GNS Healthcare Blog

GNS Healthcare Blog

Celebrating International Women’s Day: Healthcare Innovators


Tomorrow, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. While a public holiday in just a few countries, it is a day to celebrate the success and power of women from gaining suffrage to working their way into the board room. As such, we wanted to recognize some of the women in healthcare (and take it from us we could have featured hundreds if we had the room) who are leaders in their fields and driving innovation within their respective organizations, and healthcare as a whole.

Susanne Schaffert, Ph.D. – CEO, Novartis Oncology

As the newly appointed CEO of Novartis Oncology, Schaffert oversees a team of over 10,000 individuals working on cancer initiatives. She is also the President of Advanced Accelerator Applications, Schaffert radiopharmaceutical company owned by Novartis, which is developing molecular nuclear medicine theragnostics.

Schaffert holds a chemistry and began her career in research. While passionate about science, she wanted to connect her work to other aspects of the industry, which lead her to marketing and kicking off her 20-year long career with Novartis by leading an oncology business unit in Germany.[1]


Katherine Bowdish, Ph.D. - Vice President Global R&D and Head of Sunrise, Sanofi 

Bowdish is currently the Vice President of Global R&D and Head of Sunrise with Sanofi. Joining the company in 2013, Bowdish launched Sunrise – a Sanofi initiative with a mission to turn basic scientific discoveries into new medicines and treatments. Through her work with Sunrise, Bowdish is helping change the Sanofi R&D model to be one of open innovation.[2]

Previously, she was the President and CSO of Permeon Biologics, a company developing novel approaches to intracellular biological therapies as well as President of Alexion Antibody Technologies, having come in with the company’s acquisition of her startup Prolifaron.  

 When asked in an interview with French journal Capital, why she thought Sanofi had recruited her for the role, Bowdish says “Why me? Without a doubt because I had over two decades of experience at the intersection of scientific research and enterprise.”[3]


Susan Shiff, Ph.D., MBA - Senior Vice President, Center for Observational and Real-World Evidence, Merck

Shiff joined Merck in 2014 and is currently serving as SVP and Head of the Center for Observational and Real-World Evidence. Translation – she is tasked with figuring out how Merck can prove the value of its medicines. With ever increasing pressure from regulators, payers, and providers, proving clear value-add earlier on in the drug development process is increasingly the focus for many pharma companies. Shiff’s job is to bring together various research groups within Merck and use the real-world drug use data they collect in effective partnerships with insurers and other stakeholders to answer the questions of drug efficacy and effectiveness. Her team’s work is a testament to the power of data and breaking down silos with recently released studies on type 2 diabetes and HPV showing the depth of impact achieved by integrating data sources.

Shiff comes from a long career in health outcomes research, including her time with Teva as their Global Vice President of Health economics Research and Evidence Based Medicine and seven years at Pfizer. She earned her Ph.D. from UCLA and an MBA from Cornell.


Freda Lewis-Hall, M.D., DFAPA -Executive Vice President, Chief Patient Officer, Pfizer

Dr. Lewis-Hall joined the Pfizer team in 2009 and served as the company’s Chief Medical Officer until this year. She is currently in a new role as Executive Vice President, Chief Patient Officer. She began her career in a patient care setting, as a psychiatrist who worked on studying the effects of mental illness on families and communities. Her career has been nothing short of awe-inspiring, included among her many achievements is founding the Lilly Center for Women’s Health in the 1990s at Eli Lilly. She has also held positions with Vertex, Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

 Throughout her career, Dr. Lewis-Hall has remained committed to transparency for patients and easy access to public health resources. She has “reshaped” Pfizer’s approach to patient engagement and education, focusing on amplifying the patient voice and experience throughout the company.[4] During the White House Frontiers Conference, she notably said “We have Star Wars medicine in a Flintstones healthcare system.”[5]

But it seems Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall is well positioned to keep pushing us into the 'Bronze Age.' 


Corinne M. Le Goff, Pharm.D, MBA -Senior Vice President - Head of Global Product Strategy & Commercial Innovation, Amgen 

Prior to joining Amgen in 2015, Le Goff was president of Roche’s French Affiliate. Now, her role with Amgen as SVP, Global Product Strategy and Commercial Innovation. Her career has included time with Merck Serono in various franchises, including Neurology, Rheumatology and Immunology. She received her Pharm.D. from the University of Paris Descartes, and an MBA from La Sorbonne University.

