Why Should We in Pharma ‘Serve Differently’?

We created something. Something that is really meaningful to us. Something that is intended to help millions of people.

My husband John and I spent thousands of hours reading, listening, watching, talking, writing, honing, arguing, editing, polishing and generally obsessing over it. It’s ready now.

But this blog isn’t about that end product. It’s about the beginning— the circumstances that drove us to create it.

When you think back to things you create, isn’t it true that they emerge from the spark of a frustration—a sense that there has to be a better way?

That’s how we feel about our pharma industry. Something needs to change. Somewhere along the line, we lost our trustworthiness and with it our ability to deeply engage healthcare providers and ensure that all those who should get our medicines—do.

For me that spark of frustration began over 20 years ago as I sat in front of my doctors as a rep, trying my best to help them help their patients. Although, my efforts were well intentioned, there was something missing.  It wasn’t a skill per se, it was a context. It was a place from which I could credibly engage them.

How could I turn around the diminishing trustworthiness they had in me, in us—the pharma industry? What could I do to change the way they saw me?

Long after I stopped carrying the bag and moved on to other roles in pharma, those questions dogged me. Seeking answers, I completed a master’s degree in adult education to complement the research I had been doing on behavior change in healthcare. It was then that a hunch began to form that I needed, that WE needed to serve differently.

We needed to find the common ground from which our knowledge and expertise would be valued. It became clear that the unifying interest of pharma professionals, doctors, pharmacists, hospitals, governments and health systems was the need to serve the patient. That is the North Star to re-imagining our role in healthcare.

Here’s another guiding principle that needs to be clear.  We need to find a way to serve patients that also serves our businesses. Perhaps most importantly, we need patients, healthcare providers and institutions, governments, and pharma professionals to stop thinking that serving patients and serving our companies are mutually exclusive activities. Pharma can change the world when it puts patients first and creates a sustainable cycle of success which allows us to continue making life-saving and enhancing medicines.

And it starts with us. The challenge… how to change the whole industry?


In 1997, Apple created an advertising campaign, Think Different, which communicated Apple’s values by portraying people who stood out in history as “the crazy ones… the ones who see things differently”; Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Branson, John Lennon, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Mahatma Gandhi, Jim Henson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pablo Picasso to name a few.

The ad ends with the following statement:

 “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

And change the world they did. Here’s the video:

When I saw this ad, I was left with the feeling, “Who is going to be crazy enough to think they can change our world in pharma?” It was clear to me that it couldn’t be just one person or one company. It had to be a group of thoughtful, committed people; a movement of people willing to try something new and redefine how they create value for patients and their organizations. It had to be a movement of people willing to ‘serve different’.

I feel that movement is already underway… but it needs some help.

This week you will see a new campaign we’re launching on social media: “Serve Different”.  Serve Different, acknowledges that the best and brightest in pharma are already ‘on the bus’. They want to serve patients and their companies in a new way, and often have developed their own approaches. It also lays down the larger challenge: “how we can move from accepted to needed,” and have not just our medicines, but also our people become an integral part of the healthcare system.


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If you liked it please consider:

  1. Posting it on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter Eg. For cream of the crop pharma people – watch this video! #servedifferent
  2. Sending it to your pharma network using this email
  3. Or just simply liking  our new EngageRx Facebook page 

So let’s get going in our efforts to serve differently.

Your effort will help start the ball rolling. As you know – it’s the first movement that is the toughest.
Thank you so much for helping to PUUUUUUSSSSHHHH!

Healthcare needs our patient focused efforts.


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