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Q&A: Claire Gillis

PME interviews VMLY&Rx's CEO

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The unpredictability of the day ahead. It’s actually quite invigorating. There’s a whole range of stuff that can hit me – from understanding terrifying science or reconstructing the customer experience, to working out how to reward talent in China. No two days are the same. The variety keeps you alive.

What’s the best thing about working in healthcare comms?

The opportunity to influence outcomes for patients – whether through a new approval, better reimbursement or making sure doctors understand why an intervention is good for their practice. That might sound like cliché, but it’s the truth. It’s a privilege to work in health.

What’s the worst thing about working in healthcare comms?

Realising that access to healthcare is not a basic human right. We see such inequity, not just across developed and developing countries but also within regions, communities and neighbourhoods. Our job is to ensure access is as equitable as possible.

What’s your favourite bar or eatery?

Right now, my favourite bar or restaurant would be anywhere I can eat inside with friends. My most enjoyable dining experience was a couple of weeks ago, it was freezing outside but I was with good friends and we were overlooking the sea in Cornwall. Picturesque, magical... but horribly cold!

Which book/film would you recommend above all others and why?

‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett. It was way ahead of its time, addressing the challenges of women across the class/colour divide in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. There are loads of classic quotes, but the one I love most is: ‘You is kind, you is good, you is important.’

Which buzzwords/office-jargon get on your nerves?

If it is a buzzword, then it gets on my nerves. We are creative – surely we can be original?

Which person, living or dead, do you admire the most and why?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. She achieved so many firsts, which did not come easily to her, and she was always on the side of the underdog.

Who is your healthcare comms hero/heroine?

Aneurin Bevan. Without his communication skills, the NHS would never have been created. His vision was to provide healthcare to everyone, at the point of need, regardless of wealth. A great orator who packaged information and data to improve health outcomes.

What has been your career highlight to date?

Every time I’m part of a team that gets a drug or device over an approval or reimbursement hurdle, I metaphorically punch the air. I love that feeling.

What’s your golden rule/piece of advice for someone starting a career in healthcare comms?

Two things: in healthcare, remember it is all about the patient. And in business, remember every voice has value.

Claire Gillis is CEO of VMLY&Rx, a global healthcare agency

5th July 2021

From: Marketing

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