost the best we can hope.

Is that we, you know, if you and I are both recruiting somebody, you’ve got a different set of pharmacy biases for me, and therefore, you know, yours, yours will challenge mine and vice versa. So that’s the first thing. The second thing to say is that the process of recruitment. Um, has to be very carefully structured and managed.

So, um, you know, it frightens me, but it’s true that there are still some organizations in the world who don’t even use structured interviews, that they, they just kind of bring someone in for a chat or they meet over coffee or they recruit out of their network. And what we know about all of those sources of, uh, of candidates is because our networks will, will sell.

Um, there’ll be, and when we just chat with someone, we are essentially trying to work out, we’re trying to discern social fit. In other words, oh, look, we went to the same school or we, you know, we both play golf at the same club or we both, you know, do the same running track. Um, so it, it. So human beings are incredibly, um, almost invisibly skilled at sniffing out social fit.

And so if you just quote, unquote, have a chat with someone, um, actually you will be doing a terrible job, recruiting them or interviewing them. You’ll be doing a great job working. That whether you could be friends with them. Um, but so, so at the very least what what people need to do is have structured interviews.

In other words, you know, if I’ve got six candidates, I basically asked them the same question, hopefully in a sufficiently conversational way. So I don’t sound like a robot, but, but I am asking them the same set of questions. I can form my, um, my assessment of them across, but even more than that, we should be going beyond interview because most care human beings are actually very good at impression managing.

And so, you know, if, if you asked me to give you an example of where I’ve been really collaborative in the past, guess what. Semiotic human being. And I’ll probably come up with a couple of really plausible sounding examples of me being super collaborative and you’ll be thinking, oh, wow, she’s amazingly collaborative.

Actually I might not be, I might just be impression managing. So a much better way to test that is not in an interview scenario or setting at all, but actually in an experiential setting where you put me in a, in a group of other people, perhaps under some stressful conditions and you watch and see whether I can collaborate rather than ask and, and listen to me, tell you and quite possibly.

You know, fabricate some of my, um, collaborative tendencies. So I think there’s lots of ways we can get smarter about how we recruit now, the problem with all of the things that I’ve just talked about is they take longer and they are more expensive ways of recruiting. And so for those of us who, perhaps for organizations that don’t have that much time on or enough budget, it’s it’s, um, it can feel like.

Um, it can feel easy and free to compromise on our recruitment process. Whereas actually compromising on our recruitment process is one of the most expensive mistakes that organization can make.

Naji Gehchan: Definitely thank you for that. Going back. I want to go to this, these two words, uh, about meaningful autonomy and bed to talk about because.

Many people, some people would be afraid of the word autonomy. Some others would be excited about it, but I love how you framed it, which is meaningful. But me, what I have thoughts about this and for us as leaders, uh, how to get to that. Really good position where our people can, can be meaning fully

Elsbeth Johnson: autonomous.

Yeah. So the reason that I call it meaningful autonomy is because in my research, so my research is in inductive research, which means I go and watch and ask people, um, you know, very open-ended questions. Um, a lot of it done, um, by watching and observing. So ethnographic research. What is it that makes your autonomy meaningful or sorry?

What, what, what is it that, that, um, sorry, what, what is it that means that you don’t have to go and ask your leader for input or support or. And, um, a number of my informants, um, said, oh, well, in other words, what you’re really asking me is what makes my autonomy meaningful. And that’s the critical point that, that this, this, these words actually came not out of my mouth or my head, but out of the mounds of my informants.

And so that became a really interesting research question. Um, and it turns out there’s two things that really help someone come to work and access. The autonomy, the decision rights that they have technically been given. Um, but, but, but that where they feel that they can actually exercise these rights without having to escalate and go back to their leader and say, help me, or referee between these two options or tell me what I should do.

So the two things are when the autonomy, when the exercise of the autonomy is. Uh, in other words, they’ve got enough resources. Um, they’ve got enough time, uh, the scope isn’t stupid, um, or too great. Um, so in other words, lots of structural elements, all of the structural elements are in place to enable the, the, them to exercise their autonomy.

But then beyond the structural element, there’s almost a psychological element, which is that it is not. Possible, but also pleasant. Um, but they’re comfortable in exercising their autonomy. They don’t feel like they are having to go out on a limb or take on unnecessary risk. Um, and the elements that really help them.

Um, oh, when the leader has really put really signaled in every possible way that they can, what they want and, um, and back that up. So not only been clear about what they want, but also align the organization and been consistent in that, um, Uh, a period of time. That means that people don’t have to second guess, you know, well, you know, you say that you want this, but that’s not what I see you role model, and it’s not what you measure.

And, and by the way, that’s not how you know, it’s not all my OKR is contained. So, so all of a sudden, if you’re sending me in congruent, I’m having to second, guess what you really want me to do. And the critical thing there is that good employees who want to come to work and do their best. They do not want in congruent inconsistent leaders because that does not help them.

The Corolla is also. That your, that you’re less good employees who kind of wants to come to work and have a slightly easier time or not do amazing work. They upset you love it when leaders are inconsistent or in congruent, because it gets, gives them a get out of jail card. They can come to you at their performance appraisal and say so sure, I know you said you wanted me to do this.

You haven’t brought it in my job description, but I don’t see you role model and it’s not. You’re going to reward me and it’s not even what we measure. So you can’t possibly hold me accountable for the thing that you asked me to do. So that’s really what we mean by, um, by meaningful autonomy. And I guess the most interesting thing about, um, or, or almost counterintuitive thing about this idea is that autonomy needs to be constrained albeit in certain ways, in order to become meaningful.

Now this can feel a little bit paradoxical. First time I say that, right? What do you mean constrained autonomy. It’s almost an oxymoron. Actually. It isn’t unconstrained. Autonomy is. Actually frightening for your best employees because they, they actually really do need to know. And have you signaled consistently what you want?

Unconstrained autonomy is Nirvana for your back for your worst employees, because they just they’re rubbing their hands with glee. At that point, they, they get to do exactly what they want. They get to spend shareholder money doing whatever they fancy their hobbies. So unconstrained autonomy is fabulous for them, but this idea of constrained autonomy, it’s the constraints, the clarity and level of prescription that leaders give in the constraint that sets up that frees up, that they’re the people who report to them to really shine.

In delivering what the leaders have asked for. And so the, the, the quality of the autonomy experienced by managers is directly proportionate to the quality of, of prescription and the clarity of that prescription, uh, given to managers by leaders.

Naji Gehchan: That’s amazing. I’m not gonna detail. You know, things in

focus consistency. We’ve got to talk about these also a little bit more, but really the framework is super helpful. I’m going to jump into the section that is a little bit different. So I’m going to give you one word and I’d love to have your first reaction to it. And yeah, you can, will discuss a little bit about it.

So the first one is authentic leader.

Elsbeth Johnson: Um, and do you want a one word response or just, just my response

Naji Gehchan: and response. I’m going to be one. We’re going to be a fellow first thing in mind.

Elsbeth Johnson: So I guess my one word response would be misunderstood. Um, I know for a lot of people, I think certainly a lot of the leaders that I work with, they, they hear the words authentic leader.

And they, they, they misunderstand it in one of two ways. They either think, okay, in order to be authentic, I just show up as myself. You know, I just kind of vomit myself into the room, like a human hand grenade and, you know, whatever I’m kind of, you know, however I show up, that’s just my authentic self. So like, what else can I do in otherwise it’s relatively uncontrolled.

And that’s a huge mistake, obviously, because. As long as we have an obligation to manage ourselves for the benefit of, you know, our people, our organization. So, so that’s the first way in which I think a lot of leaders misunderstand authentic leadership and the requirements that it puts on them. I think the second way that leader is very often misunderstand, authentic leadership.

That they something in my experience, they don’t always realize that that who you are changes over time. Um, now I think that, that sounds really obvious when I say it, but you know, we very, again, part of the human condition, another, another cognitive misconception is that we very often. Underestimate the extent of the changes that will undergo as human beings over the longterm.

We typically overestimate how much we can get done in the short-term, but we underestimate how much we can do and how, how, how much we can change over the long-term I’m talking decades rather than months or years. And so I think as a result of that, we very often think, well, you know, in 20 years time, I’ll basically just be the same person, whereas actually, Johnson’s all that’s not true.

Um, but more than that, if you think you’re, you’re not really gonna change that much or that you don’t think you could change that much, you might be missing some opportunities that you could be looking for in your career. And I think that’s a real shame. So I think that will be my reaction. It’s it’s very often a misunderstood.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And then you talked to, I remember you talked also about the different sounds try. It’s like in different places situation. So it’s really every day how we change over time. Right. The second word would be focused.

Elsbeth Johnson: Well, I mean, focus for me is the thing, it’s the secret. I’m going to say secret sauce, because that makes it sound like it’s kind of some secret recipe. Focus is for me, the thing that explains whether some strategies get implemented and some leaders make it versus other strategies that actually probably intellectually were equally good strategies, but they didn’t get implemented.

Um, focus is the thing that, that means that we, it requires choice. It requires deliberate choice to do certain things. We’ll spend time on certain things or invest in certain things and not others. And I think, I suspect we are much worse at this as human beings than we have ever been, because I think a lot of people they’re so used to.

No doing without in their lives, at least, you know, in the first world, right. You go on Amazon and you can have whatever you want. Um, you know, things are. Uh, available. Um, I mean, they’re not currently available in my country because we’ve managed to cut our own supply chain. Cause we’ve just, you know, left a 40 year trading arrangement unilaterally.

But, but assuming you, you don’t live in an irrational country that, you know, commit economic suicide, um, you know, things are available and, and I don’t think people have. Choose the often, but actually that’s a complete misconception because the most important things in life, like time for example, is completely finite.

So back to your point earlier, you know, life’s too short. I mean, that’s a classic example of the AFR. Uh, a series of choices. We only have so many hours in the day and so many days in our lives, so we have to choose how to spend them well. And, and, and focus is, is really the thing that focuses, what results from your, the choices that you make.

So the fact that Mo that an awful lot of people and organizations like focus, I think is basically because people just don’t want to.

Naji Gehchan: I love this frame, a bit of red choices, you know, and many times we see here discussing with leaders and organizations, right? The list of priorities that keep on moving and changing.

So I’m more, I’m more just talking about like, what are the choices, what are the two, three things that you want to do and be great at, right. And it’s, yeah, it’s tough to choose. And so what we need to do for able

Elsbeth Johnson: to be. But I would add to that, that I think the other problem is that, you know, an awful lot of organizations will run a strategic planning process, almost like an event, you know, um, once a year or once every two years, an ounce of that may actually come some pretty clear choices.

But the problem is that over time the clarity gets corrupted, um, because they add in, you know, so-called additional priorities. Um, and so one of the things that I, uh, I wouldn’t say force. Cause I mean, you know, I can’t quite force my clients to do things, but one of the things I very strongly advise my clients to do is that for every additional priority that they say they want, they have to take something off the list.

So the total amount of what. It doesn’t increase. And therefore the total amount of bandwidth that is being sucked up doesn’t isn’t eroded and therefore employees continue to have the slack that they need to stand back and think and reflect and learn about the work rather than just do the work. It’s what I call in the book, the tea party test, um, this idea that, you know, the total amount of.

Well in the tea parties, case legislation, doesn’t sort of passively accumulate over time. It’s exactly the same with work and organizations. You, if by all means, choose on alternative or another priority, but you can’t do that at the expense of the overall, um, you know, amount of work that’s on. So, so if something’s going to be added to the list, something else that was already on the list needs to be taken off it.

And it’s actually, by the way, amazing. When you say to people, okay. If you want that additional thing, that means you can’t have one of the things that you said was really important. It’s amazing how that focuses minds. Um, and an awful lot of people go, oh, okay. Well, in that case, I don’t really make that.

Naji Gehchan: And did the dude, did you find, uh, a good cutoff cycle to force leadership to go through the exercise and take, if you add something you, you take on something else or because you know, one of the things I’m always amazed by how organically things boil up and after like three months of clarity, if you don’t keep on having the same.

Discipline. Right. And coming back and making sure that it’s really focused on two, three things, organically things grow, right? Like it’s, it’s, it’s always the case,

Elsbeth Johnson: such a good point. And it, it that’s that organic growth is essentially the thing that you’re trying to, uh, I mean, a bit like a Gardner is always trying to kind of keep the wildness at bay.

Right. Um, so one of the things that we always encourage is, uh, Sure leaders to kind of take a cold, hard look at themselves in terms of, you know, are they, are they helping create and protect slack for their managers? But we also, um, encourage managers to give leaders feedback on exactly that point. When we have a set of diagnostics that we run in these organizations to say to test things like how much bandwidth has been taken up, um, to what extent is your leader giving you additional priorities that, that, um, that suck up the time that you previously had as slack.

And, um, and if we get a signal that, that that’s becoming a problem, then that’s the kind of red flashing warning light that says to leaders that they probably need to go back and, and prune the activity.

Naji Gehchan: The last word above the reaction is spread love and organizations. What’s your reaction to this?

Elsbeth Johnson: I mean, I suppose, I mean, obviously this, it, this is the total of your organization and, and, and it perfectly encapsulates the ambition of the organization. Um, part of me just feels really sad that we even have to say this and spell it out because I mean, I mean, I love the word love.

I mean, I love how, how kind of, um, Because I’m sure in some jurisdictions that that must feel a little bit edgy to people, but, but I just feel like what would be the alternative, what spread hate, um, you know, spread antagonism. Um, so I just feel almost kind of, I almost feel sad that we even have to have to for this to be the invocation, um, because you know, the, the most effective leaders, um, are the ones who.

I mean, they might not describe it as spreading love, but they’re certainly spreading, um, you know, respect, um, you know, they’re spreading the talent, they’re sharing their skills, that teaching people that, as we said earlier, that bringing on that next generation of leaders. So. For me, um, I feel kind of sad that we even have to ask for this to be done in this explicit way.

Um, but I just think that’s a pretty damning indictment of about what, you know, what that says about the leaders who get promoted and a lot of the organizations that we see

Naji Gehchan: any final words of wisdom for all of you. There’s this thing there, the word.

Elsbeth Johnson: I think I would say two things. I think the first is, excuse me, and this might not be a word of wisdom. And just the kind of word of warning is that very often in organizations, we confuse confidence with competence. Um, in other words, the people who walk into our office and you know, are incredibly eloquent and, you know, sell us on an idea.

Um, Yeah, it’s perfectly possible that they are incredibly passionate and competent and their idea is the best thing that they’ve ever worked on. It’s also possible that they’re just incredibly. That they came through, you know, a private school, Ivy league education, and they’ve acquired the trappings of confidence and it has got absolutely nothing to do with confidence because the really dangerous thing for organizations is these things are not necessarily.

They’re not perfectly negatively correlated either, but, but, but when we conflate them and think that when we see confidence, it must mean that there is competence. That’s a very dangerous assumption. So I think that’s the first word of warning. The second thing I would say to all of those leaders who are out there thinking, Hmm, I’m not really sure that I want.

Like it feels a bit icky. Um, uh, and there might be some people that are particularly, um, particularly women, I think have, uh, have, uh, a bit less of a natural inclination to seek positions of power. Um, I think I would, I would just remind people that unlike every other type of power, social power, Uh, you know, the power of, um, networks or, or, or, um, or authority, um, positional power is a zero sum game.

And what I mean by that is if you have, if, if, if you and I are both going for the, for the top job and you get it, it means that I haven’t got it. So let’s make sure that the organizations that we’re putting. Give the positional power to the people who are most worthy of holding it and exercising it and using it for good, because if all of the good people who would use positional power, well, if they all take themselves out of the game and say, oh, no, no, no, no, no, I don’t want positional power.

No, no, no. I don’t want power of. Then the only people, the only candidates for positional power positions will be the people who just want to be senior rather than those who really want to lead and lead for the best. So I think that would be the final thing. I’d say, make sure that, that if, if you want to lead for the best reasons, make sure that you’re working out how to get your hands on positional power, because it is a zero-sum.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for such amazing discussion, the great tips that you gave us to be better leaders and go use all that we can do for us to change the world for the greater purpose.

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 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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.

This episode is very special! In partnership with ESCP Business School, I’ll be giving the mic to students, our leaders of tomorrow, to discuss with incredible healthcare executives about their journeys and leadership beliefs.

Hello, I am a specialized master’s student at ESCP Business School in Paris and I am honored to host Dries Hens in collaboration with Spread Love in Organizations, who is in a mission to transform healthcare, continuously improving patient outcomes with previously unavailable insights.

Dries Hens is a medical doctor and a successful entrepreneur. Dries knew he did not want to go toward clinical practice, but still wanted to remain in the field. He wanted to do more in healthcare, by making the most of all the unexploited data. In parallel to his studies, he began to set up his company: LynxCare Clinical informatic. Dries is currently Co-Founder, Chief Business & Medical officer. Actually, Lynxcare transforms medical data into insights for hospitals, physicians and patients.

“Hospital system is on an edge: today we have a lot of relevant data, almost everything is picked up but the next challenge is: what are we going to do with it?”

Dries Hens: Thank you. By the way.

ESCP Student: Thank you. Uh, you have a once month that you wanted to do more and have cared and being an ethical doctor, and you wanted to do something that would have an impact. Can you tell us why you have this vision and how that assimilated to the thing beyond medicine?

I would love to hear about that.

