Winter 2018  |  19 RADICAL HOSPITALITY | PROFESSIONAL ENRICHMENT | BUSINESS GROWTH | INCLUSION Spend just a few minutes talking with Merck & Co.’s Chief Patient Officer Dr. Julie Gerberding about her life, and it is easy to see how her clear purpose and global action help make the world a better place for patients. Throughout her career, first as a doctor, then as the first female director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where she led some 40 emer- gency responses, and now at Merck—where she also serves as executive vice president of communications, global policy and population health—Gerberding has never lost the sense of who she is and what she is here to do. Born at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, she moved to and was raised in a small, close-knit prairie town in South Dakota, where she understood that one couldn’t survive without a strong sense of community and how to function as a network. “We had our share of blizzards and floods and ice storms and I learned very early on about the interdependence that people have on one another to solve problems,” says Gerberding. “When we had a crisis, we did not call FEMA—we called each other. I grew up with a very strong sense of the importance of working collaboratively with other people and to be independent at the same time.” Early on, Gerberding told Pharmaceutical Executive, she realized her calling. “When I was four, Santa Claus brought me a doctor’s kit for Christmas, and from that moment forward, I knew that my goal in life was to be a physician.” Gerberding remembers setting up a little intensive care unit for her dolls and rescuing animals. “At one point,” she recalls, “we had several rabbits that needed to be fed with an eye dropper every two hours.” Gerberding’s story and commitment to patients reinforces why the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) selected her as the 2018 Woman of the Year. “I was surprised, and of course humbled,” she says about finding out she was selected for the honor. Pharmaceutical Executive profiles Merck & Co.’s Julie Gerberding, this year’s winner of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Woman of the Year award, who, from her early calling as a doctor to assuming critical leadership roles at the front lines of the world’s most pressing population health issues, has remained steadfast in her life’s mission— help the many, help the one. “Immediately, I wanted to think about what I could do in this period of recognition that would create more meaning.” It’s an instinct that is well honed from a life spent working with others to forge progress in health—whether that is for individual patients, supporting fellow women in the health industry, or some of the most at-risk populations on the planet. FOUNDATIONAL INSPIRATION During her tenure at Merck, Gerberding has been able to fuel her passion for helping others by combining her health and business expertise and collaborating with others. She joined Merck in 2010 as president of Merck Vaccines, where she worked with other leaders inside and outside Merck to help globalize the business and deliver life-saving vaccines to people in some of the neediest countries around the world. She saw the need for this work. Gerberding shared a story when she was with the CDC and working in a hospital in Vietnam to help battle a SARS outbreak. She saw a little boy in a bed surrounded by his family and others from his village. The boy caught her attention—he was paralyzed, unable to breathe on his own. People were taking turns pumping air into his lungs around the clock by using a hand- held manual ventilator, which was all that was available. It turned out the boy had tetanus—a life-threatening disease that is preventable by a vaccine. “They are pumping air into his lungs to make sure he is staying alive, while a tetanus shot costs about two cents,” says Gerberding. “Due to the lack of a few pennies, this boy was on the brink of death and had to suffer dreadfully. I was incredibly frightened for him.” That was one of the moments that inspired her to take a position with Merck and improve access to vaccines. Her dream job, she says, is to catalyze the elimination of life-threatening illnesses, such as HPV and related cancers, an aspiration that’s possible with tools that already exist today. By Michelle Maskaly PURPOSE 2018 HBA WOMAN OF THE YEAR UNWAVERING 18  | HBAdvantage