Meet #W2OSXSW Speaker: Mary Michael, Vice President, Patient Advocacy and Stakeholder Management, Otsuka

From speaker videos to event photos our SXSW recap page has it all!

This year was our 9th year hosting award-winning events during SXSW, so we decided to go bigger and better! In 2018, we officially partnered with the festival for the first time to produce 16 high-profile panels, with 62 speakers across 3 days. The programming was insightful, the audience was engaged, and the panelists were razor sharp.

Among those panelists was Mary Michael, Vice President, Patient Advocacy and Stakeholder Management, Otsuka. During her panel she discussed identifying the right content/audiences, to modernizing the technology you use to measure the impact of communications with your most valued assets: your employees. I had the opportunity to chat with Mary about their SXSW panel, career journey, and Earth, Wind and Fire. Check out our interview below.

1. According to LinkedIn, you received a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology. Did you grow up knowing that you wanted a career in a related field?

Yes, I was Pre-Med and wanted a career in healthcare or medicine.  I love mathematics and the sciences, so it was a natural fit.  When I was in high school, I interned with pathologists and forensic medical examiners, which inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare/medicine.

2. What does a day in a life at Otsuka look like for you?

A day in the life at Otsuka for me is atypical.  No two days are alike.  Whether I am in the office participating in meetings discussing a multitude of diseases and conditions in which we work, or attending a conference to learn about the latest scientific breakthroughs or innovations.  I also have the privilege of interacting with patients, caregivers and other members of the communities we serve.  It is a humbling experience to be afforded the opportunity to learn about how our constituents live day-to-day, in hopes of identifying broader solutions to support the community.

3. You discussed the evolution of advocacy & employee communications during SXSW – how have you seen the two evolve in the pharma space?

From a patient or caregiver community perspective, we have seen the community at large emerge and convene through so many social platforms and venues.  The internet, particularly social media, has allowed individuals to communicate with one another in the most intimate way of sharing their journeys through closed communities, like Facebook groups or Patients Like Me, or more public ones, such as Twitter or YouTube.  One of the encouraging aspects of these types of social engagement is the opportunity for the community to amplify their concerns, frustrations and successes.  Look at what the Bucket Challenge did for the ALS community!  What a wonderful example of advocacy, disease awareness and fundraising, all in one!

4. What was your biggest take away from SXSW?

While we have a plethora of devices and platforms, ultimately, people want to have their voices heard by other people.  In other words, there seems to be a movement toward creating social platforms, apps and venues that empower individuals to raise their voices and to join with others with similar concerns.

5. Tell us something people may not know about you.

I was born in Seoul, Korea and lived there until I was 8 years old.  I came to the United States as a natural born citizen with somewhat a different perspective than my peers.  I am grateful for the lifelong friends I have since grade school, who were instrumental in creating the mosaic that is my life.

6. Is there a book you’ve read over the last year that you would care to share with our readers?

In the spirit of opening up myself to your readers, as others have so generously shared with me their personal stories and journeys, I would like to share that the past year was a personally challenging one for me, after losing my husband, who was my college sweetheart.  It seems all the books I read this past year were about finding oneself after unfathomable loss, and Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B, was one that I think is universally applicable.  Regardless of where you find yourself, Option B, examines how one can rise above challenge, loss, heartbreak, etc.  Each one of us should ask ourselves, what would be our Option B?  It is written well and a book I often re-read to put some of my feelings into perspective.

7. If you were on a deserted island and could only bring one album with you, which would it be and why? 

The Best of Earth, Wind and Fire (1978).  You can’t listen to it without feeling joy and happiness – even some of the “sad” songs make you want to dance.  It is definitely the soundtrack to my life….so far.

Want more insights from name? Watch her panel from SXSW.

Aaron Strout
Aaron Strout
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