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An inspired approach to healthcare

At the first Women Who Inspire panel, six distinguished female leaders in the medical industry shared their stories and advice with more than 75 Northeastern students, faculty, and staff, as well as professionals from area hospitals and corporations such as IBM, Pfizer, and Novartis.

Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, moderated the panel discussion, which was held in the Alumni Center last Wednesday.

Joining Fulmer were five other accomplished female leaders: Hoda Abou-Jamra, a 1997 pharmacy graduate and CEO of TVM Capital MENA; Christine Cournoyer, a 1975 graduate of Northeastern and CEO of N-of-One; Dr. Elvira Ponce Leon, medical director of U.S. Medical Affairs at Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics; Dr. Nancy Simonian, CEO of Syros Pharmaceuticals and a member of the Board of Directors of SeattleGenetics; and Wendy Warring, senior vice president of network development and strategic partnerships at Children’s Hospital Boston.

“The women on this panel are not just inspiring in their fields and to other women,” said Diane MacGillivray, senior vice president for university advancement. “Like Northeastern, they are truly global.”

In opening remarks, Fulmer described the panel of women as “bold, exceptional, and creative.” She said inspirational women rarely think of themselves in that light, in part because they view themselves through the lens of mother, sister, or friend. “They are so motivated, engaged, and focused that they don’t realize the rest of us are looking to them as role models, visionaries, and people to learn from and emulate,” Fulmer said.

Throughout the evening, panelists discussed trends, challenges, and innovation in the biotech, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries. Their inspirational experiences in these areas have included performing health vaccinations in Venezuela to leading advocacy initiatives in Boston, as panelists explained how their career paths, lessons learned, and mentorships continue to inspire them to push the boundaries of healthcare access and impact.

Ponce Leon, who has dedicated her career to improving vaccine adoption rates, said that one of the most important challenges she has to overcome is the public perception of vaccines.

“We need to vaccinate entire populations, not treat a single person,” Ponce Leon said. “A disease that could be eradicated through an effective and safe vaccination may not get that far because of a lack of knowledge or funding. This is a profound issue that I am working to solve.”

When asked to reflect on the early stages of their careers, many of the panelists said they wouldn’t change anything about the journeys that got them to where they are today.

“Every part of my life taught me something and made me what I am now,” said Abou-Jamra, who is currently challenged with balancing commerce and ethics to bring qualified healthcare professions to emerging markets in the Middle East.