Cyndy Grosskreutz, a physician-scientist who serves as Global Head of Ophthalmology Research at Novartis, left academia to join the company. In this installment of “Novartis Presents: Women in Science,” she explains why.
What has driven you throughout your career to become a leader?
I always ask myself, “How can I make an impact?” As a practicing physician, I make an impact one patient at a time. I treat the patient who’s in the chair; I did surgery on the patient who needed something more than the medicine I was giving them. One of the things that drove my interest in research was hoping that I could help not just one patient but many patients. That has really driven my desire to lead. A group of people can do more than an individual. So I hope that both in my previous role in translational medicine and in my current role as disease area head, by advocating for the group, we can accomplish a lot. I believe that if you hire a bunch of people who are really smart and give them resources and try and facilitate the work that they do, good things will happen.
Be curious. Be resilient. Reinvent yourself.
Cyndy Grosskreutz, Global Head, Ophthalmology Research
What was a turning point in your career?
A turning point was when I left academia to come to Novartis. I had a busy clinical practice and a lab, I’d been successful at getting research grants, and in some ways, I was progressing just exactly as I would have laid it out, when I realized that what I was doing in my lab as an academic investigator was probably never going to translate into helping patients. That realization was at first depressing because [helping people] was what I had always wanted to do, but as an individual investigator, I wasn’t going to be able to do that. I knew that I wanted to do something different. And so that [was the] pivot point – going from that realization that I was at a bifurcation in my career, that this wasn’t the path in my career I had thought about going [down]. But [as] it turned out, it was a path that was a real opportunity.
How can we as individuals and as an organization sustain innovation and success?
I truly believe that diversity creates more productivity and better decision-making for the long haul. To have diversity means we have to seek out, accept and promote people who are not like ourselves. Sometimes that’s hard because that means people don’t do things the way that you would do them – but maybe that’s the tax you pay for having a better group. Where I sometimes struggle is if people don’t do things the way that I do them. It can be hard to let go. Do you go in and just do it yourself because you want to get it done right? Or do you realize that actually “getting it done right” just really means doing it your way and that there could be a more innovative and impactful way of getting things done?
Learn why a practicing ophthalmologist transitioned from academia to industry. #WomenInScience