What do you hope to bring to your new role?
Before this role, I worked for nearly two decades in the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation where I witnessed grantee successes in developing, scaling and sustaining solutions that increased access to and quality of care for vulnerable populations - even in challenging and low resource settings.
A great joy and privilege of working in the Foundation was the opportunity to see grantee projects in action and talk with the people they serve. Whether in Trenton, N.J., or Ladysmith, South Africa, on avocado farms in California or Navajo tribal lands in the Southwest, I’ve seen the importance of engaging directly with patients and communities in order to understand their specific needs and healthcare journeys and align with their health goals.
I will bring lessons from the grantees and my wonderful colleagues in the Foundation with me and continue to be an advocate for people facing both serious illness and barriers to healthcare.
What does the role mean to you?
When I joined Bristol Myers Squibb in 1997, I joined a company on the scientific front lines of the HIV/AIDS response and at a pivotal moment. With the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) therapy, people living with HIV could effectively fight the virus and reclaim their health and lives.
Still, more had to be done to ensure there was a fair and just opportunity for those in the hardest-hit regions to benefit from this medical innovation. Through multisector public-private partnerships, novel company business actions, and the Foundation’s ground-breaking Secure the Future initiative, the company and the Foundation made important health equity contributions to the global response that increased research, access to treatment, care and support, and advanced sustaining policies.
This role is a chance to build on Bristol Myers Squibb’s legacy of approaching enormous challenges and rolling up our sleeves to innovate, collaborate, and do our best to create meaningful change in people’s lives and communities.
Why is health equity important to Bristol Myers Squibb?
In August of 2020, we made five commitments to accelerate and expand our health equity and diversity and inclusion efforts - starting with a $150 million investment over the next five years to address health disparities, increase clinical trial diversity, expand our supplier diversity program, enhance employee giving, and increase our workforce diversity. As a patient-centered company, we ask ourselves every day, “Who are you working for? ” With our commitment to health equity, we also ask ourselves, “Who aren’t we working for yet, and how will we bring these patients into view and evolve our business to reach them?”
Significant health and healthcare disparities exist in the populations affected by our strategic diseases, and the COVID-19 pandemic raised awareness of disparities and a root cause of structural racism in the U.S. context.
Today, organizations across the biomedical research and healthcare ecosystems are mobilizing to help remove the obstacles to medical innovation, quality healthcare, and optimal health outcomes for underserved patients. We have much to offer to these collective efforts and opportunities to collaborate internally as well to move health equity.
How are you working across Bristol Myers Squibb to advance its health equity journey?
Bristol Myers Squibb has been engaged in health equity for a number of years. For example, the People and Business Resource Groups have raised awareness of health disparities through educational events and the R&D organization has taken steps to increase diversity in clinical trials. Embedding a health equity mindset as a regular part of our work in the service of patients each day across the organizations is the next step in this journey.
Since January 2020, I’ve been working with executive leaders, a matrix team of colleagues from across the enterprise and a national advisory board to design Bristol Myers Squibb’s health equity strategic framework. This framework has two major pillars: inclusively discovering, developing, and delivering innovative medicines, and advancing healthcare solutions beyond therapies for underserved populations.
My priorities in 2021 are building educational resources on health equity and the strategic framework for employees and partnering with functional teams to create health equity objectives, strategic plans, and metrics by incorporating health equity considerations into regular Bristol Myers Squibb business planning tools and processes. On this journey, our values of integrity and accountability will be key to ensuring that our efforts truly make a difference and that we emerge as a trusted and reliable partner in advancing optimal health for all people.