Celebrating Women in Science

February 11, 2021

 

 

To encourage girls to pursue a career in science and spotlight those women who have, the United Nations set aside Feb. 11 every year as International Day of Women and Girls in Science. At Viatris, we are proud of the diverse perspectives of our colleagues that help drive innovation so that we can empower people everywhere to live healthy at every stage of life. Learn about some of the women at Viatris who are in science roles and how their work contributes to our mission.

 

Heidi Wahlen
Head of Global Integrated OSD and API Supply Chain Quality
Vienna, Austria

 

Q: What did you study in school and how did you come to choose a career in science?

A: I am a pharmacist by education and was drawn to the industry by my interest in research and development.

 

Q: What is your role at Viatris and how do you contribute to our mission of empowering people every day to live healthier at every stage of life?

A: My current focus is the integration of the Supply Chain Quality function from Legacy-Upjohn into Viatris whilst maintaining routine efforts and control over our end-to-end model between manufacturing site to the first customer.

    

Q: The theme for this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science is “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.” How has the pandemic affected your role and the work you do every day?

A: Work and interactions became more virtual since the outbreak of the pandemic. With travel ceased and hardly any opportunities to meet face to face also our work style changed. My home has become my castle, in the true sense of the word. From here I meet colleagues and team-members and I believe we all learned to compensate for the ‘reality-environment’ we enjoyed before.

New tools were adopted, video meetings became routine, adapted presentation capabilities and soft skills developed to motivate and achieve agreements and results despite the distance between the participants. In a way, I see this as reflection of change being the only permanent thing in this world.

 

Elizabeth Russell
Head, L-UPJ Global Chemistry, Manufacturing & Controls, Global R&D & Regulatory
Canada remote

 

Q: What did you study in school and how did you come to choose a career in science?

A: I earned a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Biochemistry and a M.Sc. in Renewable Resources, both from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. From a young age, I always had an affinity for mathematics and problem solving. For those closest to me, it was obvious that my genetic makeup was hardwired for a future as a scientist. Chemistry, which became my true passion, was inspired thanks to two amazing educators, and to my parents, who only ever encouraged me to follow my dreams.

 

Q: What is your role at Viatris and how do you contribute to our mission of empowering people everyday to live healthier at every stage of life?

A: At Viatris, I head up the legacy Upjohn (L-UPJ) Global Chemistry, Manufacturing & Controls (CMC) team. The team supports the development and provisioning of robust CMC regulatory strategies and submission content for the global L-UPJ Brands portfolio, across all stages of the product lifecycle. Always with patients in mind, the team contributes as part of the larger L-UPJ Global Regulatory Affairs (GRA) function in cultivating and maintaining flexibility to meet business needs, while supporting efficient and innovative strategies founded on well-grounded technical and scientific expertise. Our work is also predicated on ensuring regulatory conformance and compliance to global regulatory requirements, all with the aim to mitigate risk and ensure the delivery of a portfolio of high-quality products to patients who depend on our treatments across a multitude of medical needs. By taking a right-first-time approach with the goal to reduce agency approval timeframes and by working closely with partner lines for submission planning and dossier compliance, the team is instrumental in empowering our patients to live healthier at every stage of life.

 

Q: The theme for this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science is “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.” How has the pandemic affected your role and the work you do every day?

A: Like most other office workers worldwide, the pandemic has had me working from home since March 2020. For me personally, this has not had a huge impact, although in truth, I have been working longer days, often finding it more difficult to tear myself away from the laptop. As a people manager, I observe the same habits in many of my team and do occasionally have to remind them of the importance of maintaining healthy work-life balance. That said, I couldn’t be prouder of the team, especially those who have been impacted by the pandemic either directly or indirectly, for maintaining a continued focus and delivering against business objectives. I’ll conclude by noting that while not much of the pandemic has had positive associations, certainly for me personally, the pandemic has served as a stark reminder of the importance of science and the value our industry brings to patients worldwide. I am very happy to have been so warmly welcomed into the Viatris family, and to be part of the mission to bring medicines to patients which help them to live healthier lives.

 

Aideen Shields
Senior Director, Device & Product Performance 
Dublin, Ireland

 

Q: What did you study in school and how did you come to choose a career in science?

