PR salutes sales rep Superstars

June 1, 1998

Pharmaceutical Representative

Sales reps prove that devoting a little time and effort make a big difference.

Eileen Aiken

Finding ways to see tough-to-see doctors is a challenge that has always appealed to Medeva Pharmaceuticals sales representative Eileen Aiken.

In addition to making elaborate home-cooked meals for office staffs, she once presented an office nurse with a shoe box and asked her to give it to the doctor. When the doctor opened the box, he found a shoe without a mate and a small note. It read, "Can you please tell me how I can get my foot in the door?"

The ruse worked, but so did a more elaborate one that helped Aiken not only get her foot through an office door, but also gave deprived children with cancer access to lifesaving plasmapheresis.

Nearly four years ago, Aiken began calling on John McGowan, M.D., a high-prescribing allergist in Mystic, CT. He and his colleagues were always very busy and rarely had time to visit with Aiken. One afternoon, as she walked through the office, she noticed a sign above a jar beside the copy machine that read: "Place pull tabs here." And in the jar were pull tabs from aluminum cans.

The office, she learned, consolidated their recyclable tabs and donated them to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where every pound of aluminum tabs translated into $7,500, or one free hour of plasmapheresis.

Aiken made a note to herself to bring in tabs for McGowan. But after several visits of dumping handfuls into the jar, Aiken still wasn't seeing much more of the doctor, and she wasn't seeing much happen with her sales figures, either. Rather than making a "bang" with her generosity, she was voicing more of a whimper.

Her solution was to stop bringing in tabs. Secretly, however, she continued collecting and saving them. And she enlisted help. Her daughter, AmyLynne, a senior at Quinnipiac College in Hamden, CT, was president of a community service group called Community Action Project. Aiken asked AmyLynne and the group to set up jars for pull tabs at various locations around the campus.

She also recruited her two sons, who worked in a local Mexican restaurant, to scavenge for pull tabs at work. Over the course of three years, the tabs poured in. Even after AmyLynne graduated, succeeding Community Action Project presidents assumed the responsibility of the pull-tab project and collected them for Aiken.

On September 10, 1997, Aiken and two remaining members of the Community Action Project gathered all of the bags, boxes and jars of pull tabs that had been collected and loaded them into her car. With camera in hand, the three women dragged the containers into Dr. McGowan's office and proudly presented them.

"He was quite surprised," Aiken recalled with laugh. "He didn't even know I was going to call on him that day."

Dr. McGowan weighed the pull tabs that night and called Aiken with the results: More than 68 pounds, or the equivalent of $513,750 in plasmapheresis for children at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

"He was very pleased." Aiken said.

Today, Aiken continues to collect tabs, as do the students at Quinnipiac College. And early sales figures suggest that Dr. McGowan is writing more prescriptions for Aiken's product, an antihistamine.

Aiken is humble about her achievement, but proud that she was able to make a difference for both her community and her company. "It didn't cost my company any money," she said. "You can't afford to do everything for everybody. You just have to try to think of some original things that don't cost anything. This just cost time, and it seemed like a good idea. It made a big difference in somebody else's life."

Gilbert Morgan

There is an adage that where there is a will, there is a way. And when it comes to making full, inspiring use of every hour of every day, Gilbert Morgan has certainly found his way.

Morgan, a hospital sales representative for Rhône-Poulenc Rorer, is actively involved in more extracurricular and community service activities than many people would complete over the course of a lifetime. In some cases, his service is grand-scale, in others it's quieter. Either way, Morgan finds ways to make a difference in suburban Detroit, andbeyond.

A father of two and a former schoolteacher, Morgan has had a significant impact on his local educational system. In addition to serving as PTA president for the local grade school, he founded a mentorship program in 1994 for socially and economically deprived boys and girls who were in need of extra time, love and attention.

At Morgan's prodding, the "Mentors for All" program brought positive role models into the lives of children of all cultural backgrounds.

Urban professionals, including local police officers and government officials, volunteered to spend one hour per week with the children. Volunteers read aloud to the students and coached them in sports such as wrestling and basketball.

"It took a lot of time and meetings but people came out," Morgan said. "Some people had children and others just wanted to give back to the community. They believed a difference was being made in the lives of these children."

Morgan seems to have a knack - or at least an itch - for finding worthy causes and making them successful. For example, in 1987, he co-founded the Southfield Alumni Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. It has since grown to 100 members and currently stands as one of the national organization's largest chapters.

He helped implement a scholarship foundation to honor Herbert Ivory, one of his high school teachers. The need-based scholarship fund, which rewards average students who desire to attend college, has given more than $10,000 since its inception in 1993.

Morgan also co-founded and serves as vice president of the board of directors for L.I.F.T. Women's Rescue Center, a charitable shelter for women recovering from substance or physical abuse. Part of his job is to oversee the finances of the operation; another is to help it maintain its spiritual mission.

In addition to these responsibilities, Morgan is currently vice president of the Open Door Rescue Mission, a center that feeds and shelters the homeless of Detroit. On the weekends, one might find Morgan behind the food counter, serving meals to the hungry.

How does he balance all of these commitments, as well as perform well in a demanding, high-energy career? Morgan admitted it's not easy.

"I don't know how I do all this" Morgan said. "But I feel this is work God has called me to do, and my wife and I feel we owe something to the community in general. We have long hours but we make the time."

Morgan begins his days early, completing office paperwork and reading clinical journals. He shares information about his activities with his customers, too, and believes they appreciate hearing how he gives back to their patients and their community.

"I really believe a lot of my customers are a lot like myself," he said. "These are people who have been given much. And when much is given, much is required."

And in hospitals, where relationships are so important, Morgan's activities give him something to discuss with his customers.

"I see the same people over and over again," he said. "People want to know what motivates me. Do I just want to sell my drug? I think people want to believe otherwise. People want to believe you stand for something, and they want to know how that is making a difference in their community, and in their lives."

And in Morgan's case, his customers can find abundant service and commitment to community. PR