 In separate interviews with LIRFrance and Decideurstv, Le Goff recounted that she began her career in research but wanted to work in a space with a little more action, so she transitioned to the marketing and strategic aspects of drug development with a firm goal making a difference in patients’ lives. She says she personally prefers a situation where not everything is designed, with a little uncertainty, which leave her, and presumably her team, space to invent history. Le Goff says she is motivated first and foremost by the desire to understand health mechanisms and the biological underpinnings of disease.[6]


Joan Harvey – Vice President of Consumer Health Engagement and Behavioral Health, Total Health and Network, Cigna

Since joining Cigna in 2012, Harvey has spearheaded several initiatives in her role as Vice President of Consumer Health Engagement and Behavioral Health. Harvey and her team have devoted a lot of time to product design and pinpointing parts of the healthcare journey which are critical for patients. She advocates bringing in employees from outside the healthcare industry for consumer research and design to learn and meet the needs of consumers throughout the healthcare journey. One such initiative is OneGuide, a restructuring benefits navigation for patients – making it easier to get a clear answer on which benefits patients were eligible for and how to use them. Partnerships with providers groups and disease specific interventions, like Omada for diabetes, have been an important part of Harvey’s time at Cigna.

Previously, Harvey was with Medco where as the Senior Vice President for Personal Health Solutions. She is also the author of Asthma Disease Management in the 21st Century for the Managed Care Handbook.  


Jan Berger, M.D., MJ - CEO, Health Intelligence Partners

Jan Berger is the President and CEO of Health Intelligence Partners, a healthcare consulting firm working with companies on business strategy and development and joined the board of Cambia Health Solutions in 2016. Previously, Jan served as SVP and Chief Clinical officer for CVS Caremark.

Jan sits on the board of several healthcare companies including AccentCare, Tabula Rasa, GNS Healthcare and UCB. She is an MD and also holds a master’s in jurisprudence from Loyola University. Dr. Berger has also co-authored several books including “Leveraging Health”, “Thirteen Common Pitfalls in Consumer Engagement”, “We Don’t Talk Anymore: A Consumers Guide to Connecting with their Doctor” and “Medical Liability for Pediatricians.”


Cheryl Pegus, M.D., MPH -SVP, Health Care Services and Chief Medical Officer, Cambia

Cheryl Pegus, MD, MPH joined Cambia Health Solutions as the SVP, Healthcare Services and Chief Medical Officer in 2018. After 25 years of clinical and business experience, including her time as President of Caluent, Chief Medical Officer and Head of Clinical Products at Aetna, she joined Cambia to lead strategy and the regional health plan business.

Committed to using innovation and technology as a tool to transform the equation of health disparity, Dr. Pegus says she believes in “building community, showing empathy and collaborating with engaged healthcare stakeholders” to effectively impact all determinants of health.[7]

Dr. Pegus is the former President of the American Heart Association Founder’s Affiliate and the past Chair of PCORI’s Health Delivery and Disparities Research Advisory Panel. She is involved with the Association of Black Cardiologists as well.


Iya Khalil, Ph.D. – Chief Commercial Officer and Co-Founder, GNS Healthcare

Dr. Iya Khalil is a technology entrepreneur and physicist with a vision of transforming medicine and healthcare into a discipline that is quantitative, predictive, and patient-centric via AI and big data. She co-founded two AI and machine learning companies, Gene Network Sciences Inc. and GNS Healthcare, and is the co-inventor of the proprietary AI and machine learning software platform that underpins both entities. Dr. Khalil’s machine learning and AI expertise spans 18 years with applications in drug discovery, drug development, clinical trial optimization, real world evidence and pharmaceutical commercial applications, and all the way to treatment algorithms that can be applied at the point of care.


These are just a few of the women paving the way for a new era of healthcare. Congratulations to all the women out there who are driving change, leading organizations and inspiring the next generation. Happy International Women's Day!













Subscribe to the GNS Newsletter

Recent Posts: