christa lombardi

NEW YORK: DeVries Global has hired Ketchum veteran Christa Lombardi to lead its health and wellness practice.

Lombardi started in the newly-created SVP of health and wellness role on April 29. She is based in New York and reports to the firm’s North American MD Jessica O’Callaghan. Lombardi has two direct reports.

“What sparked [this hire] is Lombardi has the chops in pharma,” said DeVries Global CEO Heidi Hovland. “She has real credibility and a track record with some of the more traditional healthcare companies, but she also has a real curiosity and a talent for connecting the dots that aren’t always obvious.”

Hovland said the creation of Lombardi’s role signals the start of “aggressive plans” DeVries has for the health and wellness practice the company has been building over the last 18 months.

“We’ve sort of slowly been developing a portfolio of health and wellness clients but haven’t hired anyone like [Lombardi] until now,” she said. “Basically, we see a huge opportunity. Wellness isn’t just about a certain drug or medical condition or supplement anymore. It’s really permeating into consumer products across the board.”

Before joining DeVries, Lombardi worked at Ketchum from 2006 until this April, except for a five-month break in 2015 at Cohn & Wolfe. Most recently, she was Ketchum’s VP and group manager of food, health and wellness, according to her LinkedIn profile.

When asked if Lombardi would be replaced, a spokeswoman said Ketchum is actively recruiting for VP-level talent in the food, agriculture and ingredients industry groups.

“In her 13 years at Ketchum, [Lombardi] has been a valued account director and colleague, and is someone we will truly miss,” said Bill Zucker, MD of food in North America and marketplace leader in the Midwest at Ketchum. “We wish her well in her new position.”

DeVries was the 61st largest PR firm globally by revenue, earning $32.4 million in 2018, a 17% decrease compared to 2017, when it earned $38.8 million, according to the PRWeek Agency Business Report 2019.

This article first appeared on prweek.com.