Ask the Best of Yourself—First
Christopher Ariyan has always had a thing for innovation.
But, he says, real examples of it have been difficult to find. And he's hardly been lazy in
his quest—his career has run the gamut of organizations within healthcare. Before pharma,
he earned his stripes working for hospital systems (via Ernst & Young), a payer
(Anthem/WellPoint), a consultancy (Deloitte), and an international non-profit (REMEDY, Inc.).
But it wasn't until he joined Pfizer five years ago that Ariyan could say that he
witnessed—and got involved in—real innovation for the first time.
Christopher Ariyan, Senior Director/Team Leader
U.S. Oncology Managed Markets, Pfizer
"Consulting seemed innovative: you did strategy work,
you learned about people's problems," he says. "But in many cases the strategic
plans you came up with sat on the shelf. On the payer side, we would have innovation sessions,
but it essentially boiled down to how to more efficiently process claims and provide good
Pfizer, he says—particularly its Oncology Business
Unit, in which he has led the Managed Markets team for the past two and a half years—is
different. He attributes true innovation to its scientists, "some of whom have spent 30
years, their whole professional lives, coming up with cancer drugs that have a meaningful impact
on society." But it's the unit's business innovations where Ariyan has made his
In just 15 months, Ariyan has assisted the oncology unit
through three product launches, which, by his own admission, is "almost a miracle." He
has brokered payer access and oncology product distribution agreements that, formally, have not
been done before, according to his Pfizer colleague Brian C. Denton, and he's resolved a
problem of patient access and assistance through a new technology collaboration. Ariyan
"has built the Oncology Managed Markets team from scratch and established the value of the
National Oncology Account Management Team for Pfizer," adds Denton. "The national
rating scores for the team have continued to increase significantly each year; Pfizer oncology
account management rating scores are now in the upper third of all biopharma companies."
Innovation, says Lance Reno, another Pfizer colleague, is something that Ariyan does on a daily
basis. "He's taken our business unit in paths never explored before".
Ariyan puts a lot of this success down to the way Pfizer
works. With the company's newly rolled out "Own It" culture, staff have "the
leeway to take more responsibility, more accountability, and, not least, take chances with a
priority around speed to market," he says. "And it's okay to fail. But you learn
from these mistakes, course correct, and go on to new heights."
For his part in "Own It," Ariyan is committed to
leading by example. Lots of leaders pay lip service to that old chestnut, but Ariyan really
rolls up his sleeves and gets down to it. "My team appreciates that I don't give out
assignments that I don't do myself," he explains. "When I send out a business
planning task, I've already taken a shot at one of the accounts, not just as a test but as
an exercise with real-world data. I want to feel what it's like when I give these
assignments out." He adds however that "Own It" doesn't mean "go it
alone," especially at a company the size of Pfizer; he emphasizes that the collaboration
with Managed Markets teammates in the other business units (Specialty Care, Primary Care,
Established Products, etc.) is vital.
Ariyan's passion for what he does goes back to a friend
and life-long mentor Sam Chauncey who was, at different points of his career, Secretary of Yale
University, President of Gaylord Hospital, and Head of Yale's Health Management Program.
"He opened my eyes to the business side of healthcare and the role it plays in helping
people get access to critical care," he says. Ariyan's ongoing commitment to this
cause spills into his home life. A lot of his family's time is spent participating in
sporting events, and "very often they are in support of a non-profit cause, raising money
for research for a medical condition, for example." These activities are even more special,
he says, when Pfizer is an active sponsor of the event.
It is clear that—spurred on by his earlier career
odyssey—Ariyan has found his "home" at Pfizer. And the feeling seems to be
mutual. The company has enlisted him on the "Next Gen" leadership development program;
~two percent of the global senior director population get accepted for this. For Ariyan,
however, his future plans remain all about playing a part in continuing to innovate, and
bringing those cancer medicines to market as quickly as possible.