Dries Hens: Yeah. So, uh, it’s uh, of course a long story, but, um, in terms of impact, of course, I have to say that that medical doctors really working in hospitals have the real impact of treating patients, but, um, After med school. So I studied, uh, like energy medicine. I did it in Belgium.

Uh, after seven years of med school, you have two choices or you going to specialize, for example, in orthopedic surgery, or you become a general practitioner, um, But for me at that time, uh, I prefer to dirt option because I was really intrigued by the health care ecosystem as a whole. And that’s why after med school, I started to, um, yeah, doing biopharmaceutical management and yeah, fire this program, I learned really how the whole healthcare ecosystem works from life science companies to hospitals to insure Speyers.

Dries: Uh, and this is where I saw a lot of opportunity really leveraging. Yeah, my education into a more broader, uh, complete story, uh, of really changing healthcare. Um, and at that moment I was still studying in Paris. So my co-founder contacted me and he said, let’s do something in medical data. And yeah, I was directly convinced of the added value that better healthcare means better data.

And there’s still a lot to do, like you said, in need introduction. And that’s why we started the company straight out of philosophy. Which is right now, a scale-up with 35 people. Um, and it’s a really nice, nice potential and they story

ESCP Student: and to do other regrets with.

Uh, yes, she was the path of, uh, non medicine. Uh, uh,

Dries: exactly. So, yeah, it’s a question that I got, uh, yeah, a few times during my, uh, the course of the company. So everyone, the beginning, a family friends of course found it really weird that I was, uh, not specializing or not further advancing really to become a healthcare professional work in hospitals, directly with patients.

But, um, The moment that , and that’s also how I am personally, the moment that I was convinced of the ID and that we had the bigger goal to serve with our company and that I could have maybe an even bigger impact by starting this company and trying to successfully, uh, I’m trying to successfully yeah.

Build up this company, um, that we could really have a, a further division or mission is being that we want to improve health care by making sure that more and relevant data is becoming, uh, actionable, uh, towered healthcare professionals to. The first use case that we did with our company, we directed, demonstrated that our company really can, uh, in case, uh, healthcare outcomes without me being really directly involved in the patient, uh, uh, process.

And that’s why from that moment on, I didn’t look back and I didn’t have any regrets that I’m not active in the hospital.

ESCP Student: That’s nice. And what made you the leader you are today and how are you preparing the floor to the young leaders of tomorrow?

Dries: I think, um, um, of course it’s so still young. I’m now 32 years old, but, um, the big, yeah. Stepdad, you have to learn because we co founded the company with one co-founder. So we were too in the beginning, but our company grew quite exponentially.

Uh, the following years going to five to 10 people then going at 2 35 people. So, uh, your position as well as, uh, an entrepreneur, but also co-found the changes along the way. Um, and I think my. Biggest path of learning, uh, internally as well was, was more self knowledge. So you have to know really, if you want to become a leader or you have to know what you’re good at and how you really want to support the company.

And you have people that are really good in daily management. On a daily basis managing people within the organization. Uh, but this was not really my strong point and by being transparent as well to investors or to my other co-founder of course, um, we were, um, yeah, the heck the, on a path where I could be more motivational and inspirational to young people in the company, uh, by letting them, uh, in, in, in the field of healthcare data and trying really to push.

Uh, to blossom, uh, in our organization, which in my opinion is crucial. If you want to make sure that, um, your company succeed, you have to make sure that your organization and the people really working in your organization, uh, can blossom professionally. Uh, and this is still, I think the biggest impact that you can have as a, as a leader.

ESCP Student: Thank you. Address. And based on what you just said, can you link who you are today with an event that shapes you in the.

Dries: Um, can you, sorry, I didn’t understand the question.

ESCP Student: Um, can you link who you are today with an event that shaped.

Dries: Um, of course with, with, with a single event, that’s of course difficult.

Um, you have to know if you start a company, uh, or, or scale up company to really a coaster. So there were multiple events that, that shaped, uh, what am today and, and how I am, um, pursuing my professional and personal life. Of course. So it’s always a balance, um, thing, the biggest event. That changed me professionally is really something personally being, uh, yeah, the, the birth of my first daughter.

So my first child, uh, which really gives me, or gave me the necessary, uh, how do you say the necessary, uh, Hawk eye view on the cost to a helicopter view on the company. Uh, and which, in my opinion, makes me a better leader professionally, because I could zoom out into problems that are not really relevant.


ESCP Student: That’s amazing trees. Uh, you also mentioned that you started, uh, your, uh, your career from scratch with a few people and you made them. So let’s talk about your first hiring experience. Can you tell us about it and, uh, uh, what was the impact on the evolution of links care?

Dries: Yeah, so, um, the first real hire that we did is still someone that works in our company.

I remember 12, the, uh, because we, we were on a budget, so my co-founder Josh is CEO of the company. So he is the executive leader of the business in all transparency. But, uh, the first guy that we hired T actually did his internship straight during university as well with us, the moment he finished, uh, school.

It was really, um, yeah, we knew that we had to get that guy incentivized. And as of today’s still the lead data engineer in our company, really making sure that the platform is, um, how we are seeing it as a school founders. So that really, of course, was a big impact into a company. And he is still one of the most important people as well in our organization.

ESCP Student: And deal with the true leaders like you, they will, they will always stay. Uh, now, uh, how about the fundraising? How challenging did you find that to, uh, to establish links care?

Dries: Yeah, so, um, we had S and you have to know, uh, five, five years ago when we started the company. Healthcare data was something that people knew of, but a lot of people thought that the importance of what we are doing was not really there.

Um, but, uh, Josh and I, yeah, we kept going and we kept really convinced, uh, for our vision and our mission that healthcare really needs better data. And then of course, uh, COVID 19 QA came, uh, two years ago where. In one moment everyone saw from whether you worked in healthcare or not. Everyone saw the importance of having good data in order to, for example, control a pandemic.

Um, and that moment for us was, uh, was a real game changer. Um, also business-wise because, uh, yeah, our business model for our company, uh, pivoted a little bit, uh, in that case, and that was a accelerator. So to come back to your question, being fundraising, that. The first three years, it’s really difficult for us as a company.

It was not that easy, um, to really find the right investors because, um, the problem or the problem was not that’s. How do you say visible, uh, through the whole industry? Uh, two years ago, when COVID-19 hit, everyone jumped on what we were doing, uh, and we are still doing so fundraising right now for us comparison with Tibet four years ago is a lot easier.

Um, And I have to say. If you, for example, start a company and everybody says you have to start your company with, with family and friends, capital, et cetera. I’m not a big fan of this because I’m not a fan of mixing personal with, with professional life. Um, At first, you really need to have champions in your company being business angels, who already did this before and who can guide you to a first bigger round with, with, uh, venture capital.

Uh, and that’s just crucial, the moment you hit the right metrics, raising funds in the time where there’s a lot of money, a lot of, uh, cash, uh, on the banks to invest that that’s not the most difficult one. It’s the zero to one that is really. The most, uh, the most difficult funding process in my opinion.

ESCP Student: And did that being a true leader, doesn’t also it doesn’t on here. And make people blossom, but really to, to face the challenges and keep going. Uh, now that you have, uh, in non traditional non-corporate path where a medical doctor, you founded and launched your startup right after graduating from the STP, can you give us some tips for that?

For the young graduates on how it should either an entrepreneur has no age limit?

Dries: No, exactly. It doesn’t have fast, no age limit. In terms of being an entrepreneur or being, or starting a company in the dependent on, on whether you just graduated or you’re already spending 10, 15 years in corporate life is, um, by really being convinced of something.

Um, and being convinced of an ID is simple, but you have to have also on a personal level, the drive to really, um, go all in. And this is where for a lot of people, this is a step difficult to make. In my opinion, I see a lot of great people that have great ideas, but will never, um, yeah, never jump out of their golden corporate cage in order to develop that idea.

But, um, but this is yeah. Something where I as well, want to play a part in and try to convince those people, of course, with the, with the right when, when the market and the company and the business model is, is clear, uh, try to push them to, to becoming an entrepreneur because it’s, uh, not the life that everyone thinks of.

So it’s not the most, uh, Easy life, to be honest, because I think a being or having a startup is often, um, romanticized to our, how do you say it in English? Uh, it’s really at all at Cosa, but you, you have to be ready the moment. Of course you can validate your initial ID or you can validate, uh, the mission of why you started this company.

And you could put it on paper that you realized it, uh, this ID, this is I think in my opinion, the most, uh, compelling story to, uh, to start a company. But you have to be sure whether or not it’s not age-related, but you have to be sure that you see opportunities this first, uh, and you see, or describe risks as challenges to overcome.

Another lot of people, uh, do it in that order.

ESCP Student: Thank you. Now, we would like to jump to another section. Uh, we will give you one word and we want to get your reaction. So we will start with purpose.

Dries: For me. Purpose is a yeah, it’s a way of living. Of course, you could see pers purpose as a professionally or personally. For me, it’s, uh, the purposes of course, to become happy, to stay healthy. And in that view, my purpose as well as if I start a company or with links care, what we really are doing is, uh, really try to optimize healthcare, uh, in a way of using better and more data.

So for me, the main purpose being. Healthy being active and being happy for the three points that are crucial in everything I do. So a, there will always be of course, a link, uh, professionally and personally, but this is what I, what comes up to me when I hear purpose. Yeah.

ESCP Student: So it’s probably, uh,

Dries: Leadership for me is, um, the best leaders are invisible at the moment that the company goes well, because if you have a lot of young, talented, or not only young, but talented people in your company, uh, and the company goes well, then they deserve all the credit to, in my opinion, true leader is when some things are not going well in a company that steps up and gives all the tools and support necessary.

Uh, to make sure that the internal issues or problems are being solved and that’s for me, truly leadership.

ESCP Student: What about technology?

Dries: Technology is a mean to, uh, to achieve a certain goal. For example, links care. We are really technology, product driven business. But the real capital or the real value is still in the people working in our organization.

So I think technology is always a mean to go from place a, to B, but it shouldn’t be the end goal.

ESCP Student: How about.

Dries: Yeah, a great, a great project, you know, a great program, you know, that, um, really, uh, yeah, always happy when I land in Paris or London to give the year the courses, I think. Um, yeah, if I speak personally, I think that everyone that studies medicine or studies from these should have during his education, the opportunity to.

To be, uh, included in a certain track. Like we have at the MSM, uh, thirsty bay for me, it was a game changer because yeah, in six months time, you really know. Quite well, how healthcare ecosystem is working, but also by seeing so many professionals talking about what they do at their company, you can really, um, make up for yourself what really interests you as a person and where you think you can blossom.

Because again, I think leadership starts with knowing what you’re good at and pursuing in something that you’re good at, of course, a true leader as well notice weak points. And then it’s. Are you going to solve them yourselves or are you going to be surrounded by team members that can make up for, for your, uh, for your floss?


ESCP Student: I totally agree with you. And now we will end up with the word spread love and organizations.

Dries: Yes. It’s spread love. Um, if I’m looking at a. The trajectory that we did with our company, because that’s the thing that I know best with links scared in the beginning. Yeah. It’s, it’s really chaotic. And especially if you don’t have too many people, uh, in your organization and you have to do a lot of work then, um, yeah, I can, I can look back.

Of course. As well see that we made Atlas, uh, uh, as, as the beginning founders of this company, by maybe pushing sometimes people in the company too much, because we have a lot to do a lot on our plates and we didn’t make enough time maybe to, uh, Yeah, to really support people the right way. And this was really, uh, as well for me, a learning exercise, um, by yeah, creating the time and really creating as well, an environment where people, um, can get to the necessary support and feed.

But, um, in all honesty, this is of course, something that you can do from a certain scale in the company. Don’t I think it’s not that easy to do it directly from the beginning. Um, but if I would start again with my company, um, I think. The much more, um, susceptible as well from a management perspective to how our coworkers or the people in our organization really, uh, feeling.

Um, and by, for example, two years ago, there was an experienced CEO joining our company. And the first thing that. Was he implemented a survey system where each, I think each month or every two months, uh, all the people can, uh, can fill in a survey and we can see how happy they are with the workload, how happy they are in the organization, what they want to do, et cetera, et cetera.

But that gave us so many insights related to. The better as well from a management perspective in the company. Um, and that would be something that I directly as well, which would switch, implement, uh, know,

ESCP Student: I can agree, uh, any words of wisdom, trees for leaders and entrepreneurs and healthcare around the world.

Dries: Um, of course as a true leader, I just want to not only incentivize people, but for me, um, we are taking big steps in healthcare. In general. There are a lot of big companies transforming the way, how they are looking at healthcare.

Uh, I think it’s a positive evidence. We’re really value-based health care comes into play hopefully in the next two to three years. Um, it’s, we’re still not there, but, uh, I’m convinced that everyone that listens to this, as well as, uh, everyone that works in the industry works for insurances, but also works for, um, yeah.

In, in, in hospitals, the real healthcare providers, um, and everyone really, uh, It’s aligned in a value based healthcare model. Um, and that’s for me, something crucial for the coming years.

ESCP Student: Definitely. I can totally agree on a attest to it. Thank you for sharing your experience with us today. It was such an inspiration.

We can really spend hours with you and never get enough. Thank you so much for your time.

Dries Hens: Thank you. It was my pleasure.

Naji Gehchan: Thanks, Dries, thank you all for listening to spread love in organizations podcasts. We have such an important responsibility as leaders of today to plant the seeds for the leaders of tomorrow.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spread Love in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform

Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast, joined today by Dr Robert Bruce Associate Chief of Clinical Affairs at Boston University School of Medicine, and Director of Primary Care at Boston Medical Center (BMC). Prior to those roles, Robert transformed healthcare in the New Haven community focusing in the largest health center in new haven on quality and value based care which resulted in significant savings for CT Medicaid and the community. Doug was also Chief of Medicine at Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center and Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Yale University. He is a global expert in substance use disorders in people with HIV and hepatitis C. He has published widely on the topic of substance use disorders and HIV. He has provided technical assistance to CDC, NIH, and the United Nations.

Doug – I am so honored and humbled to have you with me today!

I would love to hear your personal story, from childhood to becoming an expert in HIV land hepatitis C living with and helping some of the most touched countries by those pandemics. What defined your journey and the incredible leader and physician you are today?

Doug Bruce: That’s a great question.

So, um, I grew up in the Cambridge kind of Boston area as a little kid, and I grew up and had lots of pulmonary problems actually. So I had like lots of asthma and what’s in and outta emergency room all the time. And so. I had some really good pediatricians and some not so nice pediatricians. And so at an early age, I thought, you know what?

I wanna be a doctor. I wanna be, I wanna be one of the nice ones but I wanna be able to help people. I want to be able to bring, um, joint and comfort. I, I realized that. What stood out in my mind as a child was not, oh, this doctor has more knowledge than that doctor. Right? It was more just, oh, this doctor seems to care about me.

Now, this one seems like I’m a widget. Um, I wouldn’t have said widget when I was a kid it was kind of the feeling. So I, uh, for a long time, felt like. I really wanted to be in healthcare. Um, my faith is really important to me and I realized when I was working in the public hospital system. So I, I went to the university of Texas Southwestern med school in Dallas.

And I worked at Parkland Memorial hospital, which is a big county hospital system. And I was taking care of marginalized populations of groups of people. Kind of, you might think of were forgotten by the system and began at that time, it was the aids epidemic was working with people with HIV, people, with substance use disorders and, uh, saw all kinds of things that, um, I felt like there were great inequities and great trials and tribulations that people were facing.

And that one of the jobs of being a physician was to be an educator, but also an. And so after I finished my training in Dallas, I went to Yale university and did a graduate degree in philosophical theology, um, because I wanted to read widely and think, and be very reflective about the care of those groups of people.

And then started working with the LH program and providing street level care for substance users and people with. And from that began developing programs and then working internationally with marginalized populations to try and systematically make things better for people who may not be able to advocate for the.

Naji: You, you have served, uh, Doug in countries hit hard in moments where few innovations were even existent for those diseases to treat those patients. Can you share with us your experience stories, learning that you take with you today leading in healthcare systems in the

Doug Bruce: United States? Yeah. So, um, I guess two, two things stand out.

One. I spent a fair amount of time going back and forth to Ukraine and what’s happening. There is a tragedy when I was in Ukraine. Uh, one of the trials that we faced was how siloed healthcare is, and we know that healthcare can be siloed in many countries. And so my time in Ukraine taught me that creative ways to try and overcome.

Seemingly impossible silos. So, uh, just concretely, for example, in Ukraine, if you take care of drug addiction, you’re an oncologist and you’re not allowed to prescribe medications or offer any treatments outside of your narrow scope. So like unlike in America, right? I’m not a psychiatrist, but I legally could prescribe psychiatric medications and Ukraine.

If you’re an oncologist, you’re not describe. Treatment for tuberculosis, even if your patient has tuberculosis, you have to get a special doctor, APH physiatrist who will do that. And then that person is divided between those who do it on the inpatient system and those who do it on the outpatient system.

So I kind of learned in that environment, just the critical need to begin asking questions to talk, not just to government officials or healthcare officials, but stakeholders. And, and I had known that in the, in the. Aids epidemic stays in the nineties and the importance of stakeholders, um, and importance of voice and people giving people agency and voice.

