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EF: How has it been for you navigating through the pandemic reality?
SR: This period has been an exceptional learning experience for everyone in the organization. In March, we started working from home and only specific areas such as logistics, quality control and certain areas related to products, kept working from our logistics site. On August 3rd., our workforce returned to the field to meet specific priorities and issues. From a business point of view, we have been doing well having our employees’ safety as our first priority since day one. Originally, we thought the lockdown situation would last a month or two, but now, six months later, we believe this situation will continue for another three to six months. Our mission to support our patients has taken on even more relevance with the Covid-19 pandemic, and from a business perspective, we have focused on three priorities:
- Access for patients- because we believe health should not be a privilege, but a right available to every person. The access to medication can be difficult, so we are working to ensure that medication and treatments are available to all patients and not only to a privileged few. The Covid-19 situation created a new sense of awareness so that more people can be treated. It is imperative to keep working on access and enhancing capabilities so that we can work with the government and other stakeholders in order to have available the innovative medicines for our patients.
- Dedicate time and effort to promote our team´s well-being and support both logistics and quality departments to ensure the continuance of supply for patients. We have implemented different initiatives to assist our team during this period. In addition, not only have we maintained our entire workforce, but over the last six months, we have even hired 22 new positions in Mexico and 2 in Colombia. We are hiring new people because we are very confident about our future in these countries.
- Digital and virtual transformation- as one of our main pillars for the continuity of the business, implementing important digital initiatives for continued engagement with key company customers in the healthcare system.
EF: Last time we spoke, you had cracked the top 100 list of the most powerful women and now you have done it again, only now you are in the top 50. What are you doing differently to be considered as such?
SR: I´m very proud to be part of the ranking. This is a recognition to my team and the entire organization, which is focused on innovation as well as diversity and inclusion.
Our work is based on four main topics:
- Clear commitment to offer equal opportunities for women and men while ensuring we provide development leadership programs for women. Also, endorsing excellent conditions for diversity and inclusion.
- Generating engagement within our employees to continue working creatively in high-performance teams to achieve our goals.
- A different way of working: other companies aim to solve immediate problems whereas we have tried to go to the core problem and from that standpoint, we work at how we can help.
- Maintain our patients in the centre of everything we do.
EF: BMS is surprisingly nimble for a company of its size and committed to critical research as you are. How have you been affected as not everything can be done digitally?
SR: The clinical research team has been working from home since March. On August 3rd., they returned to the field and are working with the institutions and the medical community to support patients. We are fortunate enough to have the technology and company structure needed to work from home, so the RCO team never stopped working and are in continuous contact with the physicians and patients undergoing the trials, which is proof of the commitment we have with the protocols we are conducting in Mexico.
EF: BMS’s webpage has a wonderful section dedicated to Life & Science Stories; could you elaborate on local stories from either Mexico or Colombia?
SR: Yes, we are very dedicated and committed to Life and Science. We have the opportunity to listen to our patients’ stories and the stories from the medical community working to transform their lives. Each patient has a very unique experience and we thank each one of them for their strength and resilience in treating their disease. Every year we celebrate "The Global Patient Week" at BMS, a global strategy which we have implemented in Mexico and Colombia doing different activities every day in support of patients. This year, we listened to our patients’ stories as part of the concept of unifying patients.
EF: What does it mean for BMS to have access to the Mexican and Colombian markets?
SR: Access in each market is completely different; in the case of Colombia, the patients have access to our medicines when the product is authorized in the market. This transforms into an opportunity for patients to receive innovative medicines from day one. There are challenges in timing in the Colombian healthcare system; however, the fact that ground-breaking medicines can be used immediately is a very good step forward.
In Mexico, during the last few years, we have faced many changes in the Healthcare System and all stakeholders are adapting to these new challenges. As we all know, the Health System is very fragmented however, we are very optimistic that the integration of all institutions in “A new compendium” will bring innovation to institutions and patients alike, thus, reducing the time to get medication. Today, we are all learning -BMS, the institutions and the government- and trying to find the best way to accelerate the process for patients to be treated.
EF: In this transition time, change is an opportunity to re-imagine the multinational pharmaceutical company of the future so how do you envision companies like BMS moving forward?
SR: BMS aims to continue transforming patients’ lives with treatments for complex illnesses; we have a clear commitment in Mexico and Colombia to generate awareness in the medical community, in the institutions, and the government to create access to treatment, medication, and innovation for patients. Transforming patients’ lives is our number one priority today and moving forward.
EF: This year, the health paradigm is shifting with the pandemic invading all areas of our lives. How can momentum be kept to ensure the transformation happening today can be taken into the future?
SR: It is a time for reflection. Although the world´s situation is very difficult right now due to the pandemic, we have seen that governments and people are more conscious about the importance of clinical research and science. A key priority for everyone is to be healthy. Under these new circumstances, we need to work together, collaborate with our knowledge and experience to accelerate the process of getting a vaccine out. I am hoping after this situation is over, a better integration within the industry and governments will be forthcoming for the benefit of patients.
EF: What would you like your 2020 tenure to be remembered for?
SR: For me, 2020 has been a year of resilience; these last six months will stay in my mind as a huge learning experience. We have been constantly making decisions and having to change them soon after so these are times when we need our people to be engaged and motivated, coming up with new ideas and ways on how to adapt to the new normal.
EF: How do you keep yourself motivated?
SR: I am a naturally positive person; I am optimistic and always think we will be better off tomorrow. I am very proud to work at BMS, which through these difficult times has focused on patients; this motivates me and fuels my passion for what I do. To be responsible for Colombia and Mexico means a lot to me because I have the opportunity to connect with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Especially in these challenging times, every leader plays a critical role and has great responsibility with the employees and their families. We leaders need to be calm, maintain our direction and focus and be positive to successfully manage our teams during this worldwide crisis.