“Hope and help are on the way.”

I said those words to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar as we huddled in the Upper West Wing Lobby one afternoon last November. We were preparing for a podium briefing at which Secretary Azar, as the architect of Operation Warp Speed, would give an update on the COVID-19 vaccine program. It was chilly outside, but I was buoyed by a glimmer of hope.

The weeks prior had brought a string of promising news about vaccines and therapeutics, only 10 months after COVID-19 had been declared a pandemic. We had just seen the news that Pfizer and BioNTech would file for Emergency Use Authorization for their vaccine the following day. Our best hope to eventually bring the pandemic to an end – with safe and highly effective vaccines – was in sight.

The Secretary used those words from the podium that day. President Biden spoke of “hope” and “help” earlier this year. And, like me, millions of people around the country have felt that hope as they and their loved ones have received their COVID-19 vaccine.

That hope and help wasn’t delivered by chance. It occurred thanks to the work and partnership of tens of thousands of heroes in healthcare, government and the private sector – not to mention the tens of thousands of clinical trial participants. While providing communications leadership for Operation Warp Speed – the honor of a lifetime – I had the chance to witness those partnerships accomplish something truly historic.

That teamwork showed us all how incredibly far – and fast – we can go when we show up and work together across silos toward a hugely challenging goal. Together, we took on the critical task of communicating science and data about the vaccines to build public confidence in them – even as they were developed and manufactured in record time. Together, we reinforced the importance of relentlessly pursuing equity – making representation in clinical trials a key measure of our success. Together, this teamwork and those partnerships have led to the administration of more than 311 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S.

The experience of shaping communications at Operation Warp Speed drove home for me the transformative power of breaking down barriers and silos, bringing different perspectives to the table, and seeking innovative solutions, all while letting science and data guide us. Operation Warp Speed showed that, when we work to create and unleash this alchemy in service of people and patients, we can, in fact, change the world.

That lesson is critical for anyone in healthcare or healthcare communications today, because global health innovation is happening faster than ever before. I experienced that rapid pace of transformation while leading strategic communications at HHS. It means that in an increasingly interconnected world where science, data, government, regulation, public opinion and patient views will heavily impact the success of every innovation and solution, clear and concise communications matters more than ever. So does listening to what patients say in response.

I’m thrilled to be here at Real Chemistry, where I’m impressed every day by our relentless collaboration to achieve better patient outcomes. The Real Chemistry leadership team has set us up to take a holistic and integrated approach as we work to solve the most important healthcare challenges of our time.

Hearing stories from my new colleagues about their work supporting COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics over the last year makes me feel right at home. We’re working tirelessly to deliver hope and help to a pandemic-weary world. I’m looking forward to collaborating, integrating and connecting the dots here in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere for our clients. What a mission we’ve been charged with – working together to make the world a healthier place for all.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

One year into the pandemic, the wave of attacks against the Black American and AAPI communities and the persistence of health inequities and disparities continue.

For some, it took a worldwide health crisis to shine a light on such injustice. For others, it has only served as a stark reminder of the traumatic realities of racism and the resulting inequities in our society.

While the conversation and resulting actions have primarily focused on support and solidarity, if we’re truly focused on the goal of equity, the events of recent weeks reinforce how we as people, companies, employees and citizens need to move beyond the acknowledgment of racial inequity and disparity and focus on the specific policies, decisions and behaviors that will help move us from awareness to reconciliation.

So how do we get there?

  • Call It by Its Name: The events that we’ve borne witness to are crimes founded in xenophobia and racism that impact the lives of our colleagues, friends, families and communities. By standing in solidarity, supporting the AAPI and BIPOC communities, we need to be honest and authentic about what these acts/events truly are and recognize the importance that language plays in the description/framing of these events and the narratives associated with them. No sugarcoating or diminishing the cause.
  • Focus on the Context: We must highlight the history of xenophobia against BIPOC communities, such as the AAPI community, and the way disease has been used to denigrate and discriminate…and connect it to the importance of learning/educating ourselves and building cultural competency/attunement – a core element of our pillar.
  • Cultivate and Drive EmpathyWe must ensure psychological safety and facilitate understanding and different forms of engagement…especially today as we continue to work and live in various forms of isolation. Cultivating safety and community in all of the spaces we occupy, including work, has become even more important…and the creation/cultivation of those could help drive empathy and different forms of engagement that can help inform how companies show up vis-a-vis DE&I and work toward their equity goals.
  • Hold a Mirror Up: Any chance of a significant change must begin with an honest assessment of your personal and organizational tenets, purpose, efficacy, policies and culture. Where is bias or disparity apparent in the business? What are people allowed to get away with? How is respect and dignity and inclusion supported?

