Growing up around doctors, pharmacists and specialty nurses, Sandrine Piret-Gérard knew she was destined to work in health care. Piret-Gérard joined Novartis in 2004 and today serves as Vice President and Head of US Hematology. In this latest installment of “Novartis Presents: Women in Science,” she describes her career at Novartis, including her move from Europe to the US in 2017.
When did you first know you wanted to work in health care?
Sandrine Piret-Gérard, Vice President and Head, US Hematology, Novartis
I grew up in Belgium and come from a family of medical professionals who span various specialties. Additionally, my grandmother died from cancer the day I was born, and this event shaped me moving forward.
I’ve never asked myself if I would do something else because I always knew I would end up in this industry. This is where I belong, where I need to be in order to make a difference and help transform patients’ lives.
What affected your decision to move from Europe to the US?
I began my career in the EU but was always interested in moving to the US. I wanted to discover something new, and I’m attracted to how health care is being managed here. It’s a different market than what you experience in the EU. This is a very data-rich country, the pace of innovation is faster and patients play a larger role here.
The draw of the analytics, market dynamics, my curiosity for the patient journey and the overall innovation that this country has to offer are what fueled my move here in 2017.
What projects are you working on now?
There are many exciting projects in hematology. I am currently helping to bring a new transformational treatment option to patients suffering from sickle cell disease, which will hopefully be approved soon. This disease is the first genetic disorder identified, and there’s still a huge unmet need with few treatment options.
What is your favorite part of your job at Novartis?
There are two things. First, when I receive a call, letter or email from a patient or caregiver saying “thank you.” This is by far the most rewarding feeling because you get to see the impact of what you’re doing. Secondly, I’ve been here for over 15 years, and I’ve seen the people who I’ve worked with and coached grow and accomplish great things. Watching them succeed excites and motivates me.
I see myself as a conductor bringing people together to create the best orchestra. I don’t need to be the best at every instrument, but I make sure the harmony sounds great.
What is the most challenging part?
The pace of health care is extremely fast. It can sometimes be difficult to remain focused on what is most important because of the way things are rapidly changing. However, this is part of my role. My job is to help everyone focus and catch our breath.
Tell us about your leadership style and what culture means to you. Who are the types of people you’re recruiting?
Novartis is an organization filled with curious, inspired associates. I want to keep those on my team engaged and happy to be at work. As a leader, it is very important that I remain transparent and that my team and I work together as one.
When it comes to recruiting and building a team, I look for professionals who are experts in their fields and are smarter than I am. I see myself as a conductor bringing people together to create the best orchestra. I don’t need to be the best at every instrument, but I make sure the harmony sounds great.
“Novartis Presents: Women in Science” is an ongoing series showcasing women at Novartis who are helping develop innovative oncology medicines for people with cancer and related diseases.