Since 1987, we have taken the month of March as an opportunity to reflect upon the historical greatness accomplished by women throughout the world. Every day, the women in healthcare make an impact by guiding improvements that help save countless lives and inspire generations of women across the country and the world.
At ICON, we have the opportunity to work with some of these leading women and witness their achievements and successes in their field. We would like to celebrate these women and all the women in healthcare by highlighting some of the globally prominent female figures in healthcare today.
Rhonda Medows, MD, FAAFP
Ayin Health Solutions, Chief Executive Officer
Providence St. Joseph Health, President, Population Health
New York, United States
Dr. Rhonda Medows currently leads Providence’s Medicaid, Medicare, Commercial, and employer population health strategies, as well as the organization’s value-based care, health plans, population health informatics, government programs, care management, contracting, and community health partnerships. She has spent her career focusing on improvements in both clinical quality and operational excellence while acknowledging and working to diminish the disparities present in today’s healthcare system. Knowing COVID-19 would disproportionately impact those of a certain socioeconomic status, Dr. Medows took measures to bring light to the issue by educating those around her and, “asking [our] teams in local communities and businesses to focus on not just studying health disparities, but on implementing actual interventions that will help people by resolving health disparity and inequities.” As the vaccine developed, Dr. Medows scanned social media platforms to monitor the public perception of the vaccine to better understand how she could educate those with hesitancies rooted by, “the disproportionate and tragic impact of health disparities on people of color — including Black, Latino, Native and indigenous peoples.” She has since made several videos about the importance of the vaccine and stated that we need to acknowledge, “What has happened in the past and what is happening now and respect people’s realities. But [we are saying] to not let past history stop us from doing what we can to get us beyond this pandemic.”
Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, Group President
New York, United States
As the president of the multibillion-dollar group, Angela Hwang is responsible for overseeing more than 26,000 employees and has affected the lives of more than 434 million individuals across 125 countries. In 2020, Hwang landed on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list for her efforts in the logistical planning of the COVID vaccine, which began even before they knew “which (vaccine) candidate would get approval”, Hwang said. Hwang oversaw much of the manufacturing and testing of the vaccine and is partially responsible for quickly getting it to market. Looking back on the vaccine success, she states, “A lesson learned from all of this is that fostering an environment where innovation can thrive, where science can thrive, is really important,”. Hwang is hopeful that Pfizer’s use of messenger RNA to create the vaccine will be applied to other viruses and diseases in the future.
Melanie Lee, PhD, CBE
LifeArc, Chief Executive Officer
England, United Kingdom
Before becoming LifeArc’s CEO, Dr. Melanie Lee spent 30 years in Research & Development
in the biopharmaceutical industry. Early on, she executed fundamental research on the cell cycle, which led to the creation of new therapeutic entities. From there she broadened her scope and began working in diagnostics, devices, and therapeutics. During this same period, Dr. Lee was also involved in several charities and held Chair and Deputy Chair Trustee appointments at Cancer Research Technology and Cancer Research UK, respectively. In 2019, her accomplishments lead her to win the BioIndustry Association (BIA) Lifetime Achievement Award, making her one of only a handful of women to win this award in 25 years. Upon winning the award, Dr. Lee expressed, “Finding a career in science as a female is not without its challenges, as we maneuver our way through key points in life that may affect us – be that maternity leave, a growing family, or looking after aging relatives.” Still, Dr. Lee continues to provide leadership and pursue her “great mission to discover, develop and deliver valuable treatments and diagnostics to patients in need.”
Susan P. Ehrlich, MD, MPP
Zuckerberg San Francisco General, Chief Executive Officer
California, United States
Dr. Susan Ehrlich is a third-generation physician following in the footsteps of her epidemiologist father and general internist grandfather. In 2016, Dr. Ehrlich became the CEO of Zuckerberg San Francisco General and is also currently the chairwoman of America’s Essential Hospitals, a Professor of Medicine with the University of California, San Francisco, and a practicing primary care internal medicine physician. Her focus as CEO is on quality, financial stewardship, and building a team to lead the hospital to achieve its goals. Dr. Ehrlich understands that to be able to take care of the community, she needs to start by working from the inside, of the hospital, outward. In an interview, she said, “if you ask anybody why they work here — whether they’re Department of Public Health staff or UCSF staff, the vast majority will say they’re here for the patients and for the mission.” That mission is to help the struggling, mostly low-income population that makes up the community surrounding the hospital who, “have a lot of issues, and they require a very careful focus”. Dr. Ehrlich acknowledges both homelessness and drug abuse as some of San Francisco’s biggest problems and believes, to help resolve these issues, the city needs to, “increase the number of units of housing, increase the density of housing, [otherwise], it’s going to be very hard to take care of people’s health care problems.” While patient care is her priority, Dr. Ehrlich points to both inequality of income and housing as the main source of the issues facing the city. With improvements in these areas, as well as the continued care from the staff of Zuckerberg San Francisco General, Dr. Ehrlich hopes to see an increase in the overall well-being of the community and creating a model for other communities to follow.
Elena V. Rios, MD, MSPH, FACP
National Hispanic Medical Association, President & CEO
Washington D.C., United States
Dr. Elena Rios has had one mission since forming the National Hispanic Medical Association
(NHMA) in 1994 – improving the health of Hispanics and other underserved. Dr. Rios also serves on the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, New York Academy of Medicine, and Natural Resources Defense Council Boards of Directors, and on the Office of Research on Women’s Health Advisory Committee, VA National Academic Affiliations Council, Centene Health Policy Advisory, and Health Equity Committees, Cancer Treatment Centers of America Hispanic Advisory Committee, and the Society of Medical Administrators. She’s received countless awards for her efforts and dedicates her time to publishing articles and delivering lectures on both a national and global level. Most recently, she has turned her efforts towards creating a resource campaign to focus on “education for providers on how to communicate with their patients from the science, from the facts, from a scientific perspective” to allow patients to better understand things like the COVID-19 vaccine and create a clearer channel of communication between providers and their communities. She acknowledges the racial inequality facing the healthcare system and thinks, “the most important thing health professionals need to know is the fear and the mistrust from Latinos and African-American patients about getting anything from the government.” Dr. Rios believes the solution lies in having more community healthcare workers and having health professionals look more like their communities. She hopes to help create a dialogue between the two parties to allow more proactive measures to be taken in the future.
Meena Ganesh, MD
Portea Medical, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director
Dr. Meena Ganesh is known as being one of the top business leaders and successful entrepreneurs in India. In 2013, she founded Portea Medical, India’s fastest-growing home healthcare company. The company has over 1,700 employees and serves over 20 cities, with the expansion into 50 additional cities over the next two years. Dr. Ganesh had the idea to create Portea Medical when she was struggling to balance her life while making sure her elderly parents were being taken care of. Her terminally ill father could not find enough support at home and soon passed away, leading Dr. Ganesh to take action. “It was a real eye-opener on the gaps that existed in the Indian healthcare system. Something was terribly broken,” she said. At the time, a lot of money was put into the Indian hospital systems, but there was no focus on anything outside hospital care, even though up to 50% of healthcare spending was actually outside of the hospital. Her personal connection to the issue led her to begin thinking of a solution that could address both ill and well patients all under one service. Dr. Ganesh realized more was needed in a patient’s journey than simply addressing their illness and moving on. She stated, “For someone struggling from a severe disease, like cancer, managing the acute illness goes beyond what the doctor does for the patient. It is about continuous management of the condition, somebody providing them with the mental support and strength that the patient needs, as much as they need medical support. Portea wants to become a part of that journey of a family, rather than providing individual interventions based on health needs. We want to become a health partner or managers.” Portea Medical currently focuses on general primary healthcare, post-operative and palliative care, chronic diseases, allied services, and will soon add diabetes management. It offers home visits from doctors, nurses, nursing attendants, and physiotherapists and has completed over 3.5 million patient visits. Dr. Ganesh and the Portea Medical team hope to help both patients and their families throughout their medical journeys and are dedicated to growing and learning every day. Dr. Ganesh emphasizes, “Learn all the time, from what you do, what others do, never stop learning however good you think you are” and to put your heart and soul into whatever you do.