Kathryn Metcalfe, Pfizer

Jun 01, 2009
By Pharmaceutical Executive



Kathryn Metcalfe
Vice President, Corporate Reputation and Policy Communications, Pfizer

I trained as a journalist and worked at news organizations where all the reporters wanted to cover politics and crime. But then I had an epiphany: As a reporter, you had to wait for news to happen. As communicator on the inside of a company, you get to make the news happen. I was hooked on public relations from that moment on. Now, I am in a newly created role that combines corporate reputation and public policy communications. I am responsible for making Pfizer's reputation a valuable asset, shaping our company's public image among multiple stakeholders.

I believe many leaders in this industry miss the opportunity to innovate with the people they lead. Listening to employees can be a powerful engine of innovation, and launches a virtuous cycle where success breeds greater success. I'd point to the program Pfizer just announced to provide free medicines to those in the United States who are newly unemployed and have lost their health coverage. It's a program that fills a vast unmet need and helps advance what I want Pfizer—and all of pharma—to stand for. The response has been incredible—people were even cheering in airports when word about the program broke on cable news.

American business is at an inflection point, with new business models taking shape and a class of younger entrepreneurs now maturing into larger leadership roles. The flip side of the youth movement is that CEOs in pharma and elsewhere are having shorter tenures. To be successful over the long term, any management team must balance both youth and experience and be diverse in background and thought. But I believe the core mission of our companies will endure. We have a good chance of seeing a new "golden age of medicine," when we can free people from our most feared diseases, including Alzheimer's, cancer, and infection.