Your career journey into the healthcare sector is very impressive, what attracted you to the industry originally?
It’s about caring for people and trying to make a difference. I was adopted and my adoptive mother is the most caring and wonderful person, she gave me a break in life, and I want to repay that. She said something very special to me “I choose you out of a whole room of babies because you have two different coloured eyes” and that made me feel so special. That’s the genesis of what I do and why I do it.
Can you pinpoint people that have influenced you in your career?
I have always led from the front. I was a confident child, came from a tough background and knew I had one person to depend upon and that was myself. With that, I was fortunate to meet someone like Jim Book, who headed up the largest healthcare company at the time which was Johnson & Johnson.
At Johnson & Johnson we spoke about the 4 values, first and foremost absolute commitment to your patient, next is your commitment to your doctors, nurses, mothers, fathers – whoever uses your product and then to your community and finally to the employees. And those are the 4 key principals that have guided me throughout my career. They say once a J&J person, always a J&J person, which is true because I’ve always carried those principals with me and made them relevant to the people that I work with.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
I have so say that in my career, working in a male orientated environment, they are wonderful to work with. You must find the right people that will help you with your own agenda along the way.
When I speak to people and mentor them, I tell them that they must be bold and brave. Those are the 2 words I love. I did my MBA in my 40’s and it transformed my life. There were 3 girls amongst a large group of men, but so what.
I was appalled when I heard about a scientist who said that women aren’t good scientists because they want to go and have a family, but actually that’s not true, there’s many women who juggle complexity in their personal and work life all the time – women do it very well because we can multitask.
I don’t mean to sound clichéd but what I do encourage women to do is to find good mentors, people who will support their agenda and help them in their career. Women also need to have a very clear pathway as to what they want, that’s very important because if you don’t know what you want then how on earth are you going to get there. Two facets that I always talk about to people is a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose – they drive human nature no matter whether you are male or female. You must find a balance within that.
We underestimate ourselves because we’re used to walking one step behind. Why? A lot of it is self-confidence. Men have great networks; they play rugby together etc. and we women tend to work in isolation until you get to a certain level and realise the importance of reaching out.
Again, coming back to the point of being bold enough and brave enough through this crisis, I reached out to the head of the PAG, Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock. I’m not afraid to reach out to these people because ultimately, we could be helping them. I also reached out to Yvonne Doyle, head of PHE and through that, I got our company registered as a laboratory site to send back data. We’ve tested over 1,000 people now and if I hadn’t of been persistent, then that data wouldn’t have been transmitted to the government.
What values you try to instil in your team?
The key for me is compassion, dedication and a totally fair environment, which is totally non-discriminatory. The key values always come back to doing the right thing for the patient.
We will be the first treatment that is CQC regulatory and we were the first ones to be defined by the MHRA as a medicinal product. I had to transform a small company, so when I took this company on to develop wound care, I met and worked with the top scientists in the field, that’s what you’ve got to do.
Don’t be shy about reaching out to them because they want to be reached out to. You must be brave enough to do that. I then honed the technology, applied it to the wound care area and in 2017, MHRA and NICE said to me, “this looks like a duck, this swims like a duck and actually this is a pharmaceutical product.” I thought wow, I’ve never been in pharmaceuticals in my life as I’ve always worked in medical devices and I was very fortunate to have Ian Rees from the MHRA who heads up innovation to have look at what we were doing, and to look at the data and results we were getting in complex wound care.
It paid off as we treated 15 patients with 18 wounds, and we salvaged the limbs of 14 out of 15 patients with this treatment and that’s what made me bold. We’ve now got our patent into our NHS and NIHR sponsored trial and are on a great trajectory to take a simple idea and turn it into something much bigger. We were able to take great technology and translate it into the clinical practice.