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Vivian Xie
20 Nov 2023

Women in Pharma: Delivering solutions for gender diversity

In our new monthly series, we interview women from across the pharmaceutical industry and supply chain to discuss the importance of gender diversity in healthcare, the workplace, and beyond. 

For the month of November, we sit down with Annie Zavadil, Device Project Leader, Early Phase Projects at Novartis, to discuss patient-oriented packaging and drug delivery and how innovations in this field closely relate to gender equity and diversity efforts both in and out of the workplace.  

1. Could you please give an overview of yourself and your role? 

I'm a Device Project Leader in Early Phase Projects. I'm a Biomedical Engineer by training and have been working in Medical Devices and Pharma for the past 15 years. I'm currently working on some cutting-edge oncology projects which have the potential to save patient lives. 

2. Patient-oriented solutions are currently some of the biggest considerations for pharmaceutical packaging and drug delivery/medical device organisations. What are drug device and packaging technologies accounting for when creating solutions for diverse patient populations? 

Great question! It's so important to have a proper overview of users and their requirements. Is this product intended for arthritic elderly patients? Children with Growth hormone deficiency? For caregivers treating babies? For specialised Ophthalmic surgeons (used within an operating theatre)? We translate these user needs and constraints based on actual data and measurements like hand size, or maximal strength. Finally, we ensure the users can properly handle the device or packaging as part of a Human Factor study. Generally, 'worst case' users like younger or older women with small hands are included in the handling study. This ensures the design is as user-friendly as possible. 

3. In your role at Novartis, how do you champion gender equity and diversity in your workplace? 

At Novartis, I actively promote gender equity through roles in EWIN (Empowering Women to Impact Now!) and as a Culture Ambassador in the Technical Research and Development Organization.  

It's important to keep the dialogue open about the gender equity topic. We discuss this often within our organisation and ensure that we have a diverse panel when hiring new candidates. Personally, I enjoy connecting people and helping young ladies find internships to further their growth.

4. What opportunities does your organisation offer for women looking to advance in their careers in drug delivery and medical devices? 

Within Novartis' Global Device and Packaging Development (GDPD), both men and women have ample career advancement opportunities. We offer mini-sabbaticals, access to diverse online and in-person training, conference attendance, and coaching from the internal coaching community "Power-up." 

5. What have been some of your career highlights as a woman in pharma? 

I have been extremely lucky in my career to have the chance to lead incredible projects and teams. But the experiences I've learned and grown from the most were getting fired and having burnout.  

Two of my most inspiring speakers are Jill Eaton (On her book 'Gender Goggles') and Darria Long's TED talk on 'triaging your "Crazy Busy" life'. 

6. Who are some of your Heroines in Pharma (women you look up to in the pharmaceutical industry)? 

Melinda Gates for her philanthropy work and doing so much to bring clean water to developing countries. 

Interested in how we're championing gender diversity and equality in the pharmaceutical industry? Click here to read all instalments of our Women in Pharma series.

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