Rising Above the Pandemic: What Good Leadership looks like

LEADERSHIP

I relate to how the author and scholar Warren Bennis defines leadership as “the capacity to create a compelling vision, translate it into action and sustain it.”

As a leader, I believe it is crucial to be very clear about which destination and direction you want the team to head to and at the same time be able to help them operationalize how to get there. A compelling vision oftentimes requires significant efforts and change – this requires courage to make decisions and drive change, and the endurance and humility to learn fast from failures along the way. Setting the vision is just the first step, it will not work if you are unable to go down to the level of execution and be willing to do some work yourself.

Resilience and Authenticity are also important traits. Being a resilient leader, in my opinion, requires a high level of self-awareness, propensity for learning, and authenticity. Authenticity attracts other people to help you and contribute more towards what you are trying to achieve together as a team. Authenticity requires being true to yourself and showing vulnerability at times.

In 2017, I attended an engaging leadership program for women in AstraZeneca called Women as Leaders – and one of the exercises we did was to identify ourselves with a type of vehicle and create personal branding. My realization then was that regardless if you identify yourself to be a big powerful SUV or a cute compact car – what matters more is what you do with your authentic brand. What value do you bring to the table? This is where the beauty of diversity comes in.

MISSION TO FILIPINO PATIENTS

What inspires me the most about what I do is the difference we can make in the lives of Filipino patients. At AstraZeneca, we pushed the boundaries of science by delivering life-changing medicines and doing our best to bring these medicines to the Philippines as fast as possible. We put patients at the center of everything we do and understand what are the challenges in their journey that prevent them from getting optimal disease management. We take an approach that goes beyond the pill and engages partners to help us enable a holistic healthcare ecosystem that can support the patients from gaining more knowledge about their disease until the actual disease management.
Today, most patients are diagnosed late in their disease, which means a higher risk of morbidity and mortality. Our goal is to do much more than move the needle, through actions that can drive significant and meaningful change for patients in the Philippines and around the world.

In the Oncology therapeutic area, for example, AstraZeneca launched the Lung Ambition Alliance in collaboration with multiple stakeholders with the goal of eliminating Lung Cancer as the leading cause of cancer mortality by enabling early detection and intervention, Through Artificial Intelligence-based comprehensive Chest X-ray software, screening can automatically detect clinically relevant findings for early detection of critical diseases such as lung cancer. The partnership also creates a holistic approach to establishing an ecosystem throughout the journey of a patient with lung cancer which also covers disease awareness and patient support. It started in July 2021 with the aim to screen 100,000 Filipino patients by end of 2022.

In the area of Cardiovascular, Renal, and Metabolism, we have established partnerships with different medical societies and local government units to improve care for patients with T2D, HF, and CKD. In 2021, Diabetes Philippines teamed up with AstraZeneca, the Philippine Association of Diabetes Educators, the Association of Diabetes Nurse Educators of the Philippines, and 13 partners LGUs to launch the ACT Now for Diabetes to screen and identify type 2 diabetic patients who are most at risk of developing cardiovascular and renal complications. The program aims to educate the public and private physicians about comprehensive diabetes management and to empower patients with the right information with the end goal of addressing the high diabetes mortality in the Philippines.
This year, the Heart Failure Society of the Philippines partnered with AstraZeneca to expand the ACT Now program to patients with Heart Failure. Heart failure was previously thought of as a “death sentence” with 1 out of 2 patients dying within 5 years of diagnosis.1 Through the ACT Now for HF, physicians are able to assess and monitor the condition of their patients through standardized tools and apply the appropriate intervention to hopefully prolong life.

Recently, we also embarked on a journey to address another huge unmet need in the medical community which is chronic kidney disease. CKD is highly prevalent, however, highly underdiagnosed with 90% of the patients not knowing that they have CKD.2 Oftentimes patients are diagnosed late when the disease has already advanced as seen by the continuous increase in dialysis in the Philippines. AstraZeneca launched Kidney Patrol, an awareness program aimed to educate patients on CKD and encourage them to get tested early to avoid future complications.

In the respiratory therapeutic area, one of its long-running programs is the Juan Healthy Lung Philippines (JHLP), launched in 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak. The initiative, in partnership with medical societies and patient groups, aims to improve disease management capabilities and to educate Filipinos to cope with asthma.

According to a Global Asthma Report, approximately 11 million Filipinos are asthmatic yet 98% of patients lack proper treatment.3 In 2019, the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) announced a new approach to better asthma management, which was continuously updated year-on-year, up to now in 2022. (GINA Asthma Report).4

The aim of JHLP was more important than ever, especially during the pandemic, where studies suggested that most people with asthma might be at slightly higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus than the general population, particularly if they had non-allergic asthma. Moreover, anyone whose asthma was poorly controlled was considered at higher risk of severe disease or being admitted to a hospital with coronavirus.5

Amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic, this initiative since 2020 was able to educate almost 20,000 healthcare professionals (HCPs), more than 10,000 pharmacists, and close to 200,000 patients through various online platforms and social media. To date, stronger medical partnerships are being formed to help HCPs and patients have better control of asthma through the GINA-recommended Asthma Action Plan.

In the area of Vaccine and Immune Therapies, the team was able to secure 16.5 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses through the first multistakeholder public-private partnership agreement in the Philippines. This was only made possible with the strong collaboration with hundreds of companies, almost 40 local government units, the Department of Health, and multiple other executives and legislative government leaders. Aside from supporting some of the earliest vaccine arrivals in the country when they were needed the most, the team’s efforts supported the acceleration of the country’s ability to secure vaccine access. Most importantly, the AstraZeneca vaccines are estimated to have so far prevented more than 12 million Covid-19 infections, more than 130,000 hospitalizations, and over 30 thousand deaths in the country6, according to mathematical modeling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent research center at the University of Washington.

