Read the Conversation
EF: What advice have you offered your managers to get through the pandemic?
FD: The new normality has come to stay and it has impacted all aspects of work and life, particularly the way we communicate. Specific to Bristol Myers Squibb, there have been significant changes in the way we plan and execute our jobs. Most importantly, we have proved we can work remotely as we have set the environment to communicate with the different teams at a cross country level and be more inclusive and collaborative in communicating the right message in the right timelines. In terms of communication, the key advice would be to optimize the tools without overusing them, we must be efficient and differentiate ourselves. Many companies are using the same tools to offer webinars, medical platforms, and carry on scientific meetings so it is difficult to be different and unique and it is important to plan strategically for the future that is coming. How we will get to 2030 will depend on the decisions and strategies we implement today especially in terms of communication.
EF: With everybody using the same tools to connect with customers and stakeholders, how do you stand out and try and differentiate yourselves?
FD: Consultants have already analyzed what will be the behavioural decisions in the future and 40% of them agree that in the future, virtual will be adopted to treat patients and to do trials. But first, we must understand our customers: find out what is working for them to ensure the success of the tools we are offering. In 2020, we were able to rapidly shift our activities to virtual platforms and even carried on our first product launch in June. Virtuality offers good opportunities to measure content and reach many more physicians at one time to communicate a message. I think the segmentation of activities and the segmentation of decisions will be key. We are planning to launch six more products over the next two years -we have not stopped our launching activities during the lockdown and definitely, our digital transformation will enhance all our initiatives in the future. We are listening to our customers and their needs and measuring the success of our work to be able to make informed decisions to be more effective. The information for our decision-making comes from the support we provide patients.
Considering the impact of the pandemic on patients, and the decrease of visits to the physicians, we decided to provide further support to patients enrolled in our programs.
EF: You mentioned 6 launches over the next two years, could you elaborate on your portfolio´s innovative products launching?
FD: BMS focuses on bio-pharma as we are a leading company with a diversified portfolio focused on oncology, haematology, and cardiovascular as our key areas of business. We finalized a major integration in 2020 to combine and expand our portfolio in oncology and haematology and strengthen the pipeline. We are pioneers in innovative treatments in Virology, Immunology, and Oncology fields –with a focus on Immuno-Oncology- and are now focusing resources on cellular therapy research. The big challenge in this area will be to get access for patients. We must work with the private and public systems to ensure access to this innovation in a sustainable way for the healthcare systems.
EF: What is your personal definition of access?
FD: Access for me is to have the right medicine for the right patient at the right time. We work in different pillars to achieve this goal, medical education being the backbone of our strategy. We also put a lot of effort into communicating the value of the innovation we bring to society, from the moment we start developing a quality drug till it is commercialized and gets to a broader group of patients in need, both in the public and private sector. It is imperative we work with governments, NGOs, and medical communities to ensure we provide the right level of access to more patients in a sustainable healthcare system.
EF: With countries undergoing different stages of crises at the moment, how are you handling the devaluation of currencies? How does the opportunity-challenge situation work in a devaluation scenario in pharma?
FD: I have worked my whole career in the pharma industry and in Latin America. Dealing with all the factors we are facing in our region is complex, there are some approaches we can articulate in sales with the right price and strategy in place to mitigate inflation and this is particularly in the case of Argentina. It is about keeping a balance - benefiting the patients and working to ensure the best possible access to innovation. We also have to make important decisions on our operating expenses, managing our resources, and how we allocate resources from established brands and products at the right time. When we had to shift the strategy to bio-pharma, because of the importance of quality involved, we had to increase resources while dealing with devaluation, sales issues, and profit target. We increased resources and started working on a transition mode to reallocate resources to the new oncology to up-skill our capabilities and prepare for a new concept and a new therapeutic area doing it the right way and at the right time to maximize the profit and discipline our financials. The main objective is to achieve efficiencies in terms of performance and accelerate the new oncology, key to a better performance, which ultimately gives broader access to the patients and better results to our business outcomes.
EF: How does it feel to be a woman in a position of leadership, to be a role model, and having people look to you and want to follow in your footsteps?
FD: I have been in the pharma industry for more than 25 years, and 20 of those years have been at BMS. At a certain stage, I decided to pursue career opportunities at BMS because I could see that there were opportunities for women, I could see there wasn’t a glass ceiling where women were concerned and I trust this company because of its values on diversity and inclusion. This has facilitated my career growth; I have had mentors who have allowed me to grow. At BMS, 50% of the employees are women and at a managerial level, 40% of those positions are held by women. As far as influencing and leaving a legacy is concerned, I feel I have a huge opportunity and responsibility to pave the way for more women, both in and out of the company. We have a program at BMS for both women and men to empower other women within the organization so they can achieve executive positions, developing the creative element both in the workplace and in the marketplace. I use my role and my voice in pharma and in the market place and on the different committees to influence and try and encourage women to have the same responsibilities, to look for places on the board. As part of the same program, I mentor young women in the company and participate in talks at universities trying to shape and influence the external environment. As a woman and company directive, I feel it is my responsibility to leave a legacy, a footprint I can leave in others to unleash their full potential regardless if they are men or women to achieve diversity.
EF: Do you think Latin America can be overlooked as a region and how do you see the growth of the region?
FD: One of my main objectives, when I assumed the responsibility of being LatAm GM, was to put Latin America on the map. There is talent in the region, well-educated and prepared people, we have a strong platform and a highly representative population for international clinical trials. We need more diversity not only in gender but in companies, backgrounds, and cultures. We have the talent to work in a difficult environment, we are experts in managing very complex environments, volatility, liquidity, and all the complexity of the market and this is a key differentiator. Despite the difficulties, I think there is a great opportunity because Latin America has the capacity to recover quickly; it copes with the ups and downs and Argentina is a perfect example of this. With all it is going through, Argentina is still a major contributor (with Mexico) in sales despite devaluation and inflation and it has one of the most important platforms in clinical research as well.
EF: You have been 20 years with BMS this year, how did you celebrate this important anniversary and in such a standout year for health, what would you like your 2020 tenure to be remembered for?
FD: My 20th anniversary was in May in the middle of the lockdown, and I did receive a lovely surprise from my team with a virtual meeting with different pictures of my career and my personal life. I also had the very satisfying recognition of my family, my husband, and my children, which was the most powerful recognition of all. I celebrated the recognition of my team and family because, without them, I would not be where I am. As far as this year is concerned, I would like it to be remembered as a “complete turnaround” year in the history of humanity. Realistically, I think it will be a year of significant change and on a personal level, it has been a very impactful year because I have been able to spend more time than ever before with my family. It will be a year of human connectivity, even if we spent a lot of time seeing people through a screen, it is a year we valued human connectivity and it will be remembered as a year of health because health has been in the spotlight as has the value of health. The pharma industry of which I have always been proud of has had recognition; humanity depends on us to give them a vaccine and it is a great opportunity for the health industry to reflect on the value we provide to society, why we do what we do and on the value of innovation. Finally, I would like to mention an article I read on the transformation of leadership, a new kind of leader is emerging from this crisis, an empathetic and authentic leader. A leader can lead from the head or from the heart and this year is the year of leading from the heart. Personally, I like this new leadership which will redefine the way we work and specifically the way we lead.