VIEW: Why Australian Pharma Needs to #ChooseToChallenge this International Women’s Day

The following is a guest post from Elaine Phillips, Business Unit Director – Oncology at BMS Australia.

I’m a girl who was born in the 70s to a very traditional ‘housewife’ family, with a brother who experienced different expectations to myself. Over the course of my 20 year career, my confidence and self-belief has certainly grown. Through finding the right mentors, networking and being open to feedback, my mindset has changed.

While society has certainly progressed and there are more and more opportunities for women each day, I’m adamant there is more to do.

I recently read an article that none of us will see gender parity in our lifetime, and that it’s highly unlikely our children will either1. This statistic really stayed with me.  

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge, and I’m calling on the Australian pharma industry to challenge ourselves through conversation and action.  

We need to strive for more diverse and inclusive working environments that ultimately reflect our diverse customer base, the stakeholders we interact with and our patients.

Stereotypes and barriers are still an obstacle

Ask any woman and I can assure you she will have at least one story of how gender has affected situations in the workplace. 

I remember just four months into my maternity leave, I had a check-in call that left me incredibly overwhelmed at how much had changed already since I’d left. The thought of returning to work and how little I would know made me weak at the knees – my confidence had taken a big hit!

And I’m not alone – The Diversity Council of Australia recently released a report titled ‘In 2020, do we still really need workplace gender equalitywhich highlights that women with children experience a ‘motherhood penalty’. A combination of years not working due to interruptions, part-time employment and unpaid care and work account for 39% of the gender pay gap.2

Women also face significant barriers in trying to enter the STEMM workforce. Despite female academics and researchers making up 43% of the jobs in the science sector, only one fifth of them have senior positions.3 Women are also less likely than men to enter STEMM careers due to stereotypes, non-inclusive workplace cultures and a lack of access to flexible work plans and childcare.

If we want to make wins for our patients, we need diversity

Gender equality in the pharmaceutical industry isn’t just important in driving business performance – it’s integral to the work we output, the medicines we produce and to the patients we care for. From ensuring there is accurate representation in clinical trials to the delivery of new treatments, if we want to make wins for our patients, we need diversity.

So how can Australian pharmaceutical companies rise to the challenge and strive harder for diversity in the workplace? We are all learning and we will make mistakes but having open dialogue is key to making sure that everyone can bring their unique selves to work every day.

In my time at BMS Australia, I can certainly see that diversity and inclusion is a key driver of success.

I have recently taken on a role as an Executive Sponsor of the Bristol Myers Squibb Network of Women (B-NOW), a group which aims to embrace gender diversity in the workplace, celebrate the achievements of BMS women and provide meaningful development opportunities through a range of programs and activities.

One of the standout initiatives we’ve implemented is the Back2Work Buddy Program. This program helps returning parents make the journey back into the workplace by pairing them with an experienced buddy that can share tips, acknowledge challenges and provide reassurance that they are not alone. The BMS Managing My Career course is another tool in the belt of our people – a practical course with hints and tips, supporting women to take a proactive approach to their career development.

I can confidently speak of the powerful impact of these programs, because I know how valuable they would have been as I sat on my four month maternity leave catch-up feeling overwhelmed. By making meaningful contributions to our colleagues on a personal level, we can move towards gender parity and advocate for the advancement of all women in their careers.

Let’s rise to the challenge

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect and to keep the topic of gender diversity and inclusion alive. It is also a time for us to encourage others to focus on creating gender diverse and inclusive working environments that reflect the diverse patients and stakeholders we interact with.

If we want to achieve our goal of gender parity we need to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to move towards each other and have those difficult conversations.

What are you going to #ChooseToChallenge this International Women’s Day?  


  1. Diversity Council Australia, 2020, In 2020 Do We Still Need Workplace Gender Equality?
  2. Global Gender Gap Report  – 2020 –
  3. Higher Education Research Data, 2016. Accessed from:

About the expert

Elaine Phillips studied a BSc (Hons) in Molecular Biology at Glasgow Caledonian University and has more than 20 years’ experience working in STEMM. She is currently the Oncology Business Unit Director for Bristol Myers Squibb Australia and New Zealand, a global biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and delivering innovative medicines for patients with serious diseases. 

Image description: Headshot of Elaine in front of a grey marble background. Her arms are crossed in front of her, she has short blonde hair, and she wears a blue blazer over a black blouse.