I think what I learned differently was also, um, sometimes the way to get to the truth is you have to just talk to so many different people. And that’s what blew my mind when I was in Ukraine. I didn’t understand the limitations and I. Because people were not forthcoming. I represented a government or I represented a university and people felt that they had to answer me a certain way, but when I would go talk to drug users or people with HIV and community, people were very forthcoming.

They’re like, ah, no, this doesn’t work. Or this is the real problem. Um, and like a classic example was when I was in hair song Ukraine, and we were just talking about like TB adherence rates and it was just, it was really difficult to understand. Like what the problem was because on one hand, like there are no problems, but eventually we got to the realization of, oh wait, you can just walk up to the pharmacy at the TB hospital and by part of a TB regimen.

So what, what we found out was like, if you were a substance user, you would go and get admitted to the hospital. You’d had no treatment for your heroin problem. So you got sick, which meant that you left, but you had started some treat. Your new treatment was important. So after you left, you could go to the pharmacy, but TV treatment was for medicines.

So you can’t afford four medicines, you buy one medicine. And so that helps you feel better until you get drug resistance. And so it was kind of this systematic problem, but it was very difficult to get at it through one lens. And so I think that was one thing that was really important to me. And I carried that with me when I went to Tanza.

And the need for stakeholders. So, um, an example of this was, um, so in Tanzania there’s a big heroin epidemic. That’s kind of really fed into the HIV epidemic. And we had a situation where those most at risk for HIV were female sex workers who also injection drug users. We had very, very high rates like in the survey samples that they had done, like over half of the women had HIV.

So we’re trying to get them into treatment on meds. You. But when you looked at the clinics, the clinics were mostly men that were providing services. And so what did we do? We had to go out and actually meet with the women and talk to them and find out like what’s going on. And they brought up just very logical reason, right?

Like what the clinic doesn’t have the hours that are convenient for me. Right. Cause the con the clinic had morning hours. The women were sleeping cuz they’d been up all. Uh, with their trade over, over the evening and using, using substances. So we had to think about, well, how do we lower the threshold so that women can get in?

How do we create a safer environment? What do we do with the men that are loitering around? How do we create an environment that’s, um, safer women. And, and that was based on the feedback from, from the women.

Naji: Uh, those are, those are powerful examples that, that you’ve, uh, led. Uh, so how, how do you ensure like this curiosity, but also this need actually to go on the field, understand what’s going on and bringing it back and change the system because you practically had to change systems to make this work for patients.

Doug Bruce: Yeah. So, um, I mean, I. You have to tailor it. Right. But to, to your point, just, just because someone recognizes the need doesn’t mean that they’re willing to help. I mean, an example of this is, um, we were showing that the tuberculosis rates among the patients in that first drug treatment program in Tanzania were very, very high.

It was not surprising. It was one of those things. You know that there’s a high probability that, that this is gonna be the case. Substance users are using drugs together. They’re in closed environments, inside poor ventilation, HIV increases your risk of tuberculosis. So the probability is that there’s gonna be TB among the substance users.

The there was no active program to search for TB. So one of the early programs we did intense and after we set up the drug treatment program was to check for HIV, offer HIV therapy, but then it was to start trying to be active in, uh, searching for tuberculosis. And so a, a student of mine went out there and, uh, started doing active case finding and the teams in Tanzania supported this.

So they were all really interested in. And part of the team’s interest, as you can imagine, was they didn’t want to get TB. And so, um, it was kind of playing off the enlightened self interest of this is a real material patient concern, but if there are high rates of this, this is a real material concern for all of the healthcare workers in that environment.

Cause. I mean, we didn’t have, they weren’t in 90 fives floating around for everybody to wear for TV prevention. Right? The main TV prevention is great ventilation, open windows, staying outside, um, where UV light kills it. So that program found that there were high rates of TVB like, not as high as south African mines, but like 20 times higher than the national average of tens.

So very high rates and eventually. You know, it’s not surprising, right? So you change your infection, protocol, infection, prevention protocols, you have better ventilation yet. Don’t put people in isolated environment. And, uh, eventually actually the TB program from the university hospital system in Tanzania started spending time taking care of patients.

And so it changed the system. But in this case, it was playing off on that enlightened self interest, which also paired with the patient. But then we tried to get, you know, external funding from a separate government agency that for all intensive purposes, you would’ve thought would want to fund this. Cuz their enlightened self interest would be like, oh, like you can get credit for this, but they didn’t wanna get involved because a different agency was funding.

The, the larger work that we were doing. And so they were worried about, they never said this, but it became apparent that they were more concerned about. Uh, who got credit for the activity, then the activity itself, which is very disappointing. So I wasn’t able to, to change them. They’re they’re much bigger than me.

Naji: well, yeah. And it touches to all those lenses. We, you know, we both learned in, in class mm-hmm um, the, obviously this is a huge impact that you had in, uh, again, in countries with. Tremendous need and in moment of crisis, uh, obviously in those countries, uh, I would love to get another leadership learning from you as you led teams there.

So you had students, you had physicians who were working with you, uh, and it’s kind of potentially also relatable to so many folks. And you went through the COVID pandemic yourself as a, as a healthcare provider. How do you lead teams in such moment? High pressure, attention, uh, emotional, uh, struggle and really life threatening diseases that you’re dealing

Doug Bruce: with.

That’s a great question. So I think probably the most important thing that I did in Tanzania, um, was to come in, in humility and say to the teams, cause like I’m a guy from the United States coming in. And I’m, I’m hoisted upon the people and people there, and they’re, they’re smart physicians there in Tanzania.

And so it can be very, uh, off putting, if you are, you know, a academic in the local university there in Tanzania, and some guy shows up from the west and says, I know more than you do. Right. So what I had to come in initially in the, even in the beginning meetings to say, I’m only here because I’ve done this before.

I have a body of knowledge. And so my job is to, to impart that knowledge and to work with you, but you have to figure out how this is going to be in contextualize in Tanzania. I’m not Tanza, I don’t know the local politics. I don’t know how to do this here, but we’re gonna work together to be successful.

And so I told them from the outset. I, there will be a day when I don’t come to Tanzania anymore because you won’t need me because you will be the experts. And so I think that resonated very strongly with them because they had been through, as you can imagine, a series of kind of us government funded activities, where people come in, kind of tell people what to do and set it up.

And, and it’s not as value driven from the, the people there. And. What I saw in my role as was just, I’m kind of your consultant, I’m your, your information person. And I’m really here to support the team, but you’re gonna actually contextualize it. And so a lot of that then became more about empowerment, more about working with the leaders to say, um, so like kind of an example, They were very worried about overdosing patients, which is a, a legitimate concern.

This was a methadone program in Dar Sal lump Tanzania. So they are keeping the doses really low. And so what that, what that happens is if you don’t give somebody adequate replacement therapy, they continue to use heroin, engage in risk, but they were afraid to go up on the dose because they thought, well, if I give the person more methadone and the person continues to use heroin, they can.

Which kind of is a logical fear, but the reality is as you go up on the methadone dose, they go down on the heroin dose. So, so I said to them, look, you all the very smart people. Why don’t you, um, just set up a small mini trial, just take some proportion of the patients, go up on their doses and see what happens.

You don’t have to make it a clinic-wide policy, but just use it as an opportunity to learn. So they did. Right. And this is this, I’m not like announcing this. I mean, this is just like private conversations with people and they did that. They went up on doses. Patients stopped using heroin and they were like, this is amazing.

And then the next thing I know, they have generalized that throughout the system and then they’re really dosing patient. But again, it was, it wasn’t about me coming in saying, this is what you have to do. It was. Let’s have a conversation and let’s talk about our options and why don’t you consider this kind of a pilot project.

And so I think humility is the most important thing that I learned in interacting, especially in international projects, because so often people are coming in again and just kind of telling people what to do, and then that’s so devaluing. Right. But as I talked to them and said, You’re the experts. How would, how do you, how do we do this intensity?

Like, what are we facing? How do we address this? It was, I think it was very empowering. They eventually set up training programs there where they were training additional physicians and, and who are now leading other programs, which was exciting. Um, but that’s something that I then took back to Boston and, and to other places of just, um, never underestimate the information and the power of the person that you’re meeting.

Regardless of education, regardless of position, they have something to teach you. And, and that, by valuing that person and partnering with that person, you can make a lot of change, more change than you thought you could. And it’s a great

Naji: pivot to my next question. You talked about humidity empowerment.

These are really strong, strong words. As a leader. In the last years, you’ve been focusing on innovation, operations, optimization, practice transformation, like all those large change management projects in academic, uh, medical practices in the us. So what is the main challenge you’re facing today and how do you lead through those large organizational

Doug Bruce: changes?

Yeah, inertia is a huge problem. I’m just amazed at how physicians, nurses, medical, assistant administrators really almost feel like the system can’t change, or if the system can change, they view it as, you know, one or 2% on the margins. Um, they view it through the current lens that they’re that’s, they’re passionate about volume value.

Um, Finishing my charting, right. Not spending the evening doing that. And so I’ve found it challenging to kind of help people understand that, wait, should you reconsider the entire paradigm here? You’re like, you’re living in this soup in this swimming pool, whatever you’re in. Maybe you should get out of it.

Like maybe we would need to completely rethink things. Um, and so some of that has then. You know, as I always do in a new environment, you spend a whole lot of time just talking to people, surveying the faculty, getting feedback, and trying to create an open door policy. And then also trying to help people understand.

Look, I’m not gonna take it personally, if you come and tell me that the system is dumb and it’s broken, like I’m, I’m, that’s fine. I want information and I want information so that we can make it better. But I would say like, inertia is a big thing and, and the pandemic. In many ways, because the pandemic was this push into the lives of people where people felt disempowered, they felt hopeless.

Like there’s this external factor and I can’t fight against it. And I think certainly where I’m working now, people have transferred that into their work environment. Some that, um, you know, my clinic got flipped from, in person to telehealth. I didn’t have control over that or. Alerts keep coming up in the electronic health record.

And I can’t control that. Or, and so there’s this sense that I’m powerless and because I’m powerless, I’m not really engaged with change management because I’m kind of hopeless about change. And so a fair amount of what I’ve been trying to do is find some small wins to show people that change is possible, but change is possible when we work together, change is not really possible.

Doug Bruce by himself trying to make change. Right. That’s completely ineffective it’s as we work together and come together that we can make change. Um, but fighting against inertia has been painful.

Naji: And this is a very interesting insight because as you said, pandemic has challenged all of us, right? And many would think that it challenged us in a way to change that now will be sustainable change, right?

Like from work from home and the hospitals, all telemedicine the speed of developing drugs, et cetera. But I’m hearing from you, the state of mind of healthcare providers today is not that like I heard. Hopelessness. We’re not powerful enough to make those changes. Where, why do you think that as we know, there is a huge mental toll on, on healthcare providers.

And many times I’ve shared it before we applauded them in the beginning of the pandemic, but actually didn’t change much of the, the struggle they go through, uh, after a couple of months. Right. So what do you think is happening and how can we do it as healthcare leaders across the different, uh, healthcare industries?

Doug Bruce: Yeah. Well, I, I think the, one of the things that I’ve been trying to do is actually apply some of those lessons that I learned in Tanzania and into academic health centers, because, um, academic, medicine’s a very hierarchical system where people don’t feel like they have voice or agency, um, and, and promotion systems and things can be somewhat opaque.

And so trying to give people an opportunity. And so some of that is. And this is seemingly silly, but I think people have found great value in it is personally replying to the emails that people send me. Right? Like I’ve, I’ve, I’ve heard what you said, you know, or taking time to you have a question. Well, let’s set up a call, let’s have a conversation about this, you know, do you wanna mean person?

Do you wanna meet on zoom again? It’s it’s really trying to be responsive. And then to be honest, I mean, the thing that I’ve been trying to tell people is like, look, I’m I’m, I’m not gonna lie to you about this. I’m gonna just tell you where it is and it could be. Your issue is completely legitimate.

Unfortunately, like right now we don’t have resources to address it, or we don’t, we can’t address it. We don’t have the technology or it could be like, I’ve got this fire over here and we have to address this fire before we can do this. And the faculty, I think at least in the feedback they’ve given me is that they’ve been very appreciative of the transparency and the honesty, um, because that builds trust.

And so then when there’s some trust and then you. We can do this. Like, Hey, like we can, like, there’s a pathway forward. We can make this change and make it happen. Well, people start to say, well, Doug’s been honest before. Maybe he’s being honest about this. Maybe he’s not just saying this, like people have said in the past to try and motivate us.

So we see some more patience. Um, so I think building trust through transparency and honesty is really important. If we’re gonna start trying to help healthcare providers. Get out of some of that inertia and hopelessness and feeling that they don’t have voice and they don’t have power. And so we have to create opportunities for voice and agency and we have to listen to that.

And then we have to be responsive to that.

I love that.

Naji: Uh, I, I would give you one word and I would love to get your

Doug Bruce: reaction to it. So the first

Naji: word is leadership.

Doug Bruce: I guess when I think of leaders, I think about people who get on the front line and work with and like, or in the, in the middle of the battle. Right. I don’t think of leadership as detached from what’s happening. Um, the, the most success I’ve had in leadership has been. On the front line, learning from people, teaching people and changing the system there.


I think increasingly when I think of innovation, I think I would say I used to think of that as change, like modify the current system. And I, I think of that now as creativity I think more and more of innovation. What’s a better system. Like just what’s a completely better system. And so I would say I’m learning in that space again, having a breadth of people speak into that is really important because of the, the realization that I could say the current system is bad.

Let’s make a new system, but it shouldn’t. My new system, it should be our new system. And so well, who are the, our, and so often, like the physicians in the practice will say, what’s, what’d the doc say? You know? Well, what, what about the nurse practitioners and the PAs? What about the nurses? What about the medical assistants?

What about the front desk staff? What about the stakeholders? What about the patients who are the actual people who are coming right? And so the more that we branch that out and the more that we give agency and voice, I think the more we can be truly innovative and have something totally different, um, which is what I’m now thinking more about as the word innovation, just making it completely different and better intellectual

Naji: property.

And it comes from a debate we had

Doug Bruce: Yeah, I think so. I, I really do believe that you need to protect intellectual property. So I’ve changed in my view of this, right? Like I, I was in the, probably more supportive of act up and like, Get meds to the world. I still believe that we need to find ways that we can get medication across the globe, to everyone who leaves it.

Um, the, the very reason that we did a methadone clinic in Tanzania versus anything else was because, um, it’s the cheapest thing to do. It’s also the most effective, which is kind of rare that the cheapest is the most effective, but it was incredibly effective, but because it was cheap, we could treat more people.

And, you know, in public health interventions, it’s really about treating large numbers of people. If you’re going to make a difference, right? If, if we only vaccinated 10% of America against COVID, we really wouldn’t be having the kind of successes that we’re having now. So public health interventions, especially with infectious diseases require large scale intervention.

I think that if we don’t protect intellectual property, people will not be innovative. They will not create completely new drugs. They will not create completely new solutions. I mean, I’m amazed when I started taking care of people with HIV, they were fists of pills that were incredibly toxic and horrible life limiting side effects to now, now, today, like, I mean, this is crazy to me.

It’s easier to treat HIV than high blood pressure and. Like I, if you had asked me in the nineties, in the middle of the aids epidemic, you know, someday HIV will be easier to treat than diabetes. I would’ve said you’re nuts. Like that’s just not gonna happen, but it happened because people, because let’s be honest, right.

There was a profit motive in, in doing that the same with hepatitis C. Like I never thought that we would be curing people as easily as we can now with hepatitis C treatment and. I want to preserve the intellectual property that helps foster innovation for companies to make a profit, because that’s why they’re innovating in the first place.

I just wanna find a way where we can, that those medications don’t just stay in rich countries. And then the patients that I care for in, in other nations of the world, who are people too, and who have I. Dignity as people and rights to good healthcare that they can’t access it just because they were born in a foreign country.

Right. That just doesn’t seem right to me. Um, but I do fear that if we just do away with IP in these things, or we fight against them, then people will say, well, why, you know, we’ll invest our money in real estate or something. And I don’t want, I want people to continue to invest in developing great medications, especially when there are some serious diseases still in the.

That we need people to be innovative about. I mean, malaria, for example. Yeah. What about

Naji: spread love in organizations?

Doug Bruce: Well, I think that, I mean, that kind of goes to everything that we’ve been talking about. Right. Um, I, you know, one of the things I, I tell healthcare providers who can be so serious sometimes , I’m like, you know, if all we do when patients come is tell patient.

How they failed in everything. They failed to lose weight. They failed to take the medicines. They failed to like, go get it. Just whatever, like who wants to come see anybody? That’s that negative? Who wants to come see the healthcare provider? Who’s like, yeah, you, you failed come back. Um, and my own life.

Right? So my, my doctor told me one that, um, cuz I was like, I don’t wanna exercise. Why don’t you just give me a statin for my Cho. And like the guy looked at me and was like, you’re a smart guy. Figure it out. Like just go exercise. And I didn’t go see him for a year because I was like, I wasn’t exercising.

And then I like exercised two weeks before I see him. So I could answer the question and be like, yeah, I’m exercising. And he didn’t even ask me. I was so upset. I was like, really, but that’s not necessarily a productive healthcare relationship. And so when I think of spreading love, I think of spreading love, both among staff.

So one of the things that I do often is I try to remind every member of the staff, their vital importance. So I’ll tell the front desk staff, like you’re the first point of contact when people walk into the clinic, like your role is incredibly important because that’s gonna set the tone for the rest of the visit.