With the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd on the horizon and the “great awakening” that dominated our consciousness, we are all being called to dig deep, assess and modify our actions. Ultimately, there are core tenets of DE&I engagement that can help guide and inform, but, in the end, it begins and ends with each of us. It’s not about getting mad or even. It’s really about growing, sharing, listening and respecting each other for who and what we are as human beings.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

The Biden administration has appointed a record-setting number of women to important positions. Notably, with Kamala Harris’s ascension from U.S. senator to vice president, she has become the first woman and first woman of color to hold that office.

This Women’s History Month, we are taking time to celebrate the progress made by women in leadership across the U.S. government and understand the impact this historic administration will have on healthcare and what it means for each of us.

Sarah Dick, group director, Real Chemistry, said, “These appointments have both inspired and challenged me. They have made me even more conscious of the need to step up and be the role model younger professionals are looking for and expect.”

Melissa Baron, senior account manager, Real Chemistry, notes that, while these appointments have made a positive impact on her personally, they also provide hope for a more equitable future beyond government and in the business world.

Here are some of the women in the Biden administration breaking glass ceilings:

Kamala Harris made history as the first Black American and South Asian American vice president. As a former San Francisco district attorney, she rose among the ranks to become the first Black woman to serve as California’s attorney general. When she was elected a U.S. senator in 2016, she became the second Black woman serving in the chamber’s history. Throughout her career, Harris has been an advocate for improving the health of all Americans, and has supported initiatives focused on food insecurity, female reproductive and maternal health, and racial health disparities. Together with President Biden, Vice President Harris will oversee the new COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which will provide recommendations for addressing health inequities caused by the pandemic and preventing such inequities in the future.

AP/PTI | Kamala Harris is sworn in as the 49th Vice President of the United States.

Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Health Secretary, has been nominated by President Biden to be assistant secretary of health. She was appointed to her post by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf in 2017 and has served as a key leader in the state’s COVID-19 response. If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Levine will be the first transgender cabinet-level nominee and will manage the nation’s pandemic response and address other public health issues.

JOE HERMITT/AP | Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine with Gov. Tom Wolf at the daily coronavirus news conference.

Janet Yellen also made history – by being confirmed as the first woman to head the Treasury Department. She is also the only person to have held all three of the nation’s top economic posts — chair of the Federal Reserve and head of the Council of Economic Advisors in addition to Treasury secretary. As Treasury secretary, Yellen will be responsible for creating and implementing domestic and international financial, economic and tax policy.

Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE | Janet Yellen arrives for the Jackson Hole economic symposium, in Moran, Wyo.

Avril Haines is the new director of National Intelligence. She is a former deputy director of the CIA and principal deputy national security adviser under the Obama administration – the first woman to hold both roles. In her new position, Haines is expected to draw on global health insights to protect the interests of the United States and avoid pandemics in the future.

Reuters/Joshua Roberts | Avril Haines speaks at then President-elect Joe Biden’s transition headquarters in the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del.

Cecilia Rouse, an economist and dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, was nominated to lead the White House Council of Economic Advisers. As chair, Rouse will play a key role in rebuilding the U.S. economy, which has been crippled by the pandemic. Since the public health crisis began, Rouse has been a strong advocate for providing economic relief to those most affected by the virus.

AFP via Getty Images, FILE | Cecilia Rouse speaks at The Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Del.

Katherine Tai, who serves as chief trade counsel for the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, has been nominated to be the next U.S. trade representative. If confirmed, she will be the first Asian American to hold that position. In her opening statement before the Senate Finance Committee, Tai detailed her commitment to re-engaging international institutions to address common threats, including climate change, the pandemic and the global economic downturn.

Mike Segar/Reuters | Katherine Tai speaks in Wilmington, Del.

Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), who made history by becoming one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2021, was confirmed by the Senate as secretary of the Interior. Haaland will be the first Native American person to oversee an agency that played a major role historically in the forced relocation and oppression of Indigenous people.

Jemal Countess/Getty Images, FILE | Rep. Deb Haaland at the Back the Thrive Agenda press conference in Washington.

This historic administration has an opportunity to make positive contributions to a wide array of healthcare and health policy-related issues. As always, Real Chemistry is committed to doing our part to make the world a heathier place, which includes supporting diverse female leadership at both the corporate and federal levels. Read more about our initiatives to improve diversity on our website here.

– Fusion & WOW Business Resource Groups 

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Welcome to our sixth and final episode of our first round of #MedicallySpeaking, a video series aimed at uncovering the what, why and how of marketing and communications in the healthcare industry.

In this final video I speak to Molly Butler, Senior Account Manager for W2O Group. We talk about her choice of degree and the challenging and rewarding aspects of marketing for healthcare companies.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the video series. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel for more in this series in the future.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

Welcome to our fifth episode of #MedicallySpeaking​​, a video series aimed at uncovering the what, why and how of marketing and communications in the healthcare industry.

Throughout the six episode series, we’ll be speaking to a variety of people here in the W2O EMEA offices about their jobs, education and experience to find out how they got where they are.

In this video I speak to Kelly Blaney, Managing Director for W2O Group. We talk about how Kelly got into healthcare communications, more about the opportunities at an agency,  as well as life working in-house.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

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