Publicis Health has appointed Sue Manber as chief patient officer.

In this newly created role, Manber will collaborate across the agency departments to bring deeper patient insights to the work and build patient-centric campaigns and programs for clients. She reports to Alexandra von Plato, CEO at Publicis Health.

Manber said the role will be “serving as a connector,” bringing together data, analytics, research and insights to create products and campaigns that better meet patient’s needs.

“I’m most excited about serving as a connector,” Manber said. “Publicis Health, along with our colleagues at Groupe and Epsilon, has an immense amount of data and insights and our ability to activate those is our secret sauce. When you marry the power of data and analytics with the heart of human motivation and behavior, you get empathy at scale and the kind of real-world insights that deliver better outcomes.”

The role has been in the works since January and is not a response to the current climate, the agency said. But Manber said it has been “surreal” to have the role coincide with the escalating COVID-19 outbreak.

As Manber takes up her new role, the agency is already building out its patient and healthcare provider insights to help clients respond to the outbreak. Last week, Manber said, Publicis Health conducted research to better understand how HCPs and patients are responding to the pandemic and bringing that research back to clients.

“Our clients need insights into patients and healthcare providers more than ever before,” Manber said. “Increasingly, with the healthcare system reaching capacity, patients and healthcare providers are looking to our clients as they navigate the firehose of information – and misinformation – currently in the ether.”

Previously, Manber spent 10 years at Digitas Health, a Publicis firm, most recently serving as chief strategy officer. She spent much of her career in various strategy and planning roles on the agency side.

Manber also brings her personal experience as a patient to this role. In 2012, she was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer. Now cancer-free, Manber has funneled her experience as a patient into her work. One example is a skin cancer awareness campaign called The Big See, which her team at Digitas Health launched last year with the Skin Cancer Foundation, using insights from her own experience.

After her experience as a patient, she made it her “personal mission” to ensure people are informed about how to advocate for oneself as a patient and navigate the healthcare system. In this new role, she can use communications to further her mission.

“No amount of literature, focus groups or even caring for my parents in their final days could have prepared me for what it is like to fight cancer,” Manber said. “There is a raw tangibility that only someone who has fought cancer themselves can possibly understand… the vulnerability that comes with hospital gowns, the endless waiting in rooms, the energy of hoping for the lab results and the gratefulness to your care team who are doing their very best to keep you not just alive, but thriving. On the other side of cancer, I can now say I truly understand what it means to be a patient. I can empathize with the challenges of navigating the healthcare system, finding a doctor you can trust, understanding your medication, and the impact and trauma the experience has on you and your body.”