If I’m mad after the front desk, I’m gonna be mad when I talk to their medical assistant, I’ll be mad when I talk to the nurse. I’m mad when I talk to the doctor. So, and then empowering medical assistants, like you are getting a proper blood pressure as like real material, healthcare consequences, like your role’s really important.

And so I think part of spreading love is helping people know that they are valued and that they’re not just parts of a machine and that we, I can flip a switch and easily replace you. It’s like, no, no. Like you are bringing you to work today. And you are valuable and you are important and what you bring is important.

And so I think as people feel that value as they feel that like coming to work’s really important, I like, I need to go to work today. Well, why? Cause I’m really important that then spreads to patients, right? If I’m really happy and experiencing joy in my job, because people hear value and care about me, I spread that to patient and that’s infectious.

I mean, I like infectious disease. Right. But like it’s really infectious. And so I think we just need more and more to do that. And it just starts with saying you have dignity as a person, and I need to treat you with dignity. And as I do that, I’m spreading well,

Naji: I love that Doug. And, you know, I, I thought a lot and you kind of touched on the four letters that I sometimes use with love.

It’s listen, observe value, and empower you. You literally talked about all of that. Thank you so much for those amazing examples. Any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders

Doug Bruce: around the word?

Uh, I would say be creative, be a listener and be humble. The, you know, I I’ve had, um, high school educated substance users, um, teach me things. I’ve had people with multiple doctorate teach me things.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spread Love in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform

Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on 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.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Dimitris Bertsimas

Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this episode joined today by Dimitris Bertsimas Professor of Management, Operations Research, and Associate Dean for the Master of Business Analytics at MIT.

A faculty member since 1988, Dimitris’ research include optimization, stochastic systems, machine learning, and their application in different sectors including healthcare. Dimitris is also a serial entrepreneur, he cofounded several companies like Dynamic Ideas sold to American Express, Benefits Science, a company that designs health care plans for companies, and MyA health, a personalized health care advice company. 

Dimitris has coauthored more than 200 scientific papers and several books. He has received numerous research awards, including the William Pierskalla best paper award in health care.

His work in healthcare through analytics contributed to improve many patients’ lives, and still more to come!

Dimitris – I am humbled to have you with me today!

Dimitris Bertsimas: It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Naji Gehchan: First, I would love to hear your personal story from electrical engineering, to math, computer science and analytics, and now being a serial entrepreneur and MIT professor what’s behind this impressive journey of yours.

Dimitris Bertsimas: Well, um, I was born in Greece and came to finish the computer science department there graduated in 95 and then came to the U S at MIT in that year of 1995.

And I have been at MIT ever since I finished my PhD in eight in enjoying the faculty that. Uh, so th there is, um, but back in my childhood, I mean, uh, there is, uh, my, both, my parents installed in me the idea to, to Excel in whatever one does. Um, so with these preconditions, um, we see something I try to do, I try to do as good a job as I can.

Um, then, uh, when I find myself in. In the, um, in the Boston area and at MIT, which is, uh, an environment that, um, sort of excellence is a given, uh, I thought, uh, and inspired by the, by the environment. I, I thought that it might be. Um, a reasonable idea to apply what I, I study and I do research on in the real world because in the end of the day, I, I believe then, and now that, um, the best theories are those that solve the problems that originated with theories and other results.

I have been involved in the beginning of the nineties in. In this early in the financial sector of Boston, Boston has a very strong one of the strongest in the world asset management area. But then later in healthcare, healthcare in Boston is very strong. Some of the best hospitals in the world are here.

So the combination, therefore of my predisposition to effect, to have impact, to matter, to affect the world, the environment at MIT that, um, uh, motivates people. Uh, for all ages to do as good a job as they can, and the opportunities that are available to somebody like myself, um, and, uh, who has both the mighty connection, deep connection, and it has an entrepreneurial spirit, um, to achieve these objectives.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you for sharing that you have a passion for healthcare, and you mentioned it’s here, um, as your work contributed 3d to change people’s lives on many of the research and the work that you’ve done. Why healthcare? Why is this passion specifically for this sector?

Dimitris of yours.: Um, at some point, um, I definitely have a predisposition to have impact, but, um, and in the beginning of the 2000, there was an opportunity with a close friend of mine to start a company called who also in healthcare. Uh, and I started, we started the company. Oh, my, he was doing well at decisive point was also that my parents also got sick.

My, I lost my father to cancer in 2009. She got sick in 2007 in the same year, 2009. I also lost my mother. So this is a period of roughly middle age. When you, you think about your. And, um, and you observe that, um, what is important. Um, and I thought, um, affecting the lives of people in a positive way is more important than, uh, perhaps making money and making rich people richer that I was doing when I was.

In an earlier life when I was working in finance and services. So I, I’m not that I have any negative opinion about these matters, but I definitely believe that, um, researching the and helping people to improve the lives, um, is a value is a worthwhile effort. And I have also observed that with the evolution.

All for analytics, namely the data in electronic form in healthcare, the opportunities are significantly higher than they were in the past. So, um, that’s some of my, um, aspirations.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, and we definitely share this similar purpose of making life better. And in healthcare you would frequently, I think you met with people who share this purpose, uh, deeply, uh, you, you start talking about, uh, data, uh, AI and what this can bring to healthcare.

So there’s obviously a huge hype on, on this, on big data AI and how this will disrupt the healthcare industry. You know, those trendy words these days, you’re obviously an expert there. I would love to hear your thoughts about

Dimitris Bertsimas: it. Um, so let’s take an analogy. Um, in, um, I was involved, um, in financial services in the late eighties, early nineties using quantitative approaches, analytics, beta, and so forth.

And, uh, it can have a significant impact in the field, um, in healthcare. The availability of data and electronic form of, uh, both fractured and unstructured, electronic medical records, uh, computer vision scans, uh, language is starting to become increasingly available. I would say in the last decade. Uh, so if you think about human doctors and how they, they, uh, reach decisions, uh, diagnosis and, uh, and prescriptions regarding their patients, they definitely involve data of this type electronic records test.

They do scans, they read reports that they read. Uh, recently genomic information. So it makes reasonable sense to me anyway, to utilize the same type of data that human doctors do to, uh, to make these predictions with a difference that computers, unlike. Typically don’t get tired. They are, they have less bias.

Maybe they might be biased on the developers, but, uh, of the algorithms, but, um, but nothing else. So it makes sense, you know, rationally to consider. The use of methods that have been unusually successful in other areas. I mentioned finance services, but you know, energy production, if you think about energy production in the world regarding why we have electricity today, and it works quite well, and I leave the keys behind it and we use of data and so forth.

So it’s makes sense that, um, given the availability, um, to, um, to attempt to do that, Um, and of course, many people realize. And when people try that, there is a complexity that unlike other areas, we are dealing with humans, both human doctors and human patients. So therefore other elements besides data, mother, understanding what drives them, understanding the culture, how they react to compliance that’s um, that makes it as what are some more active.

Um, in addition to being potentially. Can we double

Naji Gehchan: click on this because I love how you frame it, human doctors. Uh, I dunno if it’s compared to computer

Dimitris Bertsimas: doctors that something, that’s my that’s what I expect in the future might be at least in assisting doctors. Um, so, okay.

Naji Gehchan: Can we talk about this? Because many times we see innovation, some would see innovation as, you know, disruption, or like the end of.

Certain type of jobs. So you shared the complexity of it. Like, what is your vision about it? Shouldn’t be afraid as healthcare professionals, uh, from the technology or embrace it. What is your

Dimitris: view on this? We have seen disruption innovation in many industries over the centuries then. So it’s definitely the case that the type of jobs change, but humans are not replaced.

Take for example. Doctors, the medical education in the world has not changed primarily since 1920s. When John Hopkins introduced the care and structure of training doctors, the appendix, the append, this type where data doesn’t play a significant role. Um, this is, uh, I think in my view, this is about time to change because it makes good sense, given that the technology has now advanced, it might be not yet at the level that we can trust it a hundred percent, but it’s definitely has improved dramatically to train doctors in this way.

Therefore, it’s not that we’re not going to have human doctors. Of course they were going to have, but they are going to be in my office. Uh, the doctors of the future will be drained, trained differently. They are trained today in addition to anatomy, in addition to, um, do what they learn at the moment. And the experiential aspect is very important.

I think understanding. Uh, data and their exploitation using machine learning AI, I think it will be part of the story and programs in digital medicine. I, I already observed them reluctantly being in some universities, but I believe it was. Main stream in the years to come. And if you train young people in this way, this will take a generation.

Don’t take me wrong. It’s not going to be simple, but I have little doubts that in 10, 15 years, uh, the experienced patients will have in visiting doctors. In assessing, um, what will happen to them from a healthcare perspective would be quite different from what is today. But I do not believe that this would replace humans.

It will just be an adaptation of what the doctors do as opposed to replacing them.

Naji Gehchan: Well, you shared a in the class, I had the opportunity and pleasure to be in, uh, in, in your classes. Uh, great examples on how data and AI really transformed, uh, some of the care for patients, uh, and things you worked on. I would love if you can share one or two of these examples to give tangible.

Dimitris Bertsimas: So, um, I have a long collaboration with Hartford hospital. Um, hospital in connected cars and have for healthcare in that we have implemented, um, and, and, uh, machine learning, AI approach that, um, predicts for every patient. The length of. The probability of mortality, the probability of, um, going to ICU, leaving the ICU.

So in other words, for every patient in the hospital, based on the data they have, based on who is updated regularly, because there’s new information, the hospital, we basically can, um, make predictions about. The future and why this is relevant. Suppose you observe a patient. As we have that. The, the mortality probability we used to be, let’s say 2%, 1%, two days ago is now 3% today, 5% tomorrow.

So even though these are still small numbers, In the scale of things, the fact that our increasing might reveal and condition that human doctors, it’s hard to, it’s hard to observe. And in fact, in this particular case, this particular person developed, uh, an infection that was slowly developing. And the fact that we’re able to observe this, the album picked up the increasing probability gave you opportunity to doctors to actually attend to this.

Uh, even though the algorithm in other words was not designed for this purpose, the fact that you can use it in this way helped the outcomes. That’s one example. Here’s another example. I have been involved for a decade now in a company called benefit science that you mentioned its objective is to design healthcare policies for large organizations in the United States, but also around the world.

Healthcare is primarily the responsibility of the employer. So the employer typically provides the funding provides healthcare and they typically self in soar in that, but they also have to decide what type of plan. So rather than basing, only on demographics benefit science looks at actual data to design.

What is the best quality of policy of a policy? What combination of health savings account, um, PPO plans, HMO plans. To maximize quality subject to a budget. And we have found that, um, the companies, um, save money, but the quality also increases. Another example is another company that you mentioned, Maya health, my analytics health, that takes the perspective of not the company, but the patient.

So, so let’s say you are, um, you have a health savings account. So what is the best way from a to. Um, to monitor and optimize your health. For instance, if you want to do an MRI, what do you do the MRI? If you, because the price is very, very significantly, the quality of care at various places for various specialties also, uh, significantly changes.

Data provides you an objective view of reality. Data can allow you to, um, to basically take the bias out and make more objective and overall better. So this is an example from hospitals to two companies to patients. And it’s really endless. I could go on give you many other examples. Yeah. Thank you.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you for those.

You said data gives you an objective way to look at things I want to, I want to get into more leadership, uh, discussion. With data. And my first question on this would be when you shared the example, for example, uh, on, uh, on the healthcare, uh, hospital or the institution you worked with, uh, we always see reluctance from healthcare providers from experts.

Uh, whenever there is data saying something. And we don’t really believe or buy into, right? Like the model is wrong. No, it’s different. You know, we even see it in our industry is when we talk with different countries, like data shows something, but you always have, oh no, we are an exception. It’s different here.

How do you deal with this? Have you seen this and how do you deal with

Dimitris Bertsimas: it multiple times? There is skepticism that comes from culture, but also sometimes correctly. I mean, you deal with significant decisions about patients, life and death, this situation sometimes. So it’s appropriate to be skeptical. So in this particular experience with Hartford is I was fortunate to have met, um, two people.

Uh, there were four men, executive MBA students. I met them in the classroom. Uh, who have leadership positions in the organization? Um, Barry Stein and RJ Kumar, both of them are in the leadership of the Carrefour healthcare hospital system. And, um, I had the opportunity therefore, to be introduced to them and at least start in a relation of trust with these two gentlemen and over time, because I started working with people.

And then so forth. Um, there, the level of trust increased dramatically, a particular important moment is that I gave a class to about, it was just before COVID. It was 2000, January, 2020, just before March. Uh, and I gave a lecture, a set of lectures, um, to about a hundred professionals about the art of the.

We are the other possible in healthcare and this educated many people at the senior level physicians, nurses, administrative personnel, um, about what can be achieved using data and analytics and this open the door. Even for example, we, we developed a model for COVID, uh, for trying to help, uh, hospitals.

Size their ICU needs given that you don’t know how the, how the disease will develop. So the fact that they were already seen the benefits and the realities of analytics. Mainly leaders in the hospital to at least approach it with more trust. Of course you have to verify, but, but the door was open and therefore the method had an impact in the hospital.

It allowed them. Two sides. The ICU is not only my main hospital, but the eight hospitals of the, of the system, uh, and the rest was relevant. And the trust is not only at the leadership level. Healthcare is local, no matter what the CEO of the hospital says in the end, the decision maker is the nurse and the doctor who, who are, who are in, um, Near the side of the patient.

And if they go and that’s what you’re going to say, it doesn’t matter who supports. So my experience therefore, is that, um, the, the literacy aspect allows. The missile contact, but then we, we, the way we developed all these methods is that even today on a weekly basis with various groups, with the patient, the doctors that attend to the patients, the doctors that attend, um, surgeries, uh, surgeons, nurses, and so forth, we have weekly.

So as a result, when somebody asks, I don’t explain, they explain and it’s much more effective if your colleague who is, of course you have a decades relations whom you trust say something, it has a different gravitas. And, um, I have found that, uh, Understand, you know, understanding the culture of the environment and gaining trust, not gaining trust by, by basically demonstrating to people that we, first of all, you, you trust their opinion.

For example, if the algorithms benefited from their comments and if this, if this happens, it’s not anymore, the album I developed is the algorithm that we have. And that’s how it is presented. So I would say this is a combination of leadership from the top, but also literacy from the base. Uh, and in some cases, one is much more effective than.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, that’s that’s great. Um, you, uh, well, we had Barry in one of our episode, various time for the listeners who want to know more about his story, you shared Demetrius about, uh, all this power of data and really how they impacted lives and the most recent example with COVID, as you said, Um, there’s all this informed.

Decision-making also that as leaders we can do now, even better with all the data that we can, we can process. How do you see leadership? In fact evolving? Based on those data analytics algorithm that we can use. Do you see it changing or will it change? And what is the role of leadership overall and this a

Dimitris Bertsimas: massive word of that to set an example from yes.

So yesterday, one of the largest, um, Italian companies contacted me with the idea to they, they decided to increase, uh, the digital, uh, aspect in their company. So the use of data throughout. Right. I mean, they have no groups, but they have this desire to do it. So they are asking me very detailed questions about my experience on that.

So here’s a company that is not really not. It is not, I mean, yet they are thinking about, and this is of course the story of many other companies. It’s not that this is an exception. Um, I expect it has already been happening. It’s not even if this is not even a prediction, I’m probably stating a fact. Um, it is already today, but I think it’s going to increase in the future that I’m a chief digital officer.

It’s if analytics officer, there are multiple names and so forth, we’ll, we’ll be at all that many companies already have, and we will be fulfilling in the future. That would be the accurate reporting to the. Which means if, you know, typically a CEO of a large company has 10, 10 direct reports, um, you know, 10, 15, no more than that.

And I believe that one of them would be that that officer, it already is happening in many companies. I know. So it is my. And this is also by the way, through the hospital systems that I collaborate people that have responsibility on, on data and analytics report to the hierarchy of a company, the highest echelon of the company.

So it is my view that this is already happening and it’s going to increase as a result. Another instance of that. Is this access that the master of business analytics program that I started 2016 has had over the years. So currently the program has of, uh, maybe this year 1600 applications for 80 positions.

That’s a 5% selectivity. There aren’t too many places at MIT that have that level of applica application. And I would expect that in years to come, um, the demand for MBA. We’ll be lower than the demand for people with that. This experience has already happened in many places, not at MIT yet. So currently we applications for MBAs, roughly double, maybe 3000, 3,500 versus, um, 1600.

But, but I think this gives will meet as they have met before, because there is a high. I observe and I don’t observe it now. I’ve been observing it for decades. That’s why we started the analytics program. Uh, I have been observing it and in healthcare, I would say definitely I see the need. I see, uh, places, some of the major hospitals having one or more analytics group.

So it’s definitely, this revolution has started.

Naji Gehchan: I know, not to jump into a section where I will give you one word and I want your reaction, a word or a reaction to what happened to the word that would mention. Uh, so the first word is leadership.

Dimitris: Commitment is the word that comes to mind, um, and understanding.

Naji Gehchan: Can you tell us a little bit more, I’d love to hear a definition

Dimitris: from you. Yeah. Um, I believe that, um, the way I see it is that I better like the work on analytics, which is the science of using data to build models. That make that lead to decisions that impact the world positively data models, decisions, value, uh, AI is nearly a synonym in that it also uses, um, data sources, not traditionally utilized.

