The female perspective on the pharma industry
Danielle Portnik, Regional Business Director, International at Ambry Genetics, discusses the struggles and challenges that women still face in the pharma industry (1,300 words, 6 minutes)
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A highlight of the 16th Annual National Pharmaceutical Congress (NPC), held in Mississauga, Ont. on Nov. 2, was the session on “Diverse Voices” regarding the importance of an inclusive approach in the pharma industry. The session was presented by Specialty Health Network by Shoppers Drug Mart. During the first six weeks of 2023, NPC Healthbiz Weekly will summarize each of the presentations by the “Diverse Voices” panel. Here is the third instalment.
Although the pharmaceutical industry is taking action to be more inclusive, and many women hold leadership positions in the industry, there is still a long way to go, says Danielle Portnik.
During her presentation at the 16th NPC, she described some challenges female executives still face in pharma. One challenge has been the so-called ‘imposter syndrome’, which is when someone doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has constant internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. According to Portnik, women can fall into this syndrome because they tend to be too hard on themselves. For example, she talked about how men are likely to apply to a job posting if they fit 60 per cent of the job requirements, while women think they have to meet 100 per cent of the criteria.
“Interestingly, as much as we talk about this as an issue with confidence or an issue with imposter syndrome, for 78 per cent of women in a Harvard Business Review study, it was just the fact that they thought the stated qualifications were required,” she said. “It had nothing to do with confidence.”
Portnik said it is essential to change these conversations. She said it is not a matter of making people more confident or combating imposter syndrome. To her, it is necessary to train future leaders to be okay with stepping outside their comfort zone and to embrace the unknown instead of fearing it. “At the end of the day, if we really want to grow, not just personally but across our teams, we have to step outside of our comfort zone. It’s inherently a part of moving the bar, so we have to normalize it. It’s okay to be unsure.”
Portnik talked about how important it is not to fear failure because it isn’t a mistake, just the first attempt at learning. She says actions only become mistakes if someone continues to do the same thing repeatedly, even if they don’t work out.
“If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done,” she added. “And the cool part here is this: It has actually very little to do with your IQ or your talent. So, if you’re really worried about being the smartest person in the room, you can be a little less worried.”
She also quoted a series of studies by Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Duckworth determined the primary determinants of a person’s success were grit and perseverance rather than talent or IQ. “If you’re willing to take on the challenge, to work hard, to push the bar, to be uncomfortable, and to have conversations with others about being uncomfortable, chances are you’re going to figure it out. You’re going to be successful,” Portnik said. “It might not be easy, it might take time, but you’ll get there, and there’s science to show that.”
Portnik said it is time to challenge definitions and change concepts, to flip things around. “Let’s change something that is inherently negative into something positive. Let’s go from imposter to innovator, from imposter to change maker, from imposter to growth accelerator,” she said. “Because all of these people who are feeling uncomfortable because they’re doing something new, they are the people who are going to be making the difference tomorrow.”
THIS WEEK 01/24/23
Sun Pharma announced a US$576 million acquisition of Concert, gaining a potential new foothold in the alopecia market and the US market as well. The deal valued Concert at US$8 per share and included a US$3.50 CVR dependent on Concert reaching specific milestones.
Health Canada has granted a notice of compliance to Celltrion Healthcare Canada’s Vegzelma, a biosimilar to Avastin (bevacizumab) for the treatment of five types of cancer, including metastatic colorectal cancer; non-small cell lung cancer and fallopian tube cancer.
The U.S. FDA has approved Luye’s Rykindo, an extended release injectable suspension version of risperidone, for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder in adult patients.
Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Canada’s Radicava (edaravone) has received a positive recommendation from the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health’s Canadian Drug Expert Committee for the treatment of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
In season eight of the NPC Podcast, Angelina Brathwaite, Senior Client Partner, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Leader for the Americas at Brunel, talks about women's leadership in the pharma industry, community advocacy, and the true takeaways of formal education. Hear her in conversation with podcast hosts Mitch Shannon, Jim Shea and Mark McElwain.
CANADIAN HEALTHCARE MARKETING HALL OF FAME
The Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame awards were established in 2002 to honour healthcare marketers who have contributed to our vocation and inspire others.
More than 100 honourees have been selected during the past 18 years. In the selection committee’s view, they represent a cross-section of the qualities that make our business unique and fulfilling. NPC Healthbiz Weekly will acknowledge one past Hall of Fame Honoree each week.
Karl Frank, Managing Director at Bayshore HealthCare, went to the University of Alberta to pursue a degree in pharmacy. After a few years managing several Loblaw pharmacies, Frank rose through various administrative positions over his next 20 years with the company, eventually achieving the roles of Vice President, Pharmacy Operations and later Vice President, Pharmacy Merchandising.
One project at Loblaws that Frank is proud of was the revision of the pharmacy workflow model, which is now used in many other pharmacies today. “Flipping the model around so that all of the adjudications in the work would be done when the patient first approaches the pharmacy, as opposed to at the end, when several potential issues can arise,” he said.
He said he carried this focus on the patient experience to building Bayshore Specialty Rx, which he joined in 2011, and all his work in promoting specialty drug services.
“Bayshore, the specialty market, and the industry itself is such a vibrant place to be and rewarding as a pharmacist clinically,” Frank said. “Being at the forefront of launching hundreds of new molecules and new companies into the Canadian marketplace has been extremely rewarding.”
He said the need to develop innovative care models for specialty pharmaceuticals has been a challenge, but a rewarding one. For example, coordinating the needs for facilities and nursing support for infused and injection medications involves even more moving parts and stakeholders.
At the same time that Frank was building the organization at Bayshore, he said he realized there was a need to engage with leaders at an industry level. “We were under attack by payers, who were reducing our margins and looking at specialty pharmacies as an area to cut,” he said.
Frank said he had to take the initiative to help support the industry in those discussions. In 2018 he was elected to the position of Vice Chairman, and later Chairman of the Board at the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada (previously the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores).
One key lesson Frank learned during his career is the importance of an individual’s experience, whether that is a patient interacting with the healthcare system or an employee’s experience with the company. “The rewarding part about that is the stories that you get,” he said, speaking of making a difference in the lives of patients and empowering employees.
“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do from an industry level at the Neighborhood Pharmacy Association, raising the level of awareness of specialty pharmacy,” Frank said. “We now have an annual conference [the Specialty Pharmacy Summit] that’s just about specialty pharmacy services.”
There is still work to be done to raise the profile of specialty pharmacy and the service it provides to patients, including exploring the growing roles of telemedicine, clinical trial support and homecare, Frank said. These are all challenges he is excited to face.
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