A: I chose to study chemistry and biology for my leaving certificate in secondary school, which is the equivalent to high school in Ireland. I chose to study science in University as I found it interesting, I enjoyed problem solving and I have an analytical mindset. I started off with a general science degree and then majored in chemistry and received a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from University College Dublin. Soon after I finished college, I started a role in R&D and discovered an area that suited my personality as I enjoy the constant challenges, the variety of work and there is always something new to learn. I then decided I wanted to expand on my knowledge by studying for a master’s degree in industrial pharmacy from Manchester University, which I completed by distance learning while I was in Viatris.

 

Q: What is your role at Viatris and how do you contribute to our mission of empowering people everyday to live healthier at every stage of life?

A: My role is Senior Director of Device and Product Performance in Global Device Development Group. Our group supports device development of combination products from design concept to lifecycle management post commercialization. We are currently working on a number of projects across the respiratory, biologic, injectable and transdermal portfolio. The range of devices we work on includes inhalers, auto-injectors, prefilled pens, prefilled syringes, vial kits and patches. We support robust product development of these complex combination products and work very closely with the Drug Product, Regulatory, Clinical, Manufacturing and Quality groups from early product development through to submission and ultimately to product approval across Europe, the U.S. and rest of world. I’ve worked on a number of combination products that have been approved, and a lot of these products were first to approval in the generic or biosimilar space. It’s very rewarding to know that we were part of providing patients with greater access to high quality but less expensive products.

 

Q: The theme for this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science is “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.” How has the pandemic affected your role and the work you do every day?

A: The pandemic hasn’t affected the work I do every day, but it has more impacted how we work. Like everyone, there have been challenges around not being able to travel or to have meetings face-to-face; however, we’ve really tried to maintain that personal interaction. Little things like always turning on our camera and having regular check-ins with our colleagues have worked. We are working on a very broad range of products at the moment including some innovative and exciting devices and also continue to work on combination products for the treatment of conditions such as diabetes, asthma and COPD  as well as devices for antipsychotics and opioid misuse. While I think there is evidence that fewer people are seeking treatment for non-COVID-related conditions, unfortunately those other disease and conditions haven’t gone away and there is still a need for us to develop these products.

 

Siwen Zhao
IT Business Partner, Commercial Markets, North America
Canonsburg, PA, U.S.

 

Q: What did you study in school and how did you come to choose a career in science?

A: I studied Finance and Information Systems in school. I developed interests in technology at school and saw how technology could enable business during my internship with Mylan (now Viatris). This led to me start a career in IT with Mylan (now Viatris) since then.

 

Q: What is your role at Viatris and how do you contribute to our mission of empowering people everyday to live healthier at every stage of life?

A: I am a dynamic, motivated IT leader. At Viatris, I partner with various functions and lead strategic IT initiatives to deliver technology solutions. These technologies are used in all aspects of Viatris’ operations and decision making in Manufacturing, Supply, R&D, Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, and other areas. My role helps drive the implementation of the technologies that enable effective and efficient business strategies and operations to better accomplish our mission of empowering people every day to live healthier at every stage of life.

 

Q: The theme for this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science is “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.” How has the pandemic affected your role and the work you do every day?

A: When the pandemic started, my work switched from being in the office every day to fulltime remote working. During this time, I was managing the IT Integration Program consisting of a global team of more than 100 people to prepare for Day 1 of Viatris. The remote working situation posed many challenges to this work. We had to cancel the in-person workshops and figure out ways to conduct the same discussions effectively over Webex and Teams. I adjusted working time during the many virtual workshops and meetings we had to accommodate different time zones, and at the same time learned not to lose balance between work and life as the natural boundary of traveling between office and home went away. I drove more proactive communications and reporting among the teams so we could surface issues and risks quickly as we would have done naturally by having face-to-face conversations in the office. With some struggles in the first few weeks, teams quickly adapted to the remote working condition leveraging all the technologies we have available, and I was able to continue to perform my work and successfully manage the program for a successful Day1 IT cutover.