For example, computer vision. Um, languages, language, you know, answer actual data, but, um, the process, which I believe is our future, our collective future, using data to make decisions that impact the world.

Naji Gehchan: What about personalized medicine?

Dimitris: Personalized medicine is, is, um, also, uh, a very bright, an aspiring future.

If you can, only medicine is by and large, not personalized. This is what, one of the major reason in my mind that we haven’t been in cancer yet. Um, so if you look at how, um, one of these major killers in the world cancer is, uh, I lost my father to that is being treated it’s more or less a size 50. I had this, you, you, you diagnose somebody with cancer.

You give them some protocols that has been, uh, have been developed for, uh, for everybody, not the personal, uh, human, a significant human. We observed very different outcomes. In my personal case around the time that my father was diagnosed with, with cancer, gastric cancer, there was a lady friend of my father who was diagnosed with exactly the same disease and, um, sees a, to.

Um, and see what’s the same way, but it worked for her. It didn’t work for my father. So it is if there’s overwhelming evidence that, um, personalization mothers, I mean, we already see, I mean, we observe that some women, for example, have mutations that lead to development of breast cancer very early in their life.

Uh, at least in this case, we have taken action, but it’s hard for me to believe that cancer is not one disease. It’s multiple diseases who have an composite in one, in one name, and then they meet personally. The attention. This is not only about cancer. I mean, you know, think about, um, think about impact of COVID.

There are many people have COVID very few die, but, but, uh, clearly there’s personalization aspects. I mean, humans are different. They have different genomes. They have different. Even cultural components. They have many different things, diabetes. I, who do I start? I mean, you know, I, I think medicine, when I talk about this is all medicine and personalized medicine.

Uh, these are medicine can lead to personal life.

Naji Gehchan: And we’ve been, we’ve been hearing a lot about personalization in medicine, but yet it’s, we’re seeing a little bit more personalized care. Uh, but what do you feel is in the way, is it truly time technology and time that will get us there? Or do you feel like there’s something else?

Dimitris: I mean, um, the key aspect is education. Thinking about how we educate our doctors. We have not changed the education of our doctors since the 1920s. It’s a century ago. If you look what people learn, um, then, and how they learn it, you know, Does not play a significant only vis education. So when you educate young people, very talented, the doctors are fantastically talented people.

I do not believe they are appropriately educated at the moment. So as a result, you have to educate them in the art of the possible of personalized media. We have some successes. If you, if you educate a large collection of intelligent people, um, so that their mind goes into that, they start doing research, they start doing developing new methods.

Personalized medicine will be a reality, but you have to start. And I would say the key is, in my opinion is education and it’s starting, but you know, it takes as everything in life. It’s not. It takes some time

Naji Gehchan: and it’s, but it’s definitely a future we should aspire for. The last word is spread love and organization.

Dimitris: And organizations you would like you ask, you want to ask do as my reaction, you know, I, you know, in my view, uh, love is this most significant aspect of human happiness. Um, so specifically I say to my, uh, to my students that the two most important aspects of life is to find somebody to. And to find something that you love to do.

So love is in there in the definition of happiness. So spread love is in a way, um, aspires the way I understand it to increase the overall happiness of receivers. As well as givers of love and my, uh, I mean, in a way, one of the reasons I, um, I mean, there’s no security. I love working with my doctoral students.

I have a sizeable group of very young, very, very talented young people. Um, and the big aspect of our relation, at least on my end is luck. So, um, And as I mentioned, um, it increases my happiness increases. There’s

Naji Gehchan: any final words of wisdom? Uh, Demetrius for healthcare either is around the word.

Dimitris Bertsimas: The only, uh, the most significant in my opinion is, um, to, to make change. You have to have. Um, sometimes you enter an unknown, you know, utilizing data. You never know what you’re going to find. You might actually find that one or one of your departments using data.

It’s not doing a good job, but on the other hand, if you don’t know it, it still does it not a good job, but you don’t know it. But if you allow open your mind, And, uh, allow data to enter over time. Fantastic things will happen to patients, which is our ultimate objective as, as health professionals, but also to ourselves, to the hospital, to ourselves.

I think our life would, um, would be, I would say in a higher plane.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much. Uh, the interest for being with me today and this amazing.

Dimitris Bertsimas: Thank you. Nice to be with you.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spread Love in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform

Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on 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.

#100 – You said, Spread Love?

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
#100 - You said, Spread Love?

In this special episode, we celebrate a significant milestone for SpreadLove In Organizations podcast. It has been an incredible journey, filled with profound insights, heartfelt stories, and impactful chats.

Over the past two years, we have had the honor of hosting 100 exceptional leaders, each with their unique experiences and perspectives. Through their stories, we have shared-in their triumphs, challenges, and the invaluable lessons they have learned along the way. Our guests have touched our hearts, made us smile, reflect, and most importantly, prompted us to rethink our preconceptions about culture in high-performing organizations.

To celebrate the “100 episode”, we have compiled a special segment featuring the reactions of some of our influential guests to a question that has become synonymous with our podcast: What is your first reaction to ‘spread love in organizations? These diverse and thought-provoking responses represent the culmination of our shared journey, highlighting the power of love in fostering healthier, more caring work environments to deliver on a shared purpose and deliver results to all stakeholders.

On behalf of SpreadLove In Organizations team, we express our deepest gratitude for your unwavering support, genuine feedback, and, above all, the love that has flooded every aspect of this incredible endeavor. Our devoted community has played an integral role in shaping this podcast into what it is today.

Hope you will embark on this special episode, united by the common purpose of cultivating empathy, genuine care, and love within organizations for people to feel safe to thrive, be at their best, and imagine a better world. Thank you for joining us on this extraordinary journey…

In this episode, you’ll hear from John Bamforth, Jeremy Morgan, Gabi Mittas, Lien Le, Amy Edmondson, Jill Donahue, Daena Giardella, Enrique Conterno, Rodrigo Verdi, Otto Scharmer, Christi Shaw, Amer Kaissi, The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi, Richard Kivel, Myriam Hakim, Bridget Akinc, Maheen Junaid, Lisa Matar, Amre Nouh, Basima Tewfik, Pravin Chaturvedi, Dina Sherif, Dave Noesges, Michael Ullmann, Naji Gehchan.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this special episode in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the Healthcare Ecosystem Together. I am joined today Assaad Sayah, President and CEO of Cambridge Health Alliance. Assaad was named CHA’s President and CEO in January 2020 after serving as the interim CEO since June 2019 and chief medical officer since 2013. Before that, Assaad served as the chief of emergency medicine and senior vice president of primary care. In the Emergency Department, he led tremendous advancements at all three CHA hospitals, resulting in enhanced efficiency, quality, volume and patient satisfaction. He spearheaded primary care growth by more than 50 percent, expanding CHA’s access in underserved communities and integrating primary care and behavioral health services and systems to address social determinants of health. Assaad also plays a key role in CHA’s commitment to the communities it serves, including his tenure as the co-chair of the Cambridge City Manager’s Opioid Working Group established in 2018 to develop recommendations for strengthening the city’s response to the opioid epidemic. Additionally, Assaad is Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. His research and publications focus on operational efficiency, improving the clinical environment and patient experience of care.

Assaad – I’m humbled to have you with me today!

Assaad Sayah: It’s a pleasure, Naji. Thank you. It’s, uh, truly an honor being here.

Naji Gehchan: Before we dig in, value-based care, the topic of your panel at UH, S H B C, I’m eager to hear your personal story. What brought you to Medicine, er, and now running Cambridge Health Alliance and having such a tremendous impact on the communities you serve.

Assaad Sayah: Well, I appreciate it. Um, um, and, and, uh, it’s a long story, but I will keep it abbreviated. Uh, as far as medicine, um, this is, uh, calling, uh, I, as far as I can remember, I always wanted to be a doctor even before I knew what doctor’s all about. Um, I am the, uh, first, uh, college grad in my family. Nevermind, uh, a medical, uh, uh, professional.

Uh, and, uh, I have the, uh, truly the, the, the privilege of, uh, of representing, uh, my community and, and my ethnic background. I am Lebanese in origin, um, in the, in the greater Boston area. Um, medicine, uh, to me is, is truly more of a calling than, uh, than a profession. And, uh, what, what got me into emergency medicine?

Is two reasons. One, um, I am an adrenaline junkie by, by nature. So, uh, uh, anything, uh, that, that, uh, that’s up and running and, and exciting, I’m into it. And, uh, the second and more important thing, um, it is truly doing the right thing. Cause historically and even, uh, currently the emergency department is the only place where anybody can get care, regardless of their ability to pay 24 7.

And, uh, you know, this is a place where you get care and then we ask you for your insurance card versus anywhere else. Uh, as far that I know, you, you have to present your insurance card before you get your care, uh, for whatever it’s worth. That’s what brought me into, into emergency medicine. Uh, what got me into, um, Uh, into administration is curiosity and, um, uh, my, uh, difficulty in accepting things, not working very well around me.

So I always ask the question, how can we improve things? How can we do things better? And when you ask those questions, people say, well, go at it. If you can do it better, go ahead and give it a try. The more you try, the more you do, the more people ask. And one thing led to the other. And here I am, the c e o.

Wow. Thanks so

Naji Gehchan: much for sharing. Uh, let’s start now with value-based care. Uh, how would you define

Assaad Sayah: this? So, uh, value-based care, um, is, uh, is the combination or the formula that combines. Quality and cost. So if you, if you wanna say value equals quality over cost, the higher the quality, the better the value, the lower cost, the better the value.

The worst situation is an environment where you have low quality and high cost, no value at all. So you wanna improve to the best that you can, to the best you can, the level of quality while managing the cost. And, uh, the difference between, uh, Current value-based care and other attempts at managing healthcare cost is, is the equation that involves quality before.

Because if you go back to the nineties, uh, during managed care, it was only managing cost and there was no alignment of incentives. And with value-based care, one would think that the incentives are aligned between the patient who want the best quality. The organization that wants to provide excellent quality and get the best reimbursement and the payer that wanna manage cost.

And hopefully that combination is the magic sauce that will lead to the best work and the best healthcare environment.

Naji Gehchan: So you’re touching, uh, you touched upon those, um, the key players. So can, can you frame specifically who are the key players and what really needs to change today for us to be able to achieve?

High value based care.

Assaad Sayah: The, obviously the, the, the, the, the three major players in healthcare. I mean, there’s a lot of players you will add the government and policy makers and communities, et cetera. But the, the, the three big buckets are one, uh, the consumer, that’s the patient. And that’s the most important piece of all of healthcare.

We are all here for the patient to do the right thing. And the patient, what the patient wants is great quality and the best experience possible that is timely. Um, and that there’s a level of commitment and trust. Cuz trust is absolutely critical in healthcare. What the provider wants is, uh, the appropriate resources to provide.

The needs and meet the need and exceed the needs of the patient in an efficient way. And that requires funding and the right policies and the right pro, et cetera. And the right training. And what the payer wants is a partnership with the provider where when they give the provider the resources, cuz the payer doesn’t, uh, practice medicine.

The payer is basically the vehicle between the patient that’s paying premium. And the provider that’s providing the care, and they wanna make sure that as the care is provided, provided, it is provided at a good, qu good cost at the good price. The new paradigm is adding quality to the equation, is putting certain metrics, uh, that are reportable, that are measurable, that at least directionally define the level of quality that is provided.

Naji Gehchan: So do you think we’re well equipped? As a society to get there and, and really I would love your thoughts on health equity within the scope. Yeah.

Assaad Sayah: Um, we still trying as far as value-based care and in my opinion so far it is the, the best formula that has the highest probability of success. Um, Believe it or not, healthcare, uh, in general in the United States is all still, um, fee for service, which means you do something, you get paid for it.

Just like, you know, when you, when you call a plumber or electrician to your home, they come, they do the work, you pay them, they’re done, but you don’t know, you can’t evaluate the quality of their work. It could be great for the first day, the first week, the first year, but it could falter after that. And that’s basically fee for service.

There’s an hourly rate. You get paid for it. The incentive in here historically is the more you do, the more you get paid, but that’s not good. At the end of the day. You wanna make sure that you get the best quality, the best value for that job that you are giving to your plumber. Let’s, let’s say that. In the value, in the, in the, in the value-based care, basically, you get paid a certain amount to provide a certain amount of care at a high quality.

So the best way to cut down the cost is provide less. Care or enough care, but with the highest quality possible. And that’s how you manage the level of the cost of healthcare. That’s really going above and beyond. It’s always almost 30% of the G d P today, and some reports say that it’s higher than that.

So it’s gonna break our society if we really don’t manage our cost. Now, when you add the, the equity to the form, the equity piece to the formula, And as a healthcare organization, we are the only public hospital in the state, and our mission is to serve a, a safety net, uh, population historically and continuously.

And that population historically has been underserved and, uh, under-resourced at all levels, including with healthcare, uh, because one. The, the demand is greater. Uh, this is a patient population that has a lot of complication, whether it is mental health or social determinants of health, food, transportation, housing, you name it.

A lot of this patient population is, um, first generation immigrants. Many, uh, they don’t speak English. They have issue, issue with housing density. Many families are, are living in very small sh very tight knit, tight quarters. So there’s a lot of challenges in here. They’re all working, uh, difficult, many low paying jobs to really make ends meet.

Which complicate things. They complicate the ability to get healthcare. They complicate their ability to get, uh, to be transported there, to make certain appointments, to take time off of work. Uh, when they get there, their ability to communicate, understand, and follow directions, ability to get medications and follow medications.

That patient population is very complicated anyways. Not only the immigrant patient population, but also. Uh, the, the patient population that, that is, um, uh, less resourced from multiple ways, whether it’s financial, societal, uh, education wise, or even their ability to have access wide. Um, that’s what equity, uh, uh, plays a big role because historically, uh, we have not invested as a society.

In improving the condition, the, the living condition of, of that subpopulation so we can provide them, so we can keep them healthy and not only care for them when they’re sick.

Naji Gehchan: So can we double click on the, on this, because I know you’re doing a huge work, uh, and impacting those underserved population and you, you shared about social determinants of health.

So can I, can I get your view about this and how you have been leading your organization specifically to improve healthcare delivery for those underserved communities?

Assaad Sayah: Uh, one is you have to identify that community. So we are in the community. Uh, we do have, uh, um, 12 clinics out there all embedded in, in our communities.

Um, All our clinics, uh, have, um, primary care and behavioral health, and to a certain extent even dental involvement. So we can provide comprehensive care to the patient when they get care, get their, not start sort of shuttle them all over the place. Um, we have, uh, invested in, um, in our, um, Uh, multicultural department and, and that’s a department that is for the community, by the community that provides not only, uh, interpreter services, uh, but also support in multiple ways, uh, uh, speaking over a hundred languages, uh, out there, available in person and, um, uh, um, sort of virtually, uh, in our, um, Our ambassadors are not only there to interpret when the patient shows up, they’re also there to support the patient in their community.

So, um, you know, if they need their medication, they’re connecting them with the pharmacy, finding ways to get the medication at a discount, uh, or for free, uh, linking them to certain, uh, resources, um, and grants so they can get appropriate support, not only in healthcare. But in housing, housing, food, social services, et cetera, uh, going with them to follow up appointments, uh, you know, advocating for them, uh, when it comes to immigration, law, et cetera.

So they’re involved at all levels, not only to support that community, their community, cuz they come from that community, uh, uh, in only in the interface with healthcare, but in general to make their, uh, their environment more conducive to being healthy. I

Naji Gehchan: love that being, being there with them. It’s, it’s powerful.

I will now give you a word and I would love your reaction to it. The first one

Assaad Sayah: is leadership. Uh, leadership is, um, setting a strategy and creating a team, uh, that is committed to this strategy and to the work that needs to happen.

Naji Gehchan: Tell us more about it. I’d love to hear your story and how you do it with your teams, cuz you’re, you have a large team committed and I’m sure you’re, you’ve gone through a lot, uh, with, with pandemic and even today with everything’s happening around you. So I’d love, uh, to know how you keep your people engaged towards this purpose.


Assaad Sayah: I mean, uh, the, the, the most important, um, Role of of A A C E O and I call it be being a cheerleader. Uh, you have to be positive. You have to smile, you have to be a resource, you have to be available, uh uh, and you have to make sure that. Uh, you’re surrounded by people that are smarter than you, uh, and that I believe in, in the mission and the work that you’re doing.

Uh, because one person cannot change the world, they cannot, you cannot do the work yourself. You have to provide the environment and the resources for the people to do the work and the space. Uh, for them to do the work. Uh, it includes trust, which is the most important element in a team. Uh, and it includes clarity, transparency, and accountability.

Uh, and it’s a two-way street. Um, you know, I, I work with my team as a family. Uh, God knows we spend more time with each other than their own, their own, our own families. And, uh, we rely on each other, uh, good, bad or or indifferent, uh, every day to really do the work and make sure that we are, um, uh, maximizing and optimization, optimizing the resources we have, the opportunities we have to better serve the community and support each other.

I love it. What about care delivery? Um, care delivery, you know, I, I, I don’t like that word, to be honest with you, that, that, that terminology, uh, because it’s so narrow, believe it or not. Uh, but, but in general, uh, care delivery is, uh, um, meeting and exceeding the expectation of, uh, of the patient in the communities.

