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May 15, 2018

MAC’s Bioscience Leadership Council Chats with Pfizer’s Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall

Atlanta bioscience leadership council

The Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) Bioscience Leadership Council convened its second quarter meeting around a fireside chat with Freda Lewis-Hall, M.D., DFAPA, chief medical officer of Pfizer, Inc. and leader of Pfizer Medical, which included insights into Dr. Lewis-Hall’s early life and the decisions that ultimately brought her to lead a global pharmaceutical company.

Dr. Lewis-Hall framed her early dream of being a physician on the foundation of strong, influential parents.

“My parents believed I could fly, and they made sacrifice after sacrifice to get me here,” Dr. Lewis-Hall explained to Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean at the Morehouse School of Medicine and chair of the Bioscience Leadership Council, who moderated the chat.

Dr. Lewis-Hall recounted that school counselors told her to “marry well” and be an “officer’s wife” despite the fact that everyone around her knew she wanted to be a doctor. Her mother pushed her to pursue college and began helping her apply to school. Dr. Hall was eventually accepted to Johns Hopkins University and graduated a year early.

The interview transitioned into a discussion about her role at Pfizer and the topic of taking risks while leading a global company.

“My job is to facilitate the safe, effective and appropriate use of medicines,” Dr. Lewis-Hall explained. “This is a worldwide platform. We must make sure that we’ve done our best work in collecting information and ensuring that the correct patient gets the correct medicines.” Dr. Lewis-Hall expounded on Pfizer’s groundbreaking work in research, adding that many times the company donates time, energy, expertise, resources and products to these research efforts.

Pfizer has positioned itself as a partner to communities to leverage opportunities for advancements in research, development and discovery. This includes the Centers for Therapeutic Innovation, which allows the company to work alongside academic teams in a focused approach to new research. Dr. Lewis-Hall also briefly mentioned Pfizer’s Compound Transfer Program, which advocates the reduction of pharmaceutical waste by allowing compounds that have gone through various stages of testing to be taken from a dormant state to redevelopment until they are approved for distribution as viable drugs.

Dr. Montgomery Rice guided the interview towards precision medicine, which has been a focus point for both Dr. Lewis-Hall and Pfizer.

“Precision medicine is exciting – we’re cracking the code in a better way on our biology,” Dr. Lewis-Hall said. “We’ve gone from treating cancer by force to understanding the biology and how to treat it on a cellular level. We’re working as a company to make our understanding ‘near future’ instead of ‘far future.’”

The session closed with Dr. Lewis-Hall expressing concern on the lack of communication between the bioscience community and laypersons, saying, “We’re trying to match the population of both the country and the disease in clinical trials. The #1 reason why people don’t participate in clinical trials is because they simply haven’t been asked to.”

As metro Atlanta’s bioscience industry continues to grow, MAC’s Bioscience Leadership Council will continue to bring together the region’s world-class universities, advanced research programs and forward-thinking organizations to tell their story.

If you have questions on how your organization can engage with MAC, please reach out to Jack Murphy.

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