 

Dr. Ruchira M. Sarbajna
General Manager, Analytical API R&D
Hyderabad, India

 
Q: What did you study in school and how did you come to choose a career in science? 
A: My initial schooling happened in the U.S.A. and later moved to India and pursued my doctorate degree in chemistry from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. While in school, my science teachers always commented I was good as a science student! The remark always used to affect me making me wonder why people discriminated boys and girls based on subjects! Growing up, my father has been a great influencer in my life. My father was a Polymer scientist as well as a great academician who worked at NASA and the USDA, both in the United States and later at the Indian institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India. Our discussions on the dining table always used to revolve around science such as how the space shuttle Challenger blew up in space and why and how cooking is like an irreversible reaction of chemistry. So, I guess pursuing science came naturally to me.


Q: What is your role at Viatris and how do you contribute to our mission of empowering people every day to live healthier at every stage of life?
A: My role at Viatris is leading a small yet significant team in the API R&D Analytical field. I head the analytical team for polymorphism and characterization and play an active role in day to day R&D work as well as supporting manufacturing related activities in my core area. Being a senior scientist at Viatris R&D, many young women scientists look up to me as their role model. The present scenarios in the field of science has seen a remarkable increase in the number of women scientists joining Viatris and other scientific organizations. I find their experiences enriching and thrilling as they mingle with familiarity across the corridors of Viatris.

 

Viatris has one of the most motivating values as the founding stones imbedded into our work ethos. One such value in Viatris is quality. As a scientist, my job is to develop stringent techniques for testing the quality of Viatris’ drug substances by using various analytical techniques. Ensuring the products with a high quality is my contribution towards our mission of empowering people every day to live a healthier life at every stage of life.

 

Q: The theme for this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science is “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.” How has the pandemic affected your role and the work you do every day?
A: Well, the pandemic has thrown all of us out of our orbit! We at Viatris R&D came to work every day armed with all COVID safety measures. Fighting against COVID-19 was only possible by pushing our capabilities, expanding our knowledge base and working shoulder-to-shoulder, men and women alike. As a Viatris scientist, we worked tirelessly on Remdesivir, a COVID-19 molecule which was approved and released in the market within a short span. I and my team had to ensure the isolation, purification of all the possible known and unknown impurities as well the detailed characterization and qualification of the standards and related impurities using various analytical tools. At the same time, I had to ensure the well-being of the team and keep them motivated, healthy and safe every day.

 


Dr. Lobna Abdel Hamid Salem
Head of Medical Affairs, Developed Markets & JANZ
New York City, U.S.


Q: What did you study in school and how did you come to choose a career in science? 
A:  I studied in elementary and middle school in Egypt and had the opportunity to graduate from high school in the U.S. through an exchange program. 

 

I got my M.D. degree in medical school in Egypt and worked post grad with cancer patients in the national cancer institute, and my specialty was clinical pathology and hematology. I developed my passion for patients as I have seen how patients and their families battle cancer  and it was an honor to be part of that fight.

 

My family encouraged me to study in medical school. I had a passion for helping others so they used to bring me the doctor kit, and I would role-play with my parents, my sisters and our relatives. It was fun and it really engrained in me the passion to be a physician and to help others

 

Q: What is your role at Viatris and how do you contribute to our mission of empowering people every day to live healthier at every stage of life?
A: For Medical Affairs, I am heading developed markets and Japan, Australia and New Zealand at Viatris. We have forged many partnerships across the globe for people living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Our medical programs revolve on the patient journey and we have the patient front and center in everything we do. As a physician, you help one patient at a time. Through my role in Viatris, I’m able to partner with our cross-functional teams to help many patients across geographies, cultures and different healthcare systems. We provide tools to healthcare professionals for patient empowerment and help physicians communicate and understand more about the needs of their patients by partnering with patient advocacy groups across the globe. We are the voice of the patient internally and an advocate to the patient externally.


Q: The theme for this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science is “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.” How has the pandemic affected your role and the work you do every day?
A: We  transformed our work to deal with the immediate issue and by focusing on our patients during the lockdown. We are the lead sponsor of the COVID curriculum to help  primary care physicians to manage patients living with NCDs, by helping them understand what COVID is and how to best manage it. We worked very closely with civil society originations to help address the needs of primary care health workers through the  first of its kind COVID solidarity fund. We conducted a patient survey across 5,000 patients across the U.S. and Europe to understand the impact of COVID and lockdown on the management of NCDs. We also conducted a mental health program on the impact of COVID in the U.S.