And, um, going above and beyond, uh, the healthcare system can do so much and has the ability and resources to do so much, unfortunately, that is not matched with the needs and it’s not matched with the expectations and the knowledge of, of the patients in the community. So we can do, we can do a lot more than than, than we do and, uh, and we should be able to do a lot more than we do.

So, um, care delivery is, Traditionally is the organization that provides care to the patient when they’re sick, when they need it. In my mind, uh, the best way to improve care is to, uh, provide, uh, what’s needed, what’s necessary for the patients to remain healthy in their communities and not need. Prevent them e every time a patient comes to the hospital or most of the time they come to the hospital, it is a failure of the care delivery system in my mind.

So the ultimate success is be out of business, believe it or not, and, and decrease the gotcha the needs, the traditional needs of the patient to really consume the amount of care that they consume.

Naji Gehchan: So true. You’re touching on prevention, how we do it, health

Assaad Sayah: education, absolutely. All of the above. All of the above 80% of people’s health or over 80%.

Happens outside the traditional healthcare system. It is what happens at home. It is the habits that happen at home, whether it’s, uh, smoking, obesity, you name it, drugs, alcohol, psychological issues, uh, food, transportation, you name it. Uh, that’s what influences people’s health. You know, there’s a, there’s a piece that’s related to the genes, what you’re born with, and there’s a piece that’s related to everything else we do to keep you healthy.

But the big chunk of it, uh, is what you do every day. And that’s what we need to invest, where we need to invest in early prevention, in screening, in early childhood, uh, screening and prevention in education of the families and the kids. So they have, uh, healthy habits so they remain healthy. So the third

Naji Gehchan: one is health equity.

Assaad Sayah: Um, health equity is, and this is not equality and this is not, it is basically, um, be thoughtful and purposeful in defining and bridging the gap. Uh, in the gaps in our society between the, um, safety net and the rest of the population, the population, that that has a gap. And so it’s not giving everybody an equal amount, it’s defining the gap and providing extra resources to bridge that gap at all levels, whether it is in healthcare or you name it.

There is equity in the, the digital divide. There’s equity in finances, there’s equity in education, there’s equity in healthcare, there’s equity in culture. I mean, you name it, there’s a historical gap, uh, that happened over decades and hundreds of years that, uh, The only way to, to, to, uh, mitigate that is to provide the appropriate resources to bring, to narrow that gap.

So the amount of growth and the amount of resources has to be exponentially greater here, so we can make up that gap with time. Otherwise, if it’s equal, there’s always be gonna be, there’s always gonna be a gap. The last

Naji Gehchan: word is spread love in organizations.

Assaad Sayah: Um, As I, we talked about trust. We talked about working as a family.

We talked about, uh, approaching things, uh, the way you wanna approach things, the way you should be approached things. And, and I have, uh, certain, um, rules that, that I live by. Uh, one of the rules that you hear about is, um, uh, you know, treat people as you wanna be treated. And, and that’s not my rule. My rule is you gotta treat people the way they wanna be treated.

Uh, because there’s a big difference. You can assume. How you wanna be treated. And, and that may not be satisfactory to others. And I think that’s a very important piece in love because you cannot, when in love, you cannot project your own definition. You have to project the other person’s definition of what love is about because that’s what matters is to the other person, is what they define it, not how you define it.

And that is true across all our society. Uh, and, and, If we approach things the right way, the way we conduct and live our life, not only professionally but with family and neighbors and society, I think that’s what matters is treat people the way they want to be treated.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom has had for healthcare leaders around the world.

Assaad Sayah: Um, do the right thing. That’s another, that’s another piece. Um, and, you know, you’re always cha uh, seeing challenges and, uh, always facing issues that sometimes are insurmountable. But at the end of the day, we are all judged based on the work that we do. And, uh, at the end of the day, uh, the best way to be judged is for doing the right thing and sometimes.

Um, it may not be the most beneficial thing or the most lu most lucrative thing, uh, but doing the right thing always at the end of the day will lead you to the right place.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much. I, I can talk with you for hours, but, but I know you have to go and it’s been a really, an incredible pleasure to have you with me today.

Thank you so much for joining me.

Assaad Sayah: Pleasure Naji, and good luck to you. Thank you very much.

Thank you all for listening to Spreadlove in Organizations podcast! More episodes summarizing the MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference are available on or on your preferred streaming app. Follow “spreadlove in organizations” wherever you listen to podcasts and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement our World so desperately need.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spread Love in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform

Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on 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.

Work to Make a Difference – Michael Ullmann

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Work to Make a Difference - Michael Ullmann

Being in healthcare is a privilege and a humbling responsibility; we impact lives. This is what Michael Ullman has done throughout his years at Johnson & Johnson from where he retired recently as Executive VP, General Counsel & Executive Committee Member. Leadership for Mike is grounded in humility, kindness, and optimism, it is above all a responsibility to other people. Hear Mike’s experience leading JNJ to deliver on covid vaccine that saved humanity during the pandemic, and his thoughts on ESG, Health Equity, social responsibility, and how to build high-performing teams to ensure we deliver on our purpose. As leaders, our job is not to be superstars but rather shine through others, through our people’s greatness. Kindness is underused in the world, create a culture that demands it, treat people with respect, trust them, empower them, and help them succeed.

“Kindness is underused. Create a culture that demands it.”

MEET OUR GUEST Michael Ullmann, (Retired) Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Executive Committee Member, Johnson & Johnson

Michael Ullmann retired from Johnson & Johnson earlier this year after over 33 years with the Company.  For the last 11 years, he served as a member of the J&J Executive Committee and the Executive Vice President, General Counsel leading a global organization of over 2,000 employees in 60 countries encompassing Legal, Government Relations & Policy, ESG Strategy, Intellectual Property, Corporate Governance, Data Privacy, Compliance and Security. 

As General Counsel of the world’s largest Life Sciences company, he successfully guided JNJ through high-profile and high-risk situations, while helping to grow the business to annual sales of $94 billion, increase shareholder value and maintain its reputation as one of the most admired companies in the world. 

Mike joined Johnson & Johnson in 1989 as a mergers & acquisitions attorney and held various management positions, including General Counsel of the Worldwide Medical Devices Group, before becoming the company’s General Counsel in 2012. Michael is a member of the Board of Directors of Americares and serves on the Columbia Law School Board of Visitors. 


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 Mike Ullmann. Mike retired from Johnson & Johnson earlier this year after over 33 years with the Company.  For the last 11 years, he served as a member of the J&J Executive Committee and the Executive Vice President, General Counsel leading a global organization of over 2,000 employees in 60 countries encompassing Legal, Government Relations & Policy, ESG Strategy, Intellectual Property, Corporate Governance, Data Privacy, Compliance and…


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this special episode in partnership with MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, an event that brings the Healthcare Ecosystem Together. I am joined today Andrew Plump President of Research & Development and Board Member at Takeda. His career spans nearly 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry and academia. Andrew has been recognized for his contributions to the healthcare industry, education and the arts. He serves on several non-profit boards including the Board of Trustees for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation, the Biomedical Science Careers Program and as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the PhRMA Foundation. Prior to Takeda, Andrew served as head of Research & Translational Medicine, deputy to the president of R&D at Sanofi, based in Paris, France. Prior to Sanofi, he served as worldwide cardiovascular research head at Merck. Andrew received his M.D. from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), his Ph.D. in cardiovascular genetics and his B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in medical genetics at UCSF.

Andrew – I’m humbled to have you with me today!

Andy Plump: Hello Naji. And, and thank you. Uh, thank you so much for the privilege of joining you on this terrific podcast.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you. Before we dig in, challenges in scaling biotech innovation, the topic of your panel at, uh, S H P C, uh, I am eager to hear more about your personal story, really what brought you to medicine than pharma and now leading R n Z at Takeda.

Andy Plump: Well, it, it just so happens the timing for that question is impeccable because this past Sunday I gave a talk, something I’ve never done before. It was actually a mentorship talk to a group of. Emerging diverse, uh, scientists and clinicians and organization called the Biomedical Sciences Career Program or B S E P, I think you mentioned.

I sit on the board of this, this organization, and it’s an organization that’s existed for 30 years. Has about 10,000 members, incredible individuals. Many come from underprivileged or marginalized beginnings, so motivated to, to grow and to make the world a better place in, in life sciences. So I had a chance to give a talk and I was able to unpack some of my beginnings.

And so, so I thought through this and. This is audio so nobody can see the picture. But I had a slide that had a picture of me in my 1970s plaid bath, you know, bath ba bathrobe, um, with my mom at the age of four. And then a picture of me in, uh, uh, tuxedo actually as I was getting married in 1992 with my dad.

And, you know, and I think back, it’s, it’s a large measure to my parents and to my, my upbringing when I start to think about my journey. And there’s one piece of my childhood that was enabled so wonderfully by my mom and my dad that has really carried me through these many years, and that’s curiosity.

I’ve always been so interested and curious in what’s happening around me. And the two stories I told at the conference, which I’ll share with your, your audience, Naji are my mom at the time that I was four years old, maybe three, three and a half, with, in that bathrobe I was the third born. We ultimately had five of us in the family, but the twins were, you know, unexpected.

And so I was meant to be the youngest child of, and I had an older brother and sister who were five or six years older than me in school, and I would just, Follow my mom around everywhere and ask her question after question after question, and finally she looked at me one day and she said, Andrew, It’s time for you to go to school.

And the other question that you know resonated was I told, took my dad aside very earnestly one day and I said, dad, you know, if you could bring the person who had all the answers in the world and give me that person for a full weekend, I still wouldn’t be able to ask as many questions as I have. So curiosity has been what has propelled me.

Naji Gehchan: But thank you for, for sharing, uh, Enzi and I, I love how you’re bringing it, uh, with the fact of being curious. And, you know, I, I was thinking as you were saying this, how many times we actually as parents make this mistake of stopping our kids from asking so many questions. And I, I’m, I’m sure you, you throw.

By asking questions and learning. So now if we go into really the challenges in scaling biotech innovation and what you shared, uh, during the conference itself, I would love first your view on the most exciting current innovations in biotech. How do you define those? How do you look at those personally.

Andy Plump: Well, I, I, we’re in a golden era of healthcare, and if we get it right by the end of this century, we, we can have a, um, a therapy, maybe even a cure for every disease that’s, that’s known to Man. There’s no question we have all of the tools and foundationally there are, they’re the three pillars that allow us to be so bold and aspirational.

Our human genetics, we learn so much. But by dissecting the human genome in terms of target identification, in terms of somatic mu mutations that affect cancers, that’s one. The second is tried and true mechanistic biology that typically occurs in academic laboratories. So thinking through what it takes to generate a hypothesis and test that hypothesis in unraveling biology.

Our ability to do that at scale. And it’s not systems biology. Typically it’s an individual student or a postdoc, really thinking through the details of a, of a problem. That’s the, that’s the academic medical system that exists today. And then thirdly, this explosion of modalities that has come about over in principle in, in particular, over the last decade.

When I started in this industry, we had 90 plus percent of the molecules in pipelines were synthetic small molecules, natural products, or vaccines. Now if you look at the aggregate pipeline across our industry, those three form the minority. We have recombinant proteins, we have genetic therapies of multiple flavors, and we have cell therapies.

And so our ability to put these three together allows us to have the courage and boldness to think that we can tackle any disease. And in fact, the last 10 to 15 years has, has told us that, that with this toolbox we can, we have the potential to do anything that. That we can now, there are forces that work against us.

You know, one, one are intrinsic forces to our industry and it’s greed and avaris and, and behaviors that damage our reputation because we’re a highly regulated. Industry, what, you know, what we do really matters. Not just, it’s not just a business. There, there it, there’s a right to healthcare. And when we are, when we’re egregious in our pricing, when we, um, fail to abide by the compliance and quality codes that countries ask us to abide by, we’re damaging ourselves.

That’s our own intrinsic potential roadblock. But extrinsically, there are many roadblocks and we’re seeing this with. Regulatory agencies, which, which move up and down in terms of their conservatism. And we’re moving today towards a much more conservative regulatory landscape, particularly in the us. Um, there’s reimbursement policies, you know, especially in, in Europe, it’s, it’s very hard to demonstrate in diseases where you have existing therapy, um, that you have a better therapy that, that deserves reimbursement.

Because, because it’s impossible to show oftentimes in head-to-head studies. Um, that you are better and, and that’s what’s being asked of us. And so, so there’s, there’s, there’s this, um, the, the, this tunnel vision, I think that’s happening. We saw this with Ira, was having conversations recently, the inflation reduction act.

There are elements of IRA that make a lot of sense. We need to reduce costs in the US for patients, but there are a lot of elements in the I I R A that will squash innovation. So huge potential, but also, uh, huge, huge headwinds. So let’s

Naji Gehchan: double click, and I love how you framed it and so agree with you on the interest intrinsic, uh, roadblock that that we bring and those external ones.

And when we think about those innovation biotech, we’re frequently think about those nascent biotechs, those startups who are trying. To nail down one of like the most challenging targets, the most challenging technology science. Whe when you think of those, wh wh where do you see the biggest challenge for starting a biotech?

Like if, I want to think from those startups, what are the main challenges for them in 2023 after probably a boom in the last decade? How do you see those these days?

Andy Plump: Well, it, it’s, it’s a terrible time right now for, for the biotech, uh, ecosystem. And the, the, the challenge is getting funded right now.

There’s, there’s, there’s still a tremendous amount of venture capital available, but there’s a, there’s a, uh, fear a bit in, in the market, and so there’s been much less investment in new ideas. Now than there have been in the past. I, you know, we’ve seen cycles like this before, so I’m, I’m convinced that we’ll cycle out of this and that we’ll end up in a better place.

I don’t know if that’s gonna take a year, three years, or five years, but we’re in a particularly depressed market. So funding for biotech is, is taking a, a really big hit. But I think there’s a more fundamental concern, which gets back to my comments earlier around some of the extrinsic headwinds that we’re facing.

It’s just, You know, when you’re, when you’re dealing with more conservative regulatory agencies, more challenging reimbursement, um, environments, when you have the country, the country in the us which is responsible for 50% of reimbursement on our industry starting to really limit, um, access and, and price, um, that’s a problem for biotech because it all.

You know, it all cascades downward. And the starting point for most innovation is biotech. You know, two-thirds of what any pharma company will ultimately bring to a patient in the marketplace starts in laboratories outside of our own. It starts in biotechnology laboratories and academic laboratories.

And so if we’re not funding that and supporting that early innovation, it’s going to greatly damage, uh, access for patients.

Naji Gehchan: So I’d love to double click on the access piece because as you said, breakthrough innovations, uh, and really in a global environment that is becoming more and more challenging to bring those innovations, not only from an r and d standpoint, but once they are in the market to patients across the globe.

How, how do you think about this in a global aspect, again, of those breakthrough innovations for. All patients who need that.

Andy Plump: Yeah. And maybe I’m not using the word correctly. Cause when I’m, I’m talking about for biotechs, it’s not about access, it’s about actually being able to make a medicine, having it approved and having it reimbursed at some level.

And that doesn’t, that’s not, you’re right. That’s not the same as access. And in fact, when I think of access, I think about it in the context that you’re articulating, which is access to the seven plus billion people across the globe. But even within the United States, you know where you have 300 plus million individuals and you have marginalized and underprivileged groups who have poor access to many of these medicines, and we saw that in during the Covid Pandemic.

When you looked at the groups that were most affected by this lethal virus, it ended up that many of the more marginalized, socioeconomically depressed groups were much more affected. So we have an issue here in the United States that we have to get on top of. Of course the issue on the global scale is, is much larger.

You know, many companies have, global pharmaceutical companies will have marketing presences in 30 or 50 or 75 countries across the world. And so more than 50% of countries are not actually represented by commercial organizations. And that’s a real problem. It means we’re not developing, studying our medicines in those other countries, and we’re not bringing our medicines to those countries in in a systematic way.

Um, I think, I think we’re, we’re up and down in, in access, you know, one area where we’re, we’re, we’re driving immense accesses in China. You know, where you have, you know, one point, what is it, 1.4 billion people, which means 1.4 billion potential patients. And you know, What, what the Chinese, the C D E, the C F D A, the regulatory equivalents in China have done over the last eight or nine years.

China has made it a mandate that we, China wants innovative medicines available for its population. And so they’ve overnight, it feels like they’ve changed the regulatory policies to enable development in China, and they, they’re stimulating innovation. So an example, the c d E, the one of the, the F D A equivalent essentially had listed a couple of years ago what they consider the top 50 most innovative medicines.

And they said, we know we, we want you to be developing your medicines in Chinese patients, so we understand how those medicines perform in pat in patients in China, but for those 50, let’s just register them and then you commit to a phase four study to study them after they’re registered because they’re just too important not to be available to patients.

So that’s a great example of a business model for companies. Company stepping in and, and a government really opening up the for, for those individuals. But we have a long way to go. I agree. We have a long, long way to go to, to achieve access at the scale that each of us would, would truly want. Now thanks

Naji Gehchan: for this example.

It really shows this collaboration of stakeholders at the end. And if we really can work as partners, uh, the, you know, co every time I think of this, I think of Covid and how we developed and brought innovation with speed, like vaccines, treatments, et cetera. Cuz we were all together. Uh, As key stakeholders of the healthcare for the patients we serve, keeping the patient at the heart.

You talked about funding. I would love to hear your view about not only funding for biotech, which is a ch obviously one of the biggest challenges, but what is the role of leadership in building up and scaling biotechs?

