Image courtesy of HBA Twitter

Diversity and inclusion took center stage, along with Merck’s Dr. Julie Gerberding, at the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association 2018 Woman of the Year event Thursday.

Gerberding, who was honored as HBA’s Woman of the Year on Thursday, spoke about her career and leadership values, including the importance of women seeing women in positions of power and speaking up. 
Gerberding recalled a meeting while she was director of the CDC where she was the only woman sitting at the table, while other women in the room were subordinates or support staff.
“I took my seat in the inner row of chairs and the women in the room started clapping,” she remembered. “Women actively encouraging and supporting other women is an incredibly powerful accelerator.”
Her career spans working as a physician during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in San Francisco and in academic medicine to serving as the first female director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. She currently serves as chief patient officer and EVP for strategic communications, global public policy, and population health at Merck.
“Everywhere she goes, Julie works to champion the cause of women’s leadership and gender parity,” said Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier. “She plays a leading role in advancing our missions and providing that same comfort to patients and populations around the world.”
Publicis Health chairman Nick Colucci was also honored at the event with the Honorable Mentor award. Colucci has been with Publicis Health since 2007 as CEO and moved to chairman and COO of Publicis Communications North America when Alexandra von Plato was named Publicis Health CEO in February.
Colucci stressed the importance of men and women taking action and speaking up against discrimination, especially in the age of #MeToo, as the way to help achieve gender parity.
“I remember times when I wasn’t brave enough to call out biased behavior or misguided decisions, times when I thought it was futile to try to shift an improper point of view or mindset, but I was wrong,” Colucci said. “Confidently showing up to voice your beliefs, role modeling the right behavior, and active participation, that’s what makes the real difference. We need to get out in front and actively show our organizations though our words and actions that we value diversity and experience.”
The HBA event also honored Terri Pascarelli, CEO of AIT Bioscience, with its STAR award, along with 33 senior healthcare women leaders and 100 rising stars in healthcare.
Gerberding echoed the sentiment of leaders needing to speak up in what she called “valiant leadership.”
“I’m not talking about bold courage we ascribe to superhero leaders in our society, I’m talking about everyday leadership courage,” she said. “The kind of courage that shows up, speaks up, and, as Nick said, act up for someone. We’re working to solve really hard, complex, wicked health challenges and the truth is no one can do this alone. It requires a network of people who bring a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences.”