Andrea Heslin Smiley is president and CEO, of VMS BioMarketing.
What would you do if you didn’t work in healthcare?
I’d be a behavioral economist. It gets to the core of human behavior and why people make the choices they do. I grew up with a father who was a social psychology professor and a mother who was a counselor, so our discussions at dinner were often about feelings, individual behavior, and social influences. I didn’t fully appreciate their teaching until I studied economics in college. The basis of economic theory is we are all “rational economic agents.” A great thought, but people are irrational. Behavioral economics blends human behavior and economic theory so we can better understand people and nudge them toward better choices.
Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment.
Every day we hear new stories about patients and families who have experienced the life-changing impact of our education programs. People tell us no one had ever taken the time to explain their condition or their therapy the way our clinical educators do. People tell us they were terrified to inject themselves and refused to start their medication until they experienced the kindness and encouragement of our nurse advocates. What a privilege it is that we are connecting with those people every day.
How long ago was the last time you recharged your batteries? What did you do?
It doesn’t take much to recharge my batteries: time with my kids, a glass of wine with friends, or going for a long run.
What do you find frustrating about working in healthcare marketing?
There still needs to be much greater focus on helping patients achieve better outcomes. The pharmaceutical industry has come so far in embracing patient centricity, but it has been slower to engage caregivers and other influencers surrounding the patient. With greater focus on the patient’s entire ecosystem and more deeply understanding and addressing those needs, we will be able to help patients progress on their healthcare journey from starting therapy to managing their condition to true empowerment, improving both adherence and outcomes.
To ensure pay parity and career advancement for women, I will…
I am very proud VMS is a woman-led company with more than 80% of our leadership roles filled by women. As a result, our culture is different than a typical corporate environment, and we have developed practices and programs to help us support, sustain, and celebrate the unique needs of all of our employees, including leadership training opportunities and unlimited volunteer hours, to more everyday things such as concierge services and gift wrapping over the holidays.
What are your words to live by?
There are two quotes I definitely live by, but I’m not sure they represent the best wisdom for others to embrace: “Life is short, eat dessert first” and “You can sleep when you’re dead.”
What is one thing you would tell young women starting their careers in healthcare marketing?
This is an exciting field and one that will only continue to grow. It needs smart, young women who bring intellect, perception, and emotional acuity. Healthcare is a highly personal and emotional topic. I encourage young women starting their career in healthcare marketing to be bold, while never forgetting their humanity and the need to bring the human connection into everything they do. The more we can do that, the better we will be able to understand and impact the patient journey.
What three people, alive or dead, would you like to host at a dinner party and why?
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, author Michael Lewis, and former first lady Michelle Obama – wicked smart, insightful people with different perspectives on the world.