Read the Conversation

EF: What are your 2024 priorities, as Janssen South Africa? 

AH: Our priorities are linked to our credo, which outlines our responsibility to our patients, customers, employees, communities, and stockholders. Everything we do is centred around our patients, bringing the right treatment for the right patient at the right time in the right place, and ensuring fast, robust and sustainable access to innovative medicine. To attain this, we are working relentlessly with our key customers to facilitate the patient journey. Similarly, we rely on our talented and dedicated employees for these deliverables. We therefore prioritise creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace and developing talent. We are also responsible to the communities in which we live and work and continue to prioritise our efforts here through various Care Team outreach projects. As we prioritise all of these, our stockholders realise a fair return through the expansion of the company and making sure that innovation reaches South Africa in accordance with the company's strategy.  

We also have a key focus on therapeutic categories that comprise our portfolio, which are immunology, neuroscience, haematology oncology, and pulmonary hypertension (PH). We concentrate on these areas because we think we can have a significant impact there with such focused emphasis. 

We are working towards a significant evolution of our brand identity, wherein we will unite under the Johnson & Johnson brand name. This new identity will reflect our drive and boldness to lead where medicine is going, powered by the ample possibilities of innovation to profoundly change health for humanity.  

EF: What projects are you excited about accomplishing this year? 

AH: My excitement comes from our team's commitment to opening every avenue for our patients to have better access to innovation through our portfolio; whether it be through our current portfolio, newly launched molecules, or upcoming future innovation, which we are prioritizing for the patients who are waiting. We believe they shouldn’t have to wait any longer. Firstly, as a team, we are committed to addressing the healthcare challenges and ensuring access to innovation for all patients. This will be achieved through collaboration with stakeholders to act on capability building and drive an enhanced patient care pathway.  

Secondly, we aim to broaden access to our innovations and strengthen our presence in South Africa and neighbouring countries such as Namibia and Botswana, through collaborative opportunities.  

Thirdly, our people are at the core of our organization, and we are investing in capability building for both current and future employees. We are collaborating with the Talent Development Institute to support the development of young individuals in South Africa. Through our graduate program, we provide employment opportunities, allowing talented individuals to apply their knowledge and enhance their skills while contributing to our innovation access efforts. All this while materializing their career aspirations to the highest.  

EF: Could you please provide more details about the steps you have taken to raise awareness in South Africa about mental health and community wellness? 

AH: We believe in co-creation with our stakeholders to address mental health and wellness. We recognize that the need and gap in this area cannot be fulfilled by any single entity alone. As a pioneer in neuroscience, Janssen has a long-standing heritage and is committed to raising awareness and building capability in this field. In one aspect, we are driving the debate around mental health policy in South Africa and unlocking opportunities, as we did at our recent Mental Health Roundtable, led by our Government Affairs & Policy colleagues, where we had stakeholders from diverse sectors to discuss critical themes including Mental Health Policy. Discussions delved into policy considerations related to mental health, emphasizing the need for comprehensive and effective policies. Another aspect is driving disease awareness through campaigns like #breakingstigma. This collaborative effort, involving Janssen Neuroscience South Africa, The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), and The South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP), aims to dispel the stigma associated with mental health and educate both the public and healthcare professionals about the importance of monitoring and addressing mental health.  

EF: Developing local talent for Africa remains key to economic growth. How can we continue to nourish local talent where it is most needed?)  

AH: At Johnson & Johnson, we are fully dedicated to implementing talent development programs that address our employees' needs and aspirations. Our programs encompass professional development, training opportunities, a supportive work environment, mentorship, career advancement, and collaboration. We acknowledge the potential benefits of utilizing virtual connectivity tools to enhance learning, exposure, and networking, allowing employees to contribute positively from their home countries to regional and global roles. These tools offer increased exposure and the chance to explore remote or global positions, enhancing career growth. It fills me with pride to witness South Africans occupying senior positions across Johnson & Johnson worldwide. Our talented individuals have already achieved remarkable success, representing South Africa impressively in the USA and Europe. 

I firmly think that South Africans are capable of reaching their maximum potential and possess all the necessary skills, including passion, knowledge, and fluency in language.  

EF: Which fundamentals would support the development of sustainable healthcare? 

AH: I would bucket the progress of the healthcare system into three pillars under what can be called the “AAA” model, referring to Approval, Access, and Application.  

To unpack this model further, there are three key aspects to consider:  

1) The swift Approval of the innovative medicine, following a thorough assessment and supported by extensive collaboration and reliance. This is essential as patients are eagerly awaiting access to these treatments.  

2) The implementation of robust Access models and solutions that provide patients with clear pathways to innovative treatment options. This ensures that patients can easily and efficiently benefit from these treatments.  

3) The sustainable Application of such innovative medicine, providing healthcare professionals with the necessary tools to ensure that the right patients receive the benefits of these advancements in a timely, convenient, effective, and safe manner. 

This model incorporates additional components focused on empowering patients, including raising awareness, listening to their perspectives, and optimizing their care plans. It will require investment in enhancing capabilities to keep up with advancements in science and technology, as well as leveraging these advancements to improve patient outcomes. Collaboration across various boundaries is also crucial to achieve efficiencies and promote the sharing of best practices. 

EF: How are you fostering an atmosphere that will attract and retain the younger generation in Janssen? 

AH: Our approach to employee empowerment and development is guided by a well-defined action plan aligned with our credo. We prioritize various strategies and initiatives to unlock employees' full potential. These include a hire-to-retire strategy, fostering a high-performance culture, investing in capabilities, driving diversity, equity, and inclusion, and contributing to community development. For instance, we have a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy that nurtures an inclusive work environment, values diverse perspectives, promotes innovation and collaboration, and encourages a speak-up culture. We emphasize professional growth through dedicated Capability Building programs like GROW Gigs and AI-powered learning platforms such as J&J Learn. Our adoption of artificial intelligence extends to training employees on its use. We also embrace a hybrid working model called J&J Flex, which allows eligible employees to work both onsite and remotely. By prioritizing employee well-being and development, we aim to attract, retain, support, and ultimately address the world's most critical healthcare challenges. 

EF: What accomplishment will you mark almost two years into your tenure as this position's holder in South Africa at the end of this year? 

AH: I understand that driving the growth and market share of any organization may look like a crucial metric, but it is much more important to always remember that our ultimate goal is to serve our patients and customers. While we use quantitative measures like growth indicators and market presence to gauge our success, these numbers are just a reflection of our efforts to improve the lives of those we serve. This for me, is the most crucial indicator of success, an outcome driven by our talented teams.  

EF: What would be your final message to deliver to our audience in Forbes Africa?  

AH: In South Africa, there are challenges in ensuring patient access to innovation. However, the exciting potential that J&J offers can serve as a powerful inspiration for us as employees. It motivates us to come to work daily and dedicate our time to assisting patients, recognizing that they should not have to wait for innovative solutions.  

July 2024
South Africa