While AstraZeneca continues to be at the forefront of the patient-centric support for the national Covid-19 vaccination program and the strengthening of vaccine confidence in the country, it is preparing for the launch of cutting-edge long-acting antibody technology that can protect vulnerable populations who cannot develop a response to COVID-19 vaccines.

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC

The pandemic taught us many lessons and forced us to build new capabilities. I was in my first year as Country President when the pandemic hit, and I can say that it is perhaps the most challenging experience I have had. There was no playbook on how to navigate through the pandemic and we just had to be resourceful, creative, and resilient.

First, AstraZeneca had a clear mission – to make the vaccine available to the world at no profit during the pandemic. We were not a vaccine company and so everything was new to us. We formed a local core task force and had to think on our feet to deliver the mission. I am proud to say that despite all odds, my team, through relentless collaboration with different stakeholders and partners in both private and public sectors developed the first-of-its-kind multilateral agreement to secure access. This paved the way for policy change and served as a partnership model for other manufacturers. Through the process, I was continuously inspired by the dedication and willpower that my team and our partners in the private and public sectors had shown to make things happen.

While we were working on Covid-19, we also had to take care of our employees and core portfolio at the same time. Non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes, and asthma were deprioritized due to the pressing concerns of the pandemic. We had to ensure that the supply of medicines for these diseases was not disrupted, that physicians continue to receive scientific updates, and that patients do not ignore their conditions while they were unable to immediately seek professional consultation or diagnosis. Equally importantly, we also had to ensure our employees were kept safe. In the past, digital was more a nice to have than suddenly it became a need to have so this meant learning new capabilities and shifting our ways of working the fastest way possible.

Finally, there was a lot of anxiety in the organization with operating differently and with the fear of the unknown. But we were very clear about our long-term strategy – we have millions of patients to serve then and in the years to come. So my decisions were always guided by this. I am proud to say that through efficient ways of working we did not let go of any employees and the organization remains intact amidst the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

The nature of the pandemic’s virus emphasized isolation. But in AstraZeneca, we put bearing on synergies, driving a sustainable and trusted health system for each Filipino family.

MY CAREER JOURNEY WITH ASTRAZENECA

Prior to joining AstraZeneca, I had 15 years of commercial experience in the pharmaceutical industry. I joined AstraZeneca in 2010 and took on different commercial roles both in the Philippines and in Asia. In the last 12 years, I’ve been given different kinds of opportunities and experiences to continue my development journey. I have worked with many brilliant people in this company and continuously learned from them. Being surrounded by many talents gives me that challenge to continue pushing myself to learn, improve and contribute.

In 2019, I was given this crucial role and appointed as the First Filipina Country President for AstraZeneca Philippines. Something that I take a lot of pride in. Yes, I’m proud to be Filipina and I can say that I am a living testament to how AstraZeneca as an organization values diversity and inclusion. I knew I was competing with global talents for the role at that time and just had to give it my best shot. I take this opportunity very seriously as I know that it is beyond just me. I carry the flag and how I perform can pave the way for other local talents.

INSPIRED BY PURPOSE

An inspiring realization for me is that my role provides me the platform to drive important advocacies. The first is grounded in my core job which is healthcare sustainability. This is consistent with everything that we do in AstraZeneca. The bottom line is how can I, in my role, enable partnerships and solutions to improve the healthcare landscape for Filipino patients. Furthermore, how can I deliver meaningful contributions to society?

Second, is about women empowerment. I hope that with the work that I do and my achievements, I can inspire other women to believe in themselves, and what they can do and take on more challenging roles in whichever industry or line of work they are in.

Finally, I champion Filipinos. Wherever we go, we are praised for our quality of work and how well we work with people. We should be proud and courageous to find and conquer big opportunities that can help us grow and at the same time showcase our talent. Ultimately, I strive to be a good role model to my children so they will have the courage to chase after their dreams.

About Lotis Ramin

Lotis Ramin is the First Filipina Country President of AstraZeneca Philippines since 2019. She is also the current President of PHAP Cares Foundation and a Board Director & Sustainability Committee Chair for Nordic Chamber of Commerce Philippines.

Lotis and her team in AstraZeneca Philippines received multiple external recognition for their contributions to the Pandemic action as well as innovative solutions in healthcare. These awards include the Innovation Business Partner of the Year, Top Community Centric Company in Asia, Top 50 Rising Tigers in the Asia Pacific, Woman of the Year, and Inspiring Filipina Award.

AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca (LSE/STO/Nasdaq: AZN) is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development, and commercialization of prescription medicines in Oncology, Rare Diseases, and Biopharmaceuticals, including Cardiovascular, Renal & Metabolism, and Respiratory & Immunology. Based in Cambridge, UK, AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. Please visit astrazeneca.com and follow the Company on Twitter @AstraZeneca.

Reference:

  1. Roger V, et al; on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2012 Update. Circulation
  2. Ravera M et al. Am J Kidney Dis. 2011;57:71-77; 2. Ryan TP et al. Am J Med. 2007;120:981-986)
  3. https://rmc.doh.gov.ph/patientscorner/health-corner#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20World%20Health,continue%20to%20lack%20proper%20treatment.
  4. https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/53/6/1901046
  5. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/coronavirus-covid-19/what-should-people-with-asthma-do-now/
  6. AstraZeneca data on file

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