Merck exec named Woman of the Year

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Merck consumer care chief Bridgette Heller has been named Woman of the Year by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association. Heller will receive her award at the association's 24th annual event at the New York Hilton on May 9.

Heller's win is a first for Merck, and the association's published deciding criteria said winners must have not just business success, but also a strong track record in mentoring and supporting the advancement of women in the industry. Past Women of the Year include Ernst & Young's Carolyn Buck Luce (2012), Pfizer's Freda Lewis-Hall (2011) and GlaxoSmithKline's Deirdre P. Connelly (2010).

HBA marketing and communications director Carol Meerschaert told MM&M that the vetting board keeps the number of competitors and the length of deliberations secret, but what they do share—the winner's packet of “vote-for” information—is a substantial document.

“It's a book, if you think of it,” Meerschaert said, because “it tends to be like a 360-degree nomination where often there are recommendations from people who they've mentored. The CEOs. People who they've worked for, people who have worked for them.”

Meerschaert said these recommendation packets have also gone so far as to include endorsements from elected officials.

“Bridgette is an inspiring leader who motivates others with her passion and conviction about understanding and meeting the needs of consumers. She has a strong track record leading mature businesses, driving entrepreneurial ventures and supporting diversity, including opportunities for women,” Merck's CEO and president Ken Frazier said in a statement.

Before Merck, Heller held two executive positions at competitor Johnson & Johnson, where she was president of the global baby business unit from 2007 to 2010 and president of the baby, kids and wound division from 2005 to 2007. Her background also includes running the consumer strategies firm Heller Associates and overseeing the largest US coffee portfolio as EVP and general manager at Kraft Foods.

Meerschaert said one thing to note about the award is that it's a sign of things to come. She said they are “generous women. They support our organization quite often,” through a combination of efforts that include showing up at HBA events and by sharing their expertise through podcasts, as well as doing what it is that got them the award, such as mentoring.

“It's not just one day in New York City” she said.
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