“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.