Women in Science and Patient Input: A Patient Affairs and Policy Perspective
Jun 03, 2017
Cathryn Clary, Head, Patient Affairs, Global Development, Chief Medical Office
Our "Women in Science series" is not just about the female scientists and researchers at Novartis – it’s about all women who contribute daily to every facet of our company – whether that’s Human Resources, Communications, Advocacy, Marketing or something else entirely. By working at Novartis, they play a role in our ongoing dedication to scientific advancement and discovery.
Cathryn Clary is responsible for keeping the patient top-of-mind at Novartis. She works directly with the global drug development team here to help them develop policies and protocols and ensure that we are putting patients first from the very beginnings of our research & development program all the way through to drug approvals.
We asked Cathryn to tell us more about her role at Novartis and why it is so critical to include patient input not just when designing clinical trials, but throughout the drug development process.
Tell us more about your role and the Patient Affairs and Policy team.
Cathryn Clary: I have been in my new role in Patient Affairs and Policy at Novartis since 2016. Patient Affairs is the interaction with patients, whose input and guidance is sought throughout a product’s life cycle to ensure our practices are based on their perspectives and meet patient and industry needs. That might sound like a mouthful, but to put it more succinctly, our team helps Novartis become a more patient-focused organization and ensures our policies reflect that.
What is your favorite part of your job at Novartis?
Cathryn Clary: I love the diversity of activities in the role. From working with internal teams across divisions, to working with the patient advocacy organizations and patient groups externally, to speaking externally about what we are doing – every day is different and exciting.
What is the most challenging part?
Cathryn Clary: I consistently have to keep in mind my audience internally when presenting new ideas to help drive change and get people to see things differently. We all want the same thing – for patients to feel better and live longer – it’s just a matter of speaking the same language as my audiences, which is a very broad group!
When did you first know you wanted to work in science?
Cathryn Clary: I was considered a bit of a “bookworm” during school and really began to love science, particularly biology, as early as elementary school. I eventually developed an interest in human medicine, thinking I wanted to go into medicine like my father, grandfather and great grandfather before me!
What is your advice for young women and girls interested in science?
Cathryn Clary: Girls have every bit as much ability to succeed in science as do boys so if you love it – or are intrigued – go for it. To help you succeed, find a mentor, perhaps a teacher or an older student who loves science, and share your dreams and fears with them.
Why is patient input in clinical trial development so critical?
Cathryn Clary: Engaging patients in drug development and clinical trials is critical on several fronts. First, patient knowledge and experience with their disease is invaluable in helping us design our trials. Patients can also give us insights into meaningful outcome measures and how to decrease the burden of participation. We believe that early patient engagement has benefits such as faster, more efficient trials. Secondly, we know that the healthcare community expects it. In particular, regulatory agencies such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are interested in quantitative patient input in regulatory submissions. Finally, engaging patients is simply the right thing to do, and Novartis has the tools and resources to do it.
The Novartis Patient Declaration is our core tenet. How does it relate to the work that you do?
Cathryn Clary: There are numerous touchpoints across our organization. For example, when we think about the pillar of “clinical trial input,” we can envision working with our clinical trials team in ways to make it easier for patients to share their knowledge and experiences, as we recognize that they often have an invaluable perspective. For another, the pillar of “data transparency and data integrity” prompts us to work with medical to think about how we can change the way we present updates about data or ongoing trials so it is easy to find and understand.
I am excited about what’s ahead as we continue on the path of making Novartis patient-focused. Knowing that the work I do each day is going toward making it easier and more rewarding for patients to get access to the right information, care and guidance they need motivates me each and every day.
We will be sharing more stories from the women making an impact at Novartis in the Stories section of our website, NovartisOncology.com.