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Rapidly Changing Healthcare Industry Calls for a Diverse Workforce


Arpa Garay

Vice President, Merck Vaccines

We asked Arpa Garay, vice president of Merck Vaccines, about the challenges she faces in her day to day work, and how other women can thrive in the field of medicine.

Could you explain your role at Merck?

I am responsible for all commercial aspects of my company’s vaccine business in the United States. This includes responsibility for strategy, contracting and distribution, sales, marketing, innovation, and partnerships across a broad portfolio of vaccines that help protect children, adolescents, and adults. I have the privilege to lead a dynamic and talented team of healthcare professionals across the U.S. that are passionate about the impact our vaccines have on the populations we serve.

As a healthcare executive, what are some of the biggest challenges that leaders on the business side of medicine face today, particularly women?

From a business perspective, the greatest challenge today is the speed of disruption occuring within healthcare spanning policy, patient access, globalization, digitization, consolidation, new competitive entrants, and increasing expectations from consumers/patients. In this rapidly evolving landscape, it is more important now than ever to build a dynamic, diverse organization that is able to focus on how to create value for the future instead of perfecting skills of the past.

What are the three most important skills that are needed for healthcare executives?

Given the pace of change we are experiencing in healthcare, attracting and inspiring a top performing organization, communicating a clear vision and priorities, and relentlessly challenging short-term choices to ensure a successful, sustainable future are the most important skills needed from today’s executives.

The healthcare industry has changed a lot in the last few years, and jobs in this sector projected to grow more than twice as fast than the general economy by 2020. What do you think the career landscape will look like for women in another 30 years? What do you think the future of medicine look like?

I am optimistic about the career landscape for women in the next 30 years. While there continue to be disparities today, we have made significant progress the past 30 years and can learn from select countries and industries that have been successful in achieving gender parity through policy and cultural change. As the number of women graduating from college continues to outpace men and their role as breadwinners accelerates, women will become a critically important part of the future workforce across all sectors and levels.

With the advent and growth of technological advancements and big data, we can certainly expect more and greater changes to every facet of the healthcare industry. Medicine and treatment protocols will be more personalized and automated. Where we seek care and information will be revolutionized. And new business models will emerge as a result. When change happens, opportunity follows, so I am excited by what healthcare will look like and how the industry will engage with people as employees or patients in 5, 10 or 30 years.

What do you think is the best route to support more women and underrepresented minorities to get into executive roles in healthcare?

As healthcare becomes more globalized and the U.S. population continues to diversify, we must acknowledge the role that women and minorities play in healthcare decisions. To have the greatest impact on patient health and on business results, I fundamentally believe it is important to have an employee base that reflects the populations that we serve. Hiring leaders that model this basic principle and inspire a diverse workforce is instrumental in our ability to support more women and underrepresented minorities into executive roles.

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