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Excelling in specialty launch while paying it forward.
"It’s funny how life comes full circle,” Emerging Pharma Leader Donna Hunt Hodge reflects. The Florida A&M University alumna opted for an internship in her home state of New Jersey over a local full-time position with Johnson & Johnson.
“I told the district manager I interviewed with, ‘I have to turn the job down, and go back home. I found love.’ She appreciated my candor and spirit and connected me to an internship with the company closer to home,” recounts Hunt Hodge.
After her internship ended and she walked down the aisle, she went on to other opportunities in sales, sales leadership, and then marketing. First at Sanofi, then at Novo Nordisk, Hunt Hodge quickly climbed up the marketing ladder. Her positions elevated from specialty marketing to senior brand manager in a rapid four-year span. Now, she’s back at J&J as its director of new product development for the pharmaceutical division’s inherited retinal diseases group.
The company had previously tapped Hunt Hodge to launch type 2 diabetes medication INVOKANA, where she excelled. “I have a huge connection and passion for working in the fields that give back from a healthcare perspective,” she says. Hunt Hodge, unfortunately, lost her mom to diabetes in college.
She prides herself in having a network of multiple mentors from various companies, but says she’s found some of her greatest mentors at J&J.
“When I came back to J&J in 2013, it was when the company was starting up its diabetes business,” Hunt Hodge tells Pharm Exec. “I was early in my marketing career at my former company, and a senior leader from Johnson & Johnson met me at a diner to talk about why I should join her. Not only was she a woman, but she was also a woman of color, and that was so impressive. It made me see how I could play a role in advancing J&J’s commitment to diversity. This connection also inspired me to pay it forward by serving as a mentor to rising women of color.”
Hunt Hodge is very active in her church; she also dedicates half a day each month to one-on-one development discussions. “I talk with high school students about the importance of going to college and how to enter corporate America,” she says.
A pivotal moment of her career came when she was selected for an international assignment in 2017 and moved with her family across the pond, fully immersing themselves in a new country and culture. “I’m very proud of myself in that moment for taking that leap,” she says. “It was a very brave time in my career—both professionally and personally.”
Living out of her suitcase, the opportunity allowed Hunt Hodge to travel to 26 different countries and learn plenty about not only herself as a person, but about the industry abroad as well.
When it comes to the future, this Emerging Pharma Leader is staying put. “One great thing about J&J is that there are so many opportunities across the company,” says Hunt Hodge. “I see myself having a long runway to grow as a leader within the organization.” Her persistence and gumption will surely make her a game-changer sitting in the C-suite soon.
To read the profiles of all 2021 EPL winners, click here.
Miranda Schmalfuhs is an Assistant Editor for Pharm Exec. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.