RADICAL HOSPITALITY | PROFESSIONAL ENRICHMENT | BUSINESS GROWTH | INCLUSION LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP Gerberding took the helm of the CDC in the middle of chaos—not so much within the agency, but in the world. It was September 2001, and the agency needed to retool itself to protect public health in the post 9/11 era. Gerberding needed to lead through an unprecedented sequence of public health emergencies, from anthrax and SARS, to avian influenza, and a number of devas- tating natural disasters, like hurricanes. Even in this constant barrage of public emergencies, Gerberding prioritized her purpose—patients—and structured the agency to manage crises while keeping goals like reducing the obesity epidemic on track. She knew the work to prepare the nation for a public health emergency couldn’t be done by the CDC alone. “You have to build a network, and you have to understand that managing a horizontal network is very different from managing a vertical hierarchy,” says Gerberding. “You have to understand what other people are prioritizing, what their capabilities are, what kind of solutions make sense to them and then lead through influence, negotiation, shared goal creation and shared resource allocation, rather than through the more traditional mechanisms like power or money.” She adds: “For me, the personal lesson is that the hard problems that we have to solve as a pharmaceutical in- dustry, or really in any organization in today’s complex global world, are problems that can only be solved through networks. It’s too complicated and too fraught with multiple agendas to expect any one organization or sector to be able to create effective solutions.” Those long days and plethora of public health emer- gencies while at the CDC also taught Gerberding a lot about self-care, as well as the well-being of her employees. “During the most difficult of emergencies, I would lose track of time and realize I hadn’t eaten a single thing all day,” she says. “At one point, it became clear to me that everyone else was also staying all day and night, and I was setting the wrong example. Leaders need to be aware and mindful that people need a mental health balance.” PUTTING OTHERS FIRST The foundation of Gerberding’s career was built on the lessons she learned from patients at the University of California, San Francisco, where she arrived for her medical residency at the same time the AIDS epidemic was emerging. She saw the evolving dynamic between patients and the medical community—which in many ways started the movement of patient empowerment as we know it today. “We couldn’t really do much in terms of saving lives because we didn’t have medicines then,” she recalls. “The conversation was about how our patients wanted to live their lives, how they wanted to die and their participation in the medical process. I became shaped by the force of that epidemic in San Francisco and the powerful engage- ment with our patients.” Through her work, Gerberding sought to break down the silos of the hospital that had responsibility for treating people with AIDS. She then became a hospital epidemi- ologist, charged with understanding and preventing the spread of all infectious diseases at San Francisco General Hospital, a step on her path to recognition as a national and global expert in infectious disease and antimicrobial stewardship. As chief patient officer at Merck, Gerberding feels as if her career has come full circle in such a way, as she states, “combines the discipline of scientific inquiry with the art and wonder of human relationships.” ADVICE FOR THE FUTURE As a successful business leader, Gerberding is always getting questions about how to achieve professional success. A lot of these questions come from talking with college students who are plotting out their careers and are faced with what, at the time, may seem like life-alter- ing decisions, such as, “should I take this fellowship?” or “should I get a medical degree?” For Gerberding, working with young women, in particular, is something that has become increasingly important to her. She is involved with a number of diverse programs that support this cause not only within Merck, as the executive sponsor of the Merck Women’s Network, but also with outside organizations. She told Pharmaceutical Executive that she always replies to these inquiries with the same answer: “Put more tools in your tool box because you never know when they will come in handy. Typically, the people with the best and most relevant tools are the ones who are in demand.” Beyond that, Gerberding’s call is for aspiring individual talents and leaders alike to recognize that we all have to step up and apply our knowledge. “To not know what to do is terrible—but to not do what you know is absolutely tragic,” she says. “We have a collective responsibility to learn what we don’t know, but also to actively and aggressively implement the things we already do know. Sometimes ‘doing the right thing’ takes moral courage, sometimes it takes financial risk-taking, and sometimes it means you have to exert your own influence and authority in ways that may not create popularity, but hopefully create the right outcome for the people you serve.”  This article appeared in the April issue of Pharmaceutical Executive and was reprinted with permission. Winter 2018  |  21 For me, the personal lesson is that the hard problems that we have to solve as a pharmaceutical industry, or really in any organization in today’s complex global world, are problems that can only be solved through networks. 20  | HBAdvantage