For this edition of Sanofi Stories, we spoke with Heather Lee Whipple, Senior Director, US Market Access at Sanofi US about navigating dynamic change in healthcare. Please see below to learn more.
“Finding opportunities to evolve with the changes and make a difference make this job fun and always interesting.”
HLW: I lead a team responsible for identifying strategic opportunities to drive the business through various payer channels (commercial, government, organized customer groups). In simpler terms, we work with third-party groups and individuals to ensure our products are accessible to patients who need them.
LS: How did you end up working in the biopharmaceutical industry? What led you to Sanofi?
HLW: I started my career in health policy in 1993 as staff support to a Congressional Task Force on Health Care where we put forth a bipartisan healthcare reform bill in place of the Health Act. Capitol Hill was a great place to be during that time and I received a tremendous education on how the US healthcare market operated.
I left that role to attend business school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and was recruited to a pharmaceutical company by a colleague who had a similar policy and business background. From there I never looked back! Years later, a mentor told me all about Sanofi, and in 2015, I joined the US Market Access team.
LS: What’s different about working in this industry as compared to others?
HLW: What makes pharma interesting is its dynamic landscape. In recent years, several major pieces of legislation have had a huge impact on the industry. Of note was the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act that provided a drug benefit to the senior population; the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010; and several smaller but impactful laws in between.
Each of these legislative actions has long-term implications to the healthcare ecosystem, including pharma. Because each part of the ecosystem adapts differently, the impact is not always immediately clear. It’s fascinating to read the tealeaves of these changes and to envision how an organization should adapt to ensure continued success, while other parties are adapting simultaneously in their own way. Market Access is a great place to marry my interests in business and policy. It’s like solving a puzzle that constantly changes as you work it.
I don’t know of any other industry that is as highly regulated, or as tied to other parts of an ecosystem as pharma. Finding opportunities to evolve with the changes and make a difference make this job fun and always interesting.
LS: What inspires you about your work?
I’m inspired by the smart people who surround me, by our visionary leaders who are willing to take measured risk to drive the business, and by opportunities to make an impact.
LS: What are you most likely doing outside of work?
HLW: My husband and I will be married 19 years this coming May. We are parents to a fantastic 13 year old daughter who is a competitive springboard diver. We spend a lot of time driving to practices and watching her at the pool.
LS: Do you have a favorite quote?
HLW: I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship – Louisa May Alcott
HLW: I am a bassoonist! At this stage of my life I do not have the time I would like to dedicate to my music, but I do play occasionally. I would like to find the time to join a community orchestra since music brings me much joy.