John Tsai’s career as a physician, and now as Head of Global Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer for Novartis, had an unlikely start – in electrical engineering.
His first job was as a supervisor in a manufacturing facility for what at that time, three decades ago, were innovative medical scanners. He was enthusiastic, but motivating the team at the plant to hit ambitious production goals proved challenging.
As part of the job, Tsai was able to visit doctors who were using the technology. “When I saw the scanners being used for diagnosis in the hospitals, I felt energized, almost like electricity going through my own body,” says Tsai. “I could see the value of the technology to help people.”
Tsai brought that emotional connection back to his team at the plant so that they could also make the link to the patients who were benefiting from the work they were doing. “We ended up being the most productive unit in the assembly plant,” says Tsai.
The experience inspired him to go back to school to become a doctor. Ultimately, he chose to join the pharmaceutical industry. “I felt there was the potential to have a positive impact on the broader healthcare landscape,” says Tsai.
We had a chance to catch up with him and learn more about his purpose and its connection to the Novartis drug development strategy.