Andy Plump: Leadership in, in what context? Within the companies themselves? Yes. Yeah, in the ecosystem.

Oh, well, I mean, everything is about leadership. You know, I, and, and I can take, I I’m asking for you to qualify the question because I can take it in so many different directions. You know, I think it starts with policy and how we, as we’re talking about and how, how, how, let’s just focus on the United States, how we create policy, regulatory policy, reimbursement.

Policy pricing policy, that’s leadership, and there’s a trickle down effect if we’re too shortsighted about some of the decisions we’re making. I mentioned the inflation reduction Act, where there are many provisions that are absurd and will destroy innovation. I’ll give you one example, by the way, which is that there are provisions in ira, which allowed.

The cms, which is the kind of federal agency that manages pricing for Medicare and Medicaid products. There are provisions that allow CMS to step in and to negotiate price with a sponsor. That’s okay and and there as long as that’s managed correctly. But that timeline for when C M S can step in and negotiate is different if you’re a recombinant protein or a small molecule.

If you’re a recombinant protein, they can step in at 13 years, and if you’re a small molecule, they can step in at nine years. Why? It makes absolutely no sense. In fact, it should be the opposite because it’s much harder to make a generic version of a recombinant protein than of a small molecule. But the reality is both can be transformative in terms of their potential for patients.

That’s an absence of leadership. That’s, there’s, there’s something behind that. I’ve actually spoken with many former, former officials in the, in the government, several ex FDA chiefs, to try to understand where that’s coming from. And the only answer I can get is there’s, it’s politicized in some way, in ways that I can’t even begin to, to understand that’s poor leadership.

So leadership is important at, at all levels. There’s, there’s also, there’s also something about our business, which I find quite interesting, which is that, Our business is somewhat stochastic, right? You can be, um, you can have poorly run organizations and toxic organizations that can do quite well for a short period of time, and maybe in your career you’ve been in bad situations that you were just not happy as an employee for where a company has done well.

It’s actually very hard in most sectors to sustain yourself for any period of time when you have a toxic culture. In our industry. You’ve had many companies that have been able to do that. Now, of course it’s, it has a runway. If you have a toxic culture, bad leadership, you will. You will Peter out. But in our industry, because our life cycles are 10 to 15 years, if you have a Keytruda and you’re America, not suggesting that Merck is a toxic culture, but that can propel you for, you know, 10 to 15 years and give you an immense amount of funding for that period of time.

And so you do have organizations where you have bad leadership, where you, you see stochastic breakthroughs. Oftentimes they’re not because of brilliance or because of luck, and that happens in our business, and you can sustain those environments, but I’m not advocating for that. But really, if you wanna be successful in the comp, in the environments that we work within, where the, the competition for talent is so intense, especially in your area, Naji in oncology where everybody is in oncology and there’s such a talent, a dearth.

If you’re not leading, if you’re not creating cultures that are positive cultures, you’re gonna, you’re gonna lose there. There’s a great line that now I think every biotech c e o uses, which is, excuse my language, but the no asshole culture right now. But, and actually that was something that 10 years ago, I don’t think anybody was really that concerned about.

Cause everybody was so caught up in that stochastic luck process. But now everybody tries to create a culture that’s strong and, and leadership is the foundation of all of that.

Naji Gehchan: This is a great segue to the next section where I would give you one word and I would love your reaction to it.

Andy Plump: So the first word is leadership necessary.

So I, did you want a one word reaction or did you want a Uh, you can give more. Well, I mean, I’m just shaking my head because it’s very interesting. I’ll take an aside here. Cause you’re, you’re, you’re, you know, you’re, you’re kind of, um, rattling you, you’re sha you’re shaking me, and then you’re, you’re hitting a chord.

So, so one, one of the things that struck me in r and d in our industry is that oftentimes the leadership within r and d organizations, Is more variable than what you see in in other parts of, of our organizations. You know, for example, to be a commercial leader, you obviously need to be smart, you need to be accomplished, but you know, you, you’re often selected more on your leadership.

Whereas in r and d organizations, especially in in highly technical areas, you know, where the pool size of individuals gets to be quite small. Where accomplishments and intellect and technical expertise tend to be valued more greatly, let’s say, than leadership. You’re often seeing organizations promote individuals based on their technical merit merits in intellect accomplishments rather than their leadership.

And so many r and d organizations are mismanaged with, with poor leaders. And, and actually it kind of makes some sense because you’re. You’re, you’re we’re dealing with people who have trained as physicians, who’ve trained as scientists and as engineers and have never really thought about leadership. So I think it’s abs it’s an absolute necessity.

And one of the things I’ve done, you know, I we’ll see if this will work out at Takeda cuz, cuz our we’re judged over a long period of time, is I’ve first and foremost emphasized character and leadership. Technical excellence expertise is a necessity, but you can’t be on my team unless you have strong leadership chops, uh, and strong character.

The next word is health equity a problem. I mean, you know, it’s, it’s a challenge and actually, um, we come out of covid. And there’s the, you know, the, some of the silver linings that come out of the pandemic are a recognition of the inequities that exist in society and what, what make, what’s quizzical about my saying that is, why should that be something that we’re, we figure out in 2022 and 2023, this has existed for decades and centuries.

Um, you know, hopefully these realizations will stick and something that I’ve really. Um, become more and more aware of and more cognizant of my, my privileges as a white male and my responsibilities in terms of being an ally and stepping up. Um, we have a long way to go and, you know, fundamentally it starts within r and d, certainly within our institutions, ensuring that we’re creating cultures that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

And all three of them, not just diversifying our, our population, but ensuring that we’re listening and being truly inclusive. That’s really requires learning, education and growth. Um, but then as we start to think about the patients that we’re aiming to serve, you know, if we’re not studying the effects of our experimental therapies in diverse patient populations, we’re doing.

An injustice to, uh, to those patients and, and not contributing to health equity. And so it starts early on in the process. And when you look at, um, when you look at industry across the industry and you look at clinical trials, they’re still nowhere near where they need to be. I think we’re on the right track.

You have guidances coming out of, you know, f FDA for example, and other organizations. So I think we’re all moving in the right direction, but it’s something we all have to own. And I still don’t see that ownership as. Uniform is, is what it needs to be. Even within my organization where we have, you know, there’s a huge foundation and focus on health equity and clinical trial diversity, I sometimes listen in meetings and, you know, it’s not oftentimes the first thing that are, it’s brought up when we’re talking about our program.

I think if we’re really equitable, we’re really thinking about health, equity and access. It’ll be the first or second thing that comes up in almost every conversation, and I just don’t, don’t see that we’re not quite there yet. I love

Naji Gehchan: it. I can’t agree more with you on diversity. Not only it starts internally, as you said, this is parts we can influence immediately, but definitely clinical trial diversity is a big, is a big topic we need to be

Andy Plump: focused on as leaders.

No, on this point I was, I mentioned this talk I gave on Sunday, which is a very, Powerful talk for me. It took a lot of time, a lot of preparation, and I thought a lot about it. It was not an easy talk to give, but my second slide after my title was two people sitting on a couch and in between the two people was a big elephant.

And I said, here the elephant in the room is here I am a 50 something white male. Talking to a group of 500 diverse, aspiring, um, healthcare and life scientists. You know, but, but the elephant, so what can I tell you? How can my experience help help you? And so my, my, my theme was that there are, there’s a perspective that I have that that can be helpful to anybody.

And there’s also a recognition that I have that we all, we all have our identities and our identities will shape. Our, our lives and our career, and for some of us, we’re able to be more opportunistic because of the color of our skin and our gender perhaps. And for others, we just need to be more purposeful.

But it’s not, it’s not incumbent. On just the diverse, marginalized individual. It’s incumbent on all of us to step up and to ensure that we’re helping create more, more equity in the world. And that’s where I think my, you know, my responsibility is as someone who’s actually experienced so much and through a life of white privilege.

The third

Naji Gehchan: one is, uh, symphony Orchestra.

Andy Plump: It’s, I mean, the Boston Symphony Orchestra. So even more specific. Yes. Are you, are you musical naji? Are you musical yourself?

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. Yeah. Guitar and piano.

Andy Plump: Well, so, okay, here’s the story. I went to school, uh, pointing this way cuz Mass is right behind me. And m i t is right after the road. I went to school at m mi t as an undergraduate, and I’m not particularly musical, but when I came to Boston, it was a town.

I mean, it’s, it’s changed so much. It was a town with m i t and Harvard and then Townies, you know, and it had a very unique kind of small town culture, but there was one institution. That was that, put it on a world scale and that was the Boston Symphony Orchestra. And so I, I loved the institution. Um, six or seven years ago, uh, I, we, we actually at Decat became sponsors of BSL because we were trying to, we were trying to imprint ourselves in, in Boston and nobody knew who we weren’t, right.

And it was trying to hire and build an r d organization here. And I would talk to people and they would say, Taketa the airbag company, like, no, no, Takeda. So we needed to, to, to, to market ourselves a little bit. And so we had two opportunities. The Red Sox, the Boston Red Sox, or the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

I’m a New Yorker. I could never, I could never promote. And I’m a big fan of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. And so we became involved and then I got involved in some fundraising and some development efforts, and I realized how how distanced the life science community in Boston was from this iconic institution.

So you had to me, now today in Boston, there are two defining elements. There’s BSO and there’s the life science community. And so it felt like a match made in heaven and I was able to help to catalyze, um, that that match and. A couple years ago, they asked if I would be willing to step up and serve on the board of trustees, trustees, which of course, I, I, I’m more than willing, and it’s been an amazing experience.


Naji Gehchan: the last one is spread love at organizations.

Andy Plump: Well, I’m looking at you and I’m, I’m, you know, I didn’t, I have to be very honest. It’s one of my Achilles heels. I didn’t know about your podcast or your, your group until I was a, until I, I met your colleague. What was her name? Z. Z Zena. Zk. Zano, yeah. Z.

After my, after the panel at m i t, she came up to me and, uh, we talked for a few minutes and she asked if I would do this, and she told me a little bit about it. And, um, you know, I was more than, more than pleased to step in and, and I love what you’re, what you’re doing and reaching in and helping the, our community grow.

And asking the kinds of questions and that many people don’t ask. I never get asked about the Boston sy new orchestra. I get asked about leadership, but it’s not the most common thing I get asked about. And so the way you’re approaching this and the way you’re opening up our community to, to unique perspectives, perhaps from standard people like, like me, I think it’s really terrific.

So thank you for doing this and congratulations.

Naji Gehchan: Oh, thank you, Angie. That means, that means a lot. Any final words of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world?

Andy Plump: Well, I’m an internal optimist, you know, and I, I, I have to be in our business, as you know, Naji, cuz a lot of what we do doesn’t work. And so you need to really be optimistic, um, and.

You know, as I said earlier, I think we’re in the golden era of, of healthcare and I, I, i, I, I don’t know if our, if these decades will be remembered for life science or for computer science, cuz both are making huge headways. Um, but okay, but I’ll, I’ll tell you a bit of an, an analogy. So in, in, in history, there are dark periods of time that are often characterized by war, by pandemic and by social injustice and unrest, and we’re just coming out of one with covid.

If you look back in history, there are many very similar examples that are characterized by that same triad of, of darkness, always. These dark periods are bookended by greatness, and typically that greatness is scientific or technological. You go back to the 19 early 19 hundreds with Albert Einstein, for example, world War I, and then some of the work that came after World War I was Sir Arthur Edington.

Um, you go back to the 1960s with the difficult period. Bookmark by greatness in our in space exploration. And if you come to today, we’ve established a left bar benchmark in my mind of this dark period, and it was the work that came out of Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuel Chappen with crispr. What we can do in terms of genetic manipulation is just amazing, and the potential for disease is just incredible.

I don’t know what the right bookmark of this dark period will be, but the people who are listening to your podcast will be defining it, and I have to imagine it’s gonna relate back somehow to our ability to manipulate our genome and create good.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much, Andy. It’s such a great way to finish up with an opening on hope for after all the darkness, as you said with the triad we’ve been going through.

Thank you so much again for being with me today. It’s been a privilege. Thank you.

Andy Plump: Thank you very much. Naji.

Thank you all for listening to Spreadlove in Organizations podcast! More episodes summarizing the MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference are available on or on your preferred streaming app. Follow “spreadlove in organizations” wherever you listen to podcasts and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement our World so desperately needs.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spread Love in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform

Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 Mike Ullmann. Mike retired from Johnson & Johnson earlier this year after over 33 years with the Company.  For the last 11 years, he served as a member of the J&J Executive Committee and the Executive Vice President, General Counsel leading a global organization of over 2,000 employees in 60 countries encompassing Legal, Government Relations & Policy, ESG Strategy, Intellectual Property, Corporate Governance, Data Privacy, Compliance and Security.  As General Counsel of the world’s largest Life Sciences company, he successfully guided JNJ through high-profile and high-risk situations, while helping to grow the business to annual sales of $94 billion, increase shareholder value and maintain its reputation as one of the most admired companies in the world. 

Mike – It’s a pleasure to see you again and have you with me today!

Michael Ullmann: Oh, thank you, Naji. It’s a pleasure to be here, and thank you very much for inviting me.

Naji Gehchan: Can we first start with your personal story, the in between, the lines of your journey to the exec committee of j and j and the inspiring leader you are today?

Michael Ullmann: Well, look, you know, I, I like to say Naji, that, that first and foremost, um, I’m a husband, a father, a son, uh, a grandfather, uh, a friend. Because I do think it really starts, um, with who you are as a person. And I think that, um, leadership really devolves I think from that, that individual level. And I think one of the things that we’ll talk about today is that balance between the individual and who you are as a leader and leading a large organization.

Uh, because to me, Um, in particular leading an organization of several thousand people, um, you always have to make sure that, that people see you as a person, as an individual, and that you’re not just a figurehead or you’re someone up on top of an organizational chart. And so I would always, um, in any of my conversations in, in any time I talk with people, Uh, would let people know what was going on in my life, and not, not to the extent of just talking about myself excessively, but just acknowledging, Hey, this is, uh, this weekend, uh, we had a, a birthday party for my grandson, and then I, I played golf.

And so, you know it just a little bit about who you are as a person. And so that’s what I like to talk about. Um, when I start off. And then look, I think that, uh, my story as a leader, uh, probably like many leadership stories is not a straight line, or certainly not like a straight upward line. Uh, you know, there are some twists and turns along the way and, you know, I, and I think, uh, happy to, you know, talk about that, uh, just to kind of trace my journey.

Yes, I’m,

Naji Gehchan: I’m

Michael Ullmann: eager to hear more about that. Yeah, well, look, you know, I think, um, to some extent I think my, my leadership journey was somewhat unexpected. And, you know, I, um, in fact, uh, when I was in my twenties and early thirties, um, I don’t think, uh, in fact I know for a fact that people that knew me, uh, did not expect for me to end up where I did.

Um, I, I wouldn’t say that I was a slow starter, uh, but I certainly was not like a shooting star and a wonder kid that everyone thought from, uh, day one in the workplace that I was going to be super successful. Um, and I think what I’ve learned was that, um, you know, for every person, there’s a, there’s a right environment, there’s a right role.

There’s a right company or organization. And so I didn’t really change as a person, but I changed jobs, I changed roles, and then eventually, um, I think I found the right environment and the right role where I could flourish and achieve my potential. And, and so, you know, part of why I like to focus on this is that.

Um, I’d like to tell people, look, if you don’t feel like you are achieving your potential in your environment, yeah, it may not be you, and it may not be the environment or the company, right. It may be that this is not the right match. And don’t, don’t be afraid to, to make a change. Don’t be afraid to do something different until you find the right, the right company, the right match.

Um, because you’ll hear people say, oh, well, like, that’s a really good company, or That’s a bad company. And I think it really depends upon, you know, what’s the right fit. Now for me, the right fit was eventually when I got to Johnson Johnson and being able to fill a multitude of roles. But then secondly, I think the second part of my, uh, leadership journey.

Was that I was not particularly ambitious. And you know, that’s probably not what you hear from many of the leaders, you know, that, that, that you talk to. But I was very happy with my life. Um, you know, my wife and I had been married a few years. Uh, we had three kids. Um, I lived close to where I worked. I was, you know, focused on trying to be a good father.

And, uh, and I loved my job, so I was certainly working, but my feeling was, Hey, I wanna do a good job. I’m in healthcare. And we can, we can certainly talk more about being in healthcare later on. Um, but it was, look, let me, uh, let me find that right balance, uh, you know, work life, home life. Um, but I think because I was not overly ambitious, What I focused on at work was helping other people succeed.

It was, you know, how do I help, uh, the people I’m working for succeed? How do I help my, my colleagues succeed? Uh, you know, at the time I wasn’t managing people, so it wasn’t helping people, uh, you know, that I was managing. But I was really, look, let me, uh, do what I can to make the company successful, to make my colleagues successful.

Um, ultimately that was recognized and appreciated and that began my journey as a leader, I think, in part because I was perceived as someone that was, um, you know, looking for the success of the organization, not for my own success. And then I think ultimately that kind of transitioned into the type of servant leadership.

That, you know, I have always been a proponent of and as I’ve moved up in the organization, tried to follow.

Naji Gehchan: I love that. And thanks for sharing first and really, you touched on incredible co uh, concepts. I would like to go and dig a little bit deeper. I loved what you said about the fit and this is why I was smiling, cuz even, you know, we’ve seen people who were, who are unhappy or performance is not there, and that’s one of my beliefs.

