I had a plan to study biochemistry because I really liked to learn how cells and things function in organisms. I went to the university to apply to the program and saw scientists working in a lab. At that moment – I was 17 or 18 – I knew that wasn’t where I saw myself and I decided to study medicine, where I could connect science with a human touch, connecting with people.
After finishing my studies, I trained first in immunology specializing in monoclonal antibody characterization and then clinically in dermatology. I had the opportunity – as an immunologist in dermatology to build an outpatient clinic for bio-immunotherapy. Novel medicines like targeted biologics were available in clinical studies and later approved in plaque psoriasis. Given my special expertise I worked closely with pharmaceutical companies and at one point the opportunity presented itself to join the industry, so I took the leap.
Now I lead the global medical affairs team, our company’s largest group of physicians and scientists around the world. Our role is to be the clinical medical counterpart to our development and commercial teams, partnering with clinical gravitas on our pipeline building the bridge to real world use and treatment practice. We connect science to patients’ needs in the real world, further defining how to use medicines by answering core clinical questions. This is what we do across geographies around the world.
Maybe it will sound counterintuitive, but I took the approach of not planning too far out and not planning in a straight line. Paths are made by walking. I knew that I wanted many roles in life – woman, wife, mother, scientist. What I did not know or make concrete plans for was how that all would come to be.
Had I planned only in a straight line, I would have missed many wonderful surprises along the way, so being flexible, identifying what I was good at, and being open to life’s twists and turns is what has worked for me so far. It is always one decision at a time that sometimes means taking risks with the unknown. I am convinced we always know deep inside where to go.
What is your favorite thing about your work? What fuels your passion?
What drives me and makes me happy is moving mountains. I love difficult things. I’ve been finding myself saying, “Isn’t this a beautiful problem...” Sometimes things are so complex and seem almost insurmountable, but I find a lot of beauty in complex problems. I learn so much and get to partner with others to find solutions. When I’m learning, I’m evolving, and when I’m evolving, I’m happy.
Another thing that makes me smile is when we successfully “scale the magic”. This is what happens when we can broaden what we do with stellar teams around us. Leaders who think alike come together and do something big. I am proud to represent a very strong and wonderful team at AbbVie and we go above and beyond to help patients get better by investing in our capabilities and partnering with HCPs around the world.
Personally, I am passionate about targeted therapies given my background in immunology. If we understand the mechanism of action of a given molecule, be it an antibody, a small molecule or an antibody drug conjugate, we can already imagine the potential impact in clinical practice. It is not always that simple, obviously, yet asking basic questions and deeply understanding mechanisms of action are a true passion of mine. Asking the simple questions sometimes requires courage, but doing so unfolds the magic, leading us to new strategic opportunities to help patients.