December 8, 2021 / All Stories

Day in the Life: Government affairs director educates and empowers

What are the policies that will sustain scientific innovation? Philip Schwab is looking for answers.

Day in the Life: Government affairs director educates and empowers

Join us on a typical day in the life of an AbbVie employee making an impact around the clock. Today, we follow Philip Schwab, AbbVie’s director of government affairs for Western Europe and Canada (WE&C). Philip left a career as an academic scientist to focus on government policy, but science is still at the core of the work he does daily. See how he uses his experience to advocate for policies rooted in science.

6 a.m. - A good day for me starts with a run along Seine

I use this time to clear my head and think about how I’ll approach the different parts of my day. After I’m done, I watch the international and local news while getting ready for work. Keeping up with the news is important for my job but it also helps me become more proficient in French.

I moved to France when I accepted my current role as WE&C government affairs director, but my career actually began in the U.S. I got my Ph.D. in plant genetics from the University of Minnesota, then worked on agricultural policy in Washington D.C. for a decade. From there I joined a Canadian biotechnology association. That’s where I started learning about intellectual property and regulatory affairs within the pharmaceutical industry, which prepared me for the role I have today. While I don’t do research anymore, my interest in science and what science can do for people still drives everything I do.

I work with people across many different cultures

My team and I work across 19 different countries to promote a policy environment that will allow AbbVie to continue to sustainably bring new types of medicines to patients. To do that, we have to understand the people and government policy across many different countries and cultures, which is a fascinating journey in and of itself.

This morning I hop on a call with fellow members of a trade association that represents multiple biopharmaceutical companies. Together we talk about how we’re going to communicate the business model of biopharma in an upcoming meeting with the European Commission. Because everything our industry does is regulated by government policy, from the basic science that’s at the core of our research to the policies that say how we can market our medicines, it’s critical that the leaders deciding on policy understand our industry.

11 a.m - Hopping on a train to Brussels

When I can, I prefer taking the train when I need to travel somewhere in Europe. In Brussels, I’ll be attending a roundtable with physicians, patients and members of the European Parliament regarding one of our therapy areas. Meeting with stakeholders like them gives our team a chance to talk about patients’ needs and listen to their concerns about health system sustainability. From there we can start to figure out how we can work together to achieve a better policy environment for accessing medicines and driving innovation.

One of the really fascinating things about my job is that it touches so many parts of the organization

Because government policies impact multiple areas of our business, from supply chain, to research and development and intellectual property, I spend a lot of time meeting with internal groups. We often discuss new policies and how they impact various functions.

Before I end my day, I connect virtually with members of my own team and affiliate colleagues to figure out how to adapt our strategies according to the diverse needs of individual countries. Every country we serve has a unique health care policy environment, and some policies inadvertently exclude vulnerable populations from accessing treatments. Tapping into the diverse experiences of our affiliate teams helps us build stronger, overarching government affairs strategies to ensure all patients can access our medicines.

Afterward, I catch dinner with a colleague. Because I’m still new to living in France, learning the language and spending time networking is important to me. It not only helps me learn the culture but it also gives me a chance to learn from people with a different perspective from mine. The chance to engage with diverse cultures and perspectives while working towards a common set of goals is what makes this work rewarding.

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Name: Frank Benenati
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