It’s probably the casting. And as leaders, we have responsibility for our people to, to share with them this, because every time we talk about servant leadership, people mismatch performance. Like how do you deal with performance? Actually, if you really care about your people and they’re not performing, you’re gonna tell the person.

Help them out find a better fit if it’s really a job fit as you shared. I, I, I love this part too. Um, I, I’m sure it’s hard to kind of summarize 33 years of, uh, of your experience at, uh, at j and j with one leadership learning, but I would love to kind of go there if there is one. What, what is the biggest.

Leadership learning during these years, that is also what you would like to transmit for, uh, for leaders moving forward?

Michael Ullmann: Yeah, look, um, there are obviously many, uh, learnings I could share, but it, but if I had to pick one, I think it would be, um, a sense of humility, right? Meaning that, um, I, I never felt that I had to have all the answers.

In particular because I, I was fortunate enough to lead a, uh, very large, you know, organization in many different areas, but I always felt that my job was not to be a, a superstar. My job was to, you know, be kind of, uh, the person that would motivate, empower other people. And I think if you surround yourself with good, smart, hardworking people, And you, you trust them and you give them the, the latitude that they need.

That that’s really the, to some extent, the secret sauce of leadership, at least in a large organization. And you know, to some extent, well, what I’m about to say is not very humble. And so when I talk about humility that may, it may not quite sound that, uh, I have humility, but I do think that. That, um, that level of humility that I had, which is, look, if the, if it’s the people around me who are shining, like I don’t need to shine as the leader, uh, because they, if my organization does well and we are accomplishing even more than what’s expected of us, then that will reflect well on me as a leader.

And I, I think that, um, That sometimes is counterintuitive to people who feel that if I’m a leader, I, I need to make sure that the most senior management, you know, sees me as the critical part, the critical hub in the wheel, that I’m the one that’s really making everything work. And I was always very comfortable just kind of, again, I have, I’m not a wallflower.

But I was very comfortable making sure that the people around me had that opportunity to make decisions to, to show what they knew. And then frankly, if you do that, you attract better talent. So it becomes somewhat self-serving because you know, good people want to work somewhere where they’re gonna get recognition and they’re gonna be respected.

And they’re going to get that type of exposure that they want.

Naji Gehchan: So Mike, I’m obviously a big believer of what you’re saying and and truly thank you for highlighting those important pieces. You know, I can, but think about some of the leadership today and some of like those who are in big lights. With quite the opposite actually of what you’re describing.

Like those who want to be in the light and reading dark organizations. And I, you know, I don’t want to go into politics also, but it’s those type of leaders obviously that you’re reading a lot about. Uh, and, and sometimes we’re discussing about kids before I’m, sometimes I reflect on this and why are those leaders having most of the lives?

While we both know the, the negative effect of this type of egocentricity, I, I’d love to get your reaction, how you think about these pieces and if, if you’ve ever been challenged about the way you lead people. You talked a lot about humility, shining through others, putting the others in the front, helping others be successful.

Have you ever been challenged on, on your style of leadership being too nice too kind? Several people I talked to, they would tell me. You know, I’m considered too kind. I’m too nice. What, what, what would be your reaction to this?

Michael Ullmann: Well, you know, naji, um, kindness is one of my favorite words. And, and I think it is underused in our society.

And, and interestingly enough, um, you know, I, I would use the word kindness to describe my leadership style. Now, I think that kindness though sometimes is, um, Is misinterpreted, right? Kindness doesn’t mean that, you know, every employee gets an A plus, right? Kindness doesn’t mean that, um, everyone is wonderful and does great at their job.

To me, what kindness means is treating people with respect and trusting people. Um, but you know, there are times where. Um, you do as a leader have to make tough decisions. Uh, and even there, you can do that with kindness. Uh, you can do this in a respectful manner. Um, so did I ever get challenged in my leadership style?

Yes, I did. Um, you know, and usually it would be that, uh, there was someone that maybe wasn’t performing. It didn’t happen a lot, but. Someone wasn’t performing well and I’d get push, uh, pressure, like move that person out or take action. And my feeling would be, look, let’s, um, let’s give this person a chance.

Let’s, let’s make sure there’s appropriate feedback that someone has the opportunity to kind of correct. Um, and sometimes that works, sometimes it didn’t. But it does get back to, I think something you said earlier, Naji, which is. What’s the right environment in the right role for people? And you know, it doesn’t mean if someone is not succeeding, it doesn’t mean that they’re a, they’re not smart.

It doesn’t mean that they’re a bad performer. What it may mean is that they’re not in the right role in the right organization. And I think, you know, I would say almost all the times I had to deal with that, um, the person realized that, and, and the person kind of welcomed that feedback. Because no one, no one likes to be unsuccessful in a role, right?

No one doesn’t wanna perform well, uh, but sometimes there’s inertia. And so I think if you treat people with kindness and you, you make that effort to help them succeed, even if at the end of the day they don’t, I think people kind of realize that, you know, things worked out for the best, and I think that’s important.

But I would say on the whole, you know, over 95% of the time, I think that people accepted my leadership style or my, the senior most leadership did, in part because my organization was successful. And I think that there was that realization that, look, you know, I, I, in fact, my, our c e O would say this sometimes, you know, Mike, you have your way of doing it.

It’s not the way other people do what their, their duties is manage, but you have good results. And so that’s okay. And look, frankly, I think it, it says a lot about a C E O and, and people at that level. Uh, and I try to do the same with my own organization, which is recognizing people have different leadership styles and, you know, as opposed to I’m the leader.

And you’re all going to manage in my way. I think another key part of leadership is recognizing and respecting different people, manage in different ways and lead in different ways. And as long as they’re creating the right culture, you know, as long as they’re treating people with respect and uh, and, and making ethical decisions and, and achieving results.

I think as a, as a senior leader, um, you, you do have to allow people to manage in style that’s right for them.


Naji Gehchan: Mike, uh, as you are, were working in j and j. You obviously took the company also during the last 11 years to a multi-billion, uh, successful company and serving so many, uh, patients and, and consumers in healthcare across the globe. Uh, you also went, uh, through developing a Covid vaccine and literally j and j single dose, uh, COVID vaccine.

Help humanity get out of, um, of the pandemic. So, uh, uh, can you share with us this particular journey you’re learning, leading those teams? In unprecedented times, delivering with speed, integrity, high quality. Also diversity. You worked a lot on how to make sure that you, you are representing the, the populations, um, when obviously all humanity.

What was watching you and you did it, you delivered. I’d love to, to hear the story behind the scenes and your

Michael Ullmann: learning. Sure. Um, well, look, I, I think there is a lot of pride there. Um, you know, the fact is while in the US the, the change hit Covid vaccine is really not being used. Uh, it still is in many of the developing parts of the world still being used, um, frequently in Africa, in other areas.

Uh, because it is one dose requires regular refrigeration. Uh, so there is a lot of pride in the fact that we continue to have an impact now to go back to really three years ago exactly to 2020, um, look, it was obviously a very difficult time for everyone personally as well as professionally. I, I think that to some extent the, um, one benefit that we had at Johnson and Johnson was we had a purpose.

And whether you were working on the vaccine, but really everyone in the organization, even if you were, you know, working on the Tylenol brand, you were working on other healthcare products because the need for oncology products and immunology products and surgery, it didn’t go away because we were in a pandemic, right?

The, uh, the healthcare needs of the world were still there. Um, and so I think that when people went home in March of 2020 to work, It really helped, um, our people because they actually felt that, um, rather than being bystanders to this pandemic, that we were working to make a difference. And, and I think that as a leader, that was very important.

And the message that certainly that, you know, I really took from there was when people feel they have a purpose in what they’re doing. They will work, um, very hard. They will work very passionately and they will really care about what they’re doing. So I think that then the next balance that I would say I, I found as a leader during the pandemic was, um, the importance of optimism, right?

That I would do meetings almost every day and I would do webcasts and zoom meetings. And I think people want their leaders to be hopeful to be optimistic. We’re going to get through this, you know, this is the worst, you know, health crisis of our lifetime. But, you know, with people like us working on this, you know, there is a, a way out.

Um, now you have to be realistic. It’s not like next week the pandemic will be over, but I think that element of optimism is very important in leadership. With that, however, I would say also came a, um, the importance of being openness, right? I would, uh, in, in all of my meetings and webcast, you know, I would talk about my own vulnerability, right?

Here’s, you know, I’m worried about, my mom is 90 years old, you know, uh, we worry about her. Um, you know, Thanksgiving, uh, first time I haven’t been with my children, you know, since they were born and, and things of that nature where, That balance. And I think, you know, Naji, that’s something as a leader that, um, you kind of have to work on developing.

But what is that right balance between being optimistic and being hopeful, but also sharing some of the, the challenges that you’re facing? And I, I think based on the feedback that I got, that that. That was effective. It was genuine. You know, there’s a lot of talk nowadays about authentic leadership. Um, I don’t know if I really was thinking that way, but I think that’s the way it came across.

And then I guess a fourth thing I would say about, um, leading during the pandemic was, um, the importance of being able to trust and delegate to people because it wasn’t like, you know, Pre pandemic where you might gather everybody in a room and, and make a decision that people, especially the people in my organization working on the vaccine, um, they had to make real time decisions.

And if you were working in Asia, like we didn’t wanna wait 12 hours every day for someone, you know, here in the US to make a decision. And so it was very much about, you know, Come to me. I mean, the, the, the message that I had was, you know, if you need more resources, if you need more money, you know, if you need more time or people let me know.

But other than that, you know, or if I can be of any help, you know, because you want my advice. But other than that, like you decide, you know, you’re qualified, you decide, you go ahead and make those decisions. And I think that following the pandemic, um, I, I, I won’t say that. Uh, I think we have made improvements in that.

I think we have continued that. Maybe not as much as we did during the pandemic, but I do think I see a bit more willingness to delegate and let people lower in the organization, make, make decisions. I love those

Naji Gehchan: and, and I hope we, as you said, we keep some of the, if we can say positives of the pandemic, but really in the leadership style, in the managerial Yeah.

Way of how things were handled and the, the pace, right. Uh, that we developed innovation for patients. Um, You, you mentioned it, and this is why I always like to take this pandemic, cuz as you said, I think it really brings this idea of we’re all here for one purpose and overworking. And I remember you shared an anecdote about relaxing afternoon where Yeah.

Where you were sent back to work. Like even from family standpoint. Uh, if you wanna share this for sure. Um, But the, I I’m, I’m interested also to hear, you know, without the pandemic, so after it and before it, how did you make sure that your people constantly think of this purpose and have patience in mind when taking the decisions?

This is where sometimes I feel it’s hard, right? Like each of us running through operations, leading organizations, Our, our team sometimes can be in the small details that we forget this big picture of patients. So I’d love to hear from you how you managed to keep this after the rush of adrenaline in a pandemic or even before

Michael Ullmann: that.

Yeah. You know, Naji, I would, I would say that that to me, um, was always, I think one of the biggest challenges of my role. And in particular because, you know, I, I’m not a scientist. I’m not doing, uh, research and the people in my organization, you know, were not developing vaccine. You know, they were not actually working in the labs, developing the vaccines, creating new cancer drugs.

Uh, there are people in functional roles working at a death and so, You know, how do you inspire people and how do you make sure that people understand that they have a purpose? And so I think what helped is even before the pandemic, way before the pandemic, um, that was something that I always worked at.

And frequently it would be when we would do, um, webcast, uh, getting patients, people who had benefited from our products, getting doctors, people who use our products, but. Making sure that the people who were sitting in the company headquarters of the desk had line of sight to what, you know, what is actually happening in the real world, and what do people look like?

What do patients look like? What did doctors look like? Hear them talking about our products. That was always very important. And then frankly, it really was, I think. What I always tried to do when I talked to different groups, and let’s suppose I was talking to a, a group of, you know, paralegals, which is just making them understand is that, you know, any pharmaceutical company, you know, it, it’s like being on a sports team, right?

Not every position is a glory position, but you need people in every role. And so, uh, a pharmaceutical company, Needs, uh, a, uh, an intellectual property group and they need, uh, patent lawyers and they need patent paralegals. And, you know, while it may not look like your job is a glory job or that you’re actually impacting patients, the, the people that are developing the next line of cancer drugs, they could not do that without you at your desk doing your job.

And so, That was always part of my talk track. Uh, and I think very important because again, when people realize that their role is critical, they will, they will go through walls. They will work as hard as they can. And that to me is a leader, is really what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to inspire people to be their best.


Naji Gehchan: Mike, now I’ll give you a word and I want the first thing that comes to your mind.

Michael Ullmann: Okay, so the first word is leadership. Uh, responsibility. Uh, do you want me to expand or just give you one word? No, you can expand. Yeah. I mean, responsibility, leadership is, um, whenever I would talk to, you know, people earlier in their career, like, what are your aspirations?

It’s like, well, I want to be a leader. I wanna manage people. And it’s like, well, why? You know, and it’s, uh, you know, I think that to me, um, the, the larger your organization is, the bigger leadership role, the greater responsibility that you have is, and so to me, the one word that leadership is, is it’s about responsibility to other people.

What about E S G? E s G is a critical, okay. One word, uh, future. Um, and I would say that, um, you know, we had spent quite a bit of time over the last four or five years on E S G, but the reality is social responsibility has been, um, part of the ethos of Johnson Johnson going back over a hundred years. Yeah.

We have, uh, like pictures. Of j and j products being delivered, uh, in the San Francisco earthquake of, I think it was 1908, uh, but part of the culture and the, the history of the company is being at disasters, being in times of crisis and, and being in healthcare, being able to play a role. So yeah, where we are today in E S G is somewhat of a, it’s a progression.

But I think that to me it is you’re constantly working on and improving not only your company, but the world around us for the future and for future generations.

Health equity. Health equity is, I think, uh, boy, one of the critical, critical unmet needs. Right now in our society and, and health equity, certainly just in this country where, you know, we have embarrassingly high infant and maternal mortality rates. I mean, among the, uh, the highest rates in the Western world, uh, where we have, you know, people that don’t get appropriate, healthcare is frankly inexcusable.

And I think even on a global level. Where, you know, the, the unmet healthcare needs around the world and the variations and life expectancies in a world like Earth is, uh, is very hard to justify. And so, look, I know from my perspective, um, you know, you, you can talk about large issues like this and it’s almost like boiling the oath, right?

Which is. Health equity, how, how are we going to self health equity? Um, what I tried to do in my organization was to, uh, you know, come up with projects, right? Like four or five projects. They’re not gonna solve health equity in the world or in the United States, but, you know, can we help? One project we did was in public housing and asthma, and that, the, that the fact, a large number of children, Living in public housing have asthma because of poor environmental conditions.

So we had a group of people in our organization work on public housing in Washington DC. So again, it’s, um, I think as a leader, when you talk about big issues like this, um, it, it’s helpful to say, okay, what can we do on a bit of a micro level? And again, you’d love to be able to solve the issues of health equity around our country, around the world, but let’s, let’s try to at least have an impact

Naji Gehchan: that’s, that’s super powerful and really thinking about local impact that can happen and make it, and make it happen.

The last one is spread love in organizations.

Michael Ullmann: Well, I think that, uh, look, the way that you spread love and organization, it starts with kindness as we’ve talked about, right? It, it talks about as a leader, um, what’s the culture you’re creating? And that to me, um, as a leader, probably the most important role that you have. And in particular, you know, in a large organization.

Is, you know, you can’t impact. I mean, to some extent, as a member of our executive committee, I was leading an organization of 140,000 people, you know, 2000 directly, but, uh, company of 140,000. So you can’t touch, you can’t touch that many people individually. You can’t touch 2000 people individually. What you can do as a leader is create a culture, create a culture.

Where you can, um, really demand kindness. I was going, I wouldn’t say just encourage, but ensure there’s kindness. Uh, ensure there’s ethical leadership, that people are making value-driven decisions, treating people in an ethical way, uh, looking out for patients and consumers in a, uh, values-based manner.

And so I think that by creating that culture, That’s how you spread love in an organization.

Naji Gehchan: Any final words of, uh, wisdom Mike for healthcare leaders around

Michael Ullmann: the world? Yeah, look, I think that it being in healthcare is really a privilege because we do have the opportunity and the responsibility, um, to impact healthcare, um, and impact the lives of people and.

You know, I think that it is so gratifying on those occasions when, you know, I, I meet people, I talk to people and they will say, oh, uh, Johnson or Johnson Johnson, like, uh, yeah, my mom was on your cancer drug. Or, you know, my dad takes this product and, and it’s made a difference in his life. And I think you realize that that ability to actually.

Help people live happier, uh, longer and healthier lives. Uh, I can’t think of a better field to be in, a better industry to be in. Um, it’s why I gravitated to healthcare. It’s why I stayed there for almost 35 years. And in fact, now in a nonprofit way, I continue to remain involved, uh, working with the, uh, the global healthcare ngo Americas.

Um, where I’m on their board of directors, but so I continue to be in healthcare. I always will be in healthcare because again, it is, uh, a privilege and, uh, it just, it really makes you feel that, that you can’t spread love around the world and really help make a difference in people’s lives.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much, uh, Mike, it’s definitely why we wake up every morning in this industry, uh, trying to make life better for patients.

Yeah. Thank you so much for being with me today. It’s such an honor