VIEW: How QR codes are having a ‘renaissance’ and improving accessibility to health information

Medicines Australia received a letter from a woman who was discharged from hospital with a number of medicines and was confused about what they were for and how to take them. In sharing her story, her request was simple: encourage pharmaceutical companies to create easier access to Consumer Medicines Information (CMI). In this interview, Alida Rossi, Customer Excellence Director for AbbVie Australia and New Zealand, explains how the company is using QR codes to increase accessibility to essential health information.

  • How have QR codes historically been used in the medical field? 

I think the value of QR codes had largely been missed by the health and medical industries in the past. Prior to COVID-19 check-ins, the use of QR codes in medicine was almost unheard of. In the past, other sponsors had utilised QR codes to limited effect. I think part of the reason why the health industry may have previously missed the value of QR codes is because people have a tendency to jump straight from the problem phase to the solution phase. If we don’t take time to understand why a roadblock exists, then we are going to consistently struggle to design services that actually meet the needs of patients.

  • What is the value of QR code technology in medicine today?

In the past, the health system has often struggled to put patients first when it comes to the way systems or services are designed. QR codes have really given health services an opportunity to build new services from the ground up that really focus in on what patients need.

For AbbVie, this technology has also opened up another channel of communication we hadn’t previously explored. It’s a simple method that a large proportion of Australians are now very familiar with and regularly use, meaning we can potentially reach more patients and doctors than ever before. The QR code process also reduces barriers to googling something and the potential for error in typing in the wrong website – now we can rapidly link people to the right information at a time that suits the patient.

  • How are you leveraging QR code technology and other similar technologies today in your work? 

Consumer Medicines Information is an important guide that helps Australians understand how to safely use their medicine. However, patients don’t always receive the document when their medication is dispensed, leaving them to search for this information online, or worse, leaving them without access to crucial health information.

To come up with a solution, we hosted workshops with representation from the TGA, Medicines Australia, industry partners, patient organisations and other experts to identify potential solutions that would help patients safely use our medicines.

We’ve added QR codes to our medicine packages, so that our patients can have fast access to accurate information from the moment they are dispensed by their pharmacist. When someone scans the QR code they can access essential health information, such as CMI, and other educational resources, like how-to videos and enrolment for patient support programs.

We are also now exploring codes on any other items we provide to patients and healthcare professionals to ensure prompt delivery of medical information, links to websites and videos.

  • Why is this technology important? 

This technology is hugely important. According to Australia’s National statement on health literacy, “only about 40 per cent of adults have the level of individual health literacy needed to meet the complex demands of everyday life.” QR codes are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to increasing access to health information and helping us improve our national rates of health literacy.

Access to online materials can also help reduce some barriers for CALD communities and differently-abled Australians. Whether that’s through access to captioned videos, translation services or screen-reading tools, online resources really can offer improved accessibility over complex printed materials.

For us, it also means we can update information quickly and in a cost efficient way any time there are changes to our medicines. That way our patients and healthcare professionals are always getting the most up to date information.

  • How do you anticipate the development and use of this technology to evolve over the next 5 years?

I think QR codes are really having a renaissance – soon they’ll be on everything!  I think one day we might start seeing them on personal items so if you lose them people can scan the QR code and know who to contact. We might also see them appear on all appliances so that you don’t have to search online for the manual, the product code that always hides in the most inaccessible spots or to find what spare parts you need.  I could also see it being linked to things like warranties and receipts so we don’t have to file or store that information elsewhere.  Even on food items, so I can look at more information on the product or have recipes on what you might be able to cook that night. The possibilities are endless!

About the expert

After graduating from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Science (Hons), Alida began her career as Head coordinator at a Research Laboratory. Although rewarding, a career in the commercial application of her science background was where she has been able to truly apply her knowledge and skill. In 2012, Alida was appointed into the role of Head of Organisational Strategy and Innovation and became the key change agent and driver for the development of the Innovation culture at Abbvie. Alida was appointed as the Customer Excellence Director for AbbVie Australia and New Zealand in 2013 and continues to drive the organisation’s innovation culture and venture into Customer Experience.

Image description: Alida is standing in an office space in front of a bright green and large plant, She is smiling, wearing a navy/black dress and wears glasses.

PEOPLE: How Charlotte is streamlining clinical trials with Evrima Technologies

In this interview, Charlotte Bradshaw outlines why she founded Evrima Technologies, how it has grown eight-fold in the last six months, and how she is planning to expand the business in 2021.

  • When you first launched Evrima Technologies, what were the key drivers?

The key driver for me to launch Evrima was to streamline clinical trials and remove the pain-staking manual processes for clinical researchers, which then has a positive impact on patient experience. Clinical trials are very complex and challenging to manage, it’s unlike any other industry, and is rife with inefficiencies across the value chain.

Not only that, but GPs are the most trusted source of information for patients when it comes to clinical research as a care option, yet they aren’t empowered to have these conversations and trawl through trial registries. The biggest challenge is finding patients for highly specific trial criteria. After years of facing these challenges first-hand, I founded Evrima to address this problem. 

  • How have your motivations and ambitions for the organisation changed over time?

I’ve always had an interest in productivity and process improvement, and what has kept me motivated through this journey is designing and implementing customer-driven solutions where we can make a difference to our customers, patients and GPs involved in clinical research.

As Australia increasingly becomes a key destination to conduct leading clinical research, I’ve been motivated to grow a talented team and foster creative thinking and a results-driven approach. For some patients, clinical trials may be the best or only options to access treatments that are not readily available, yet to get a new medicine on the market, it can take on average 10-12 years. For myself, and the Evrima team, we want to help change that and get these new medicines to patients who need them much faster. When I first started in clinical research almost 10 years ago, it wasn’t something people had really heard of but more recently, we’ve seen it evolve into an industry and new players entering the market, which keeps us motivated as well.

  • What have been the biggest achievements to date?

In the last 6 months we’ve grown our sales pipeline 8x and connected thousands of people to trials across 30 locations in Australia and New Zealand. I am incredibly proud of the team who have rolled up their sleeves and achieved what we essentially had planned for 18-24 months in this time. We are well placed to achieve even bigger goals next year.

  • What were the biggest hurdles and how did you overcome them?

I think for any entrepreneur there will always be challenges, there are some that can be fixed easily and others that take time. A key challenge as a first time founder is learning everything for the first time as a CEO and with skin in the game. There was no Plan B and after quitting my corporate job, I bootstrapped the business and was generating some revenue however the sales cycles in B2B and especially clinical trials can be incredibly long.

I was fortunate to be part of the HCF Catalyst Accelerator program cohort of 2019 and have some incredible advisors who have helped me along the way but it has boiled down to building relationships, doing the work and managing cash flow. Every dollar has to be scrutinised before being spent and you have to ensure payment terms are met else it can turn very quickly to a slippery slope. I have zero regrets though!   

  • How has the pandemic impacted the business and your business plans for 2021?

We have been fortunate to be able to adapt and support our clients with creative solutions, essentially we brought what was planned for 2022 forward which has been incredibly well received and today we had a client say “Can’t Evrima just run everything?”, which gives us the confidence and validation that being solutions-driven, really understanding our customers, and testing our assumptions early, has been the right approach.

In 2020, we have helped our clients navigate new territory and acted as their trusted guide, it has so far been a rollercoaster and each month we outperform the previous month.

Traditionally our industry would work on face to face relationship building and generating new business by attending flagship conferences. This year we only plan to attend one (virtually) yet business is growing at a rapid rate. I’m really excited for 2021 as we have some huge plans to implement new revenue streams, grow our team and create more opportunities for patients to connect with trial opportunities.  

About the expert

Charlotte founded Evrima in early 2019 after facing the many challenges of patient recruitment first hand and recognising the need to bring general practice and clinical research together. She has a breadth of skills and experience ranging from project management, business development, and marketing in the corporate, not-for-profit and SME sectors. She has a mind for identifying customer-facing problems with a strong and passionate connection to the problem. In 2014, she founded and managed a digital patient recruitment agency, and has worked with local and international organisations advising and managing their patient recruitment requirements across a wide range of diseases and conditions. Charlotte is considered a subject matter expert in clinical trial patient recruitment and recently was a project lead for CT:IQ delivering industry recommendations for optimising clinical trial recruitment. She has a Bachelor of Liberal Studies (honours) and Diploma of Business. 

Image description: Headshot of Charlotte wearing a white collared shirt and navy blazer. She has shoulder length brown hair and is smiling. A blurry building outline is in the background.

ADVICE: Transitioning from 23 years in health care to business management

Newly appointed COO of Physio Inq, Liz Pearson, Liz has been a clinical physio for 23 years but felt with her experience she could offer support to younger physiotherapists. After joining Physio Inq in September of 2019, Liz was supporting the co-founder as a state manager for the Mobile & Community services arm of the company. Her addition to the team helped define the role of a state manager.

Outside of her expertise as a clinician, Liz’s passion to assist those in need rolled over to developing a reporting system for clients with the goal to give NDIS clients the best possible shot at making a claim. The system that Liz setup scores each report from A down to E and looks for consistency and quality in the reports. The reports are used to ask NDIS for funds for home improvements, equipment, or whatever they need to get a quality standard of living.

In this interview, Liz shares her reflections on her career to date, and why she is still passionate about the physiotherapy field.

  • What made you originally want to become a physio? 

Way back in the 1980’s when I first started my physio course, I wanted to be a physio to help people, to understand the science of movement and body mechanics, and to use my brain and my body! 

  • How has your interest in the field changed over time?

I’ve learnt how incredibly diverse the field of physiotherapy is. I’ve increasingly become interested in holistic physiotherapy and the strong link between mind and body; actually that they are the same thing in our integrated beings! I’ve also become more and more interested in managing and leading other allied health therapists and supporting them in their individual careers. 

  • What were your biggest learnings as you transitioned from being a clinical physio to taking on business management roles? 

My biggest reflection would be that, as physios, we are problem solvers with our clients. That same skill is transferable to managing other amazing humans. Secondly, I have learnt how much there is to the world of business. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to start businesses, grow businesses and learn more about business with further education. 

  • What’s your advice to other health care professionals considering transitioning into business management and leadership? 

Do it! We need smart, empathetic and talented professionals to lead health care into the future; people who understand what it means to touch, care for and be part of the healing journey of other humans.

  • What are you currently most passionate about improving or changing in the health care sector through your work?  

I am passionate about shaping amazing careers for our allied health professionals, so they stay in the game into the long term and have truly meaningful and rewarding careers. Our purpose at Physio Inq is to demonstrate that a healthcare business model that is based on autonomy, innovation and the success of our team is the most commercially and socially effective model, consistently creating happiness and fulfillment for those we come into contact with. I am so passionate about being part of this big shift in the healthcare sector, for each professional, for all our clients and for the future of Australian allied health care.

About the expert

Elizabeth Pearson is the Chief Operating Officer of Physio Inq, an Australian allied health provider offering a range of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology and exercise physiology services both in-clinic and via mobile practitioners, the latter specialising in disability and aged care. With 23 years of experience as a clinical physiotherapist before she transitioned into management roles, Elizabeth is pivotal in the operations management development and compliance to onboard the additional services, practitioners and new franchises as Physio Inq’s national expansion continues.

Image description: Headshot of Elizabeth smiling, with light brown hair tied back and a grey collared shirt.

PEOPLE: Why Dr Helena Rosengren is opening doors for female skin cancer doctors

Recent reports show over 16,000 Australians will be diagnosed with melanoma this year and melanoma will climb from being the fourth to the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2020 in Australia. As well as many families overlooking the basics of sun safety and care, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many to forego or delay check-ups and treatment.

In this interview, Dr Helena Rosengren explains why she is passionate about being a skin cancer doctor, training and getting more women upskilled in the field, and how the pandemic is impacting skin cancer treatments.

  • What made you originally want to enter the field of skin cancer? 

I was excited to dedicate my career to a worthwhile cause that would help reduce suffering and save lives. The career choice delivered diversity, allowing me to also follow my passion in teaching and research in the same field.

  • What has been the most challenging aspect or experience in your career to date? Why? 

Setting up a practice on my own, as I had a vision to provide an exceptional skin cancer service and have the freedom to train other doctors on site. The financial and time commitment was huge, and it made juggling the needs of a young family tricky.

  • How has the pandemic impacted the industry and your particular field? 

Emerging research indicates that skin cancer diagnosis and treatment have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These delays could result in more invasive treatment and, potentially, an increased risk of death.

Melanomas can be difficult to diagnose as they can be any size, any colour (including skin coloured), raised or flat, rough or smooth and can occur on areas of the body that have never or rarely seen direct sun.

During the lock down, many skin cancer clinics, including Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic, continued to do full skin checks with lymph node assessment for patients who had been previously diagnosed with more serious skin cancers or a melanoma. Some also continued to do checks of individual spots concerning patients – for example, because of noticeable changes in size or colour, tenderness, or bleeding. A lot of skin cancer was detected this way, but many established skin cancers and also melanomas went by unnoticed as a full skin check resulting in careful dermoscopic review of all skin spots by a trained skin cancer doctor could not be done.

Despite thorough recall processes to have patients present once restrictions eased, there are still inevitably those who delay follow up appointments. Others have put off assessment or treatment for the understandable fear of catching coronavirus. 

  • What are the biggest challenges for professionals in your field in 2021? 

For women doctors in General Practice there is always a challenge in providing excellent medical care and after hours service, while also looking after the needs of their own children and partner. 

Most female doctors attract complex consultations requiring listening skills and empathy, which can leave them drained at the end of the day. 

  • How do you plan to combat these challenges? 

Traditionally Skin Cancer Medicine has been the domain of our male colleagues, but being a female trainer I have helped open the doors to substantial training for female doctors. Being a skin cancer doctor is generally less stressful than being a GP and appointments are more likely to run on time, making it easier to pick kids up on time from school and day care. 

We provide a 6 month break from the rigors of general practice while we upskill doctors in skin cancer medicine, and for many female GPs, going on to specialise in skin cancer medicine can be an attractive option to balance career with family. Of the 15 doctors I have provided 6 month training to, 13 have been women, and I have two long term women doctors working alongside me now. 

  • What are you most looking forward to in 2021 professionally?

I am developing a certificate course in Skin Cancer Medicine for James Cook University that will launch early 2021. It has taken a lot of time and effort and I’m really looking forward to seeing the fruit of my efforts launch successfully and hopefully upskill GP colleagues in a really meaningful way.

About the expert

Dr Helena Rosengren is a Skin Cancer doctor, researcher, lecturer, and Fellow of the Skin Cancer College of Australasia. Her vision is to stop the loss of lives and suffering to skin cancer in Australia through prevention and early detection.

She is the founder and Medical Director of Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic in Townsville, North Queensland, where they have recently seen their 20,000th new skin check patient and provide internships to doctors wishing to upskill in skin cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Image description: Dr Helena Rosengren has shoulder length, brown and wavy hair. She is wearing a blue sleeveless top underneath a sheer white blouse, with a long, jewelled necklace.

VIEW: Misconceptions About Women & Mental Health That Therapists Hear Often

The below is a guest post from Jennifer Okolo, who is a therapist and the founder of She Aspires.

According to the National Institute of Mental health and other evidence-based research, mental health disorders affect men and women disproportionately. There are mental health disorders that are more commonly diagnosed in women such as depression and anxiety. Within this umbrella, there are certain types of disorder that over the years have been more identifiable and unique to women. These include symptoms of mental health disorders during hormonal changes i.e perinatal depression. Abuse is also often a factor in women’s mental health problems and treatments need to be sensitive and reflect those gender differences. Since the pandemic this year following COVID-19, domestic abuse against women has unfortunately increased. It is important to point out that COVID-19 does not cause domestic violence, only abusers are responsible for their actions. Nevertheless, according to Women’s Aid, the pandemic has, however, escalated abuse and closed down routes to safety for women to escape and ultimately affects their mental health.

This emphasises various social factors that put women at great risk of mental health which include:

  • More women than men are the main carer for their children and they may care for other dependent relatives too – intensive caring can affect emotional health, physical health, social activities and finances
  • Women often juggle multiple roles – they may be mothers, partners and carers as well as doing paid work and running a household
  • Women are overrepresented in low income jobs – often part-time – and are more likely to live in poverty than men
  • Poverty, working mainly in the home on housework and concerns about personal safety can make women particularly isolated

One of the common misconceptions around women’s mental health is that all women have this innate readiness to talk about their feelings and seek out strong social networks to help protect their mental health. Additionally, there is also the era of Freud where the history of ‘hysterical’ women and great extreme pressures exists for women to be conducted a certain way. This perception is often derived from the notion as outlined above, that women have now started taking on more ‘male-dominated’ roles such as being the figurehead of the home; completely dismantling the nuclear family we all grew up to learn that was the ‘right’ way and also are juggling careers, businesses and family life simultaneously.

These misconceptions must be cleared up as it can help make a difference in how we can all contribute to combating these problems.

Here are 3 common misconceptions about women and mental health that therapists hear often.

  1. ‘Women are too sensitive’: A lot of the time when women are low in mood or anxious, they are likely to be dismissed as being too emotional or sensitive which is a myth that needs to be dispelled. Society tends to rank people based on certain characteristics, for example. More confident personality traits are perceived as ‘strong’ and those that are more sensitive are deemed ‘weaker’. This creates further stigma and shame and diminishes a person’s mental health symptoms, consequently leading to silent suffering. 
  2. There is a ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ emotