Insights from GLG Institute’s 2021 Healthcare Leadership Summit

Insights from GLG Institute’s 2021 Healthcare Leadership Summit

Read Time: 6 Minutes

GLG’s 2021 Healthcare Leadership Summit came during a difficult pandemic year. From developing a vaccine in record time to accelerating technologies and maintaining a sense of community while operating remotely, we have faced unprecedented challenges and breakthroughs as an industry and a society. As we build back and borders reopen, we can create a more inclusive, innovative, and responsible “new normal.”

The GLG Institute’s 2021 Healthcare Leadership Summit held sessions such as “U.S. Healthcare Landscape: Redefining Value” and “Addressing Disparities in Healthcare Access,” featuring speakers including Jeff Kindler, former Chairman & CEO, Pfizer; Mark Dybul, Former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator; and Amy Abernethy, former Principal Deputy Commissioner and Acting CIO, U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The event created an open forum to discuss ways we can collaborate and broaden our community to improve the efficacy of healthcare for generations to come.

This article excerpts a few of those sessions and some high-level takeaways.


Hidden Barriers in Boardroom Diversity


  • Irene Chang Britt, Chairperson of the Board, Amica Senior Lifestyles; Former President, Pepperidge Farm Inc.
  • Ron Williams, Former Chairman & CEO, Aetna; Lead Board Director, American Express; Board Director, Boeing, Johnson & Johnson
  • Shehnaaz Suliman, MD, MBA, M.Phil, President & Chief Operating Officer, Alector; Independent Board Director, 10x Genomics, Ultragenyx
  • Cindy Baier, President & CEO, Brookdale Senior Living; Independent Board Director, Nashville Health Care Council; Board Advisor, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Irene Chang Britt shared that like most industries, healthcare has striven to build more diverse boardrooms, but while gender diversity has increased, racial diversity has not kept pace. Significant work still needs to be done.

Cindy Baier highlighted that diversity should be a business imperative. Brookdale Senior Living has built a leadership team that includes 44% women and 11% minority leaders. To achieve this, the company started building diversity at the board level and then trickled down that process to the senior leadership team. Cindy shared that building diversity is not necessarily easy, but companies must make sure everyone has equal opportunity. Some measures Brookdale uses to achieve this are blinded résumés and training on unconscious bias.

Ron Williams opined that when boards do not have diverse perspectives, they will often make bad decisions. Companies need to expand restrictive qualifications. Citing a previously prohibitive requirement used in the police force, Ron shared that recruits had to be at least six feet tall to join, limiting the talent and perspectives of the force by excluding shorter candidates who could have otherwise contributed greatly. Expanding the traditional requirements used to assess board directorship candidates broadens the pool of both talent and diverse perspectives. This in turn helps build the capabilities of companies’ C-suites by allowing employees to build additional skills and experience.

Shehnaaz Suliman noted that there is no such thing as a perfect board candidate. If you are looking for someone to check 15 boxes of qualifications, you’ll likely never find a candidate. Companies need to be honest about what they are looking to solve. If you are interested in bringing in the smartest diverse candidates, you may need to uncheck some other boxes.


Lessons in Leadership: Conversation with Jeannine Rivet

Roch Doliveux, GLG Institute Chairman; Chairman of the Board, Pierre Fabre, Oxford BioMedica; Former CEO & Chairman, UCB

Jeannine Rivet, Former EVP, UnitedHealth Group; Former CEO, UnitedHealthcare, Ingenix, and Optum

In this session, Roch Doliveux talked with Jeannine Rivet on her thoughts of successful leadership. Throughout Jeannine’s tenure with UnitedHealth, she significantly grew the healthcare business. When she first joined, it had only 1,200 employees and was selling at two dollars a share. Her success growing the company through acquisitions came from establishing a set process for integrating the companies and communicating with employees.

Jeannine shared her key principles for building a winning culture, what she called “the six Fs”:

  • Facts (be data-driven)
  • Fast (make fast decisions)
  • Focused (deprioritize noncore activities)
  • Flexible (things change — regulations, technology, etc.)
  • Friendly (to employees, customers, and partners)
  • Fun (make work enjoyable)


Fostering Innovation and Influencing Change

  • Mike Warmuth, Former EVP, Established Pharmaceuticals, Abbott
  • Denice Torres, Board Director, bluebird bio; Former Chief Strategy & Business Transformation Officer, Johnson & Johnson
  • Michael Palmer, Former Chief Innovation & Digital Officer, Aetna
  • Nancy Miller-Rich, Former SVP, Global Human Health BD&L, Commercial Assessment, Strategy, Commercial Support & Digital Transformation, Merck & Co.

True innovation leads to change, yet both innovation and change are often difficult for many organizations. Established institutions tend to resist both, but that is a weakness that needs to be overcome. Mike Warmuth shared that leaders should have an honest conversation with themselves about what is getting in the way of successful innovation. Does your company’s culture support innovation? What happens when innovation fails? How do you prevent people from reverting to conservative thinking?

Denice Torres examined how COVID accelerated the success of those who were agile and able to adapt, versus those who accelerated their own demise due to their rigidity. She stressed that innovation is about experimenting with concepts and your own leadership style. You need to establish a culture where there is tolerance for failure but not incompetence.

When talking about the role digital solutions play in innovation, Michael Palmer highlighted that you need to get buy-in from key individuals to put ideas into action. Without this buy-in, you can have ideas but not know how to operationalize them. There are ways to engage people to drive motivation, e.g., creating innovation challenges and/or nominating an “Innovator of the Year.”

Nancy Miller-Rich discussed how crises like COVID tend to inspire innovation. Difficult circumstances, such as resource constraints or dramatic budget cuts, are powerful motivators for thinking outside the box. To continue building on the healthcare innovations that emerged during the pandemic, executives need to understand the entire patient journey. They need to walk in the shoes of the physician, the patient, and other key stakeholders to ensure they are delivering a differentiated product.


Corporate Responsibility in a Post-COVID World

  • Fabrice Enderlin, Former Chief Talent Officer & Company Reputation, UCB
  • Annalisa Jenkins, Board Member, FasterCures; Former EVP, R&D, Merck KGaA
  • Jeff Hoffman, Institute Leader, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy, The Conference Board ESG Center
  • Rob Perez, Founder & Chairman, Life Science Cares

Fabrice Enderlin spoke about how COVID has helped companies rediscover the core purpose of the healthcare industry. The weight is now on its shoulders to consider how the industry impacts the environment and the global supply chain. It is also incumbent upon healthcare companies to consider the different ways they might conduct global clinical development and ensure equity of access for all patients.

Jeff Hoffman pointed to the fact that most people do not work for large corporations: so how can smaller institutions move the needle on these issues? He said that no matter the size, healthcare companies should consider their social purpose and business purpose as one and the same.

Rob Perez thinks of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as social opportunity. For him, calling it a “responsibility” amounts to calling it a burden. Leaning into purpose is an opportunity for the organization to make the world a better place. Purpose is embedded in the missions of companies in the healthcare industry, but that is not enough. COVID has only exacerbated problems around equity, access, race, and social justice. Companies that lean into their purpose can involve their workforce in issues they care about, drive financial success, and make the world a better place.

Annalisa Jenkins shared that every year about 2 billion people don’t have access to basic medicines. Additionally, billions of medicines are lost and/or wasted every year. We are part of a modern corporate market economy with obligations to shareholders, but we must balance that with a broader purpose. We need to create organizations with the right values, and it starts with leadership.


GLG Institute (GLGi) is a community of senior executives across industries sharing expertise to accelerate their professional development. GLGi recruits the world’s best operators, leaders, and policy makers to serve as Advisors to GLGi Members through 1:1 meetings and events like the Healthcare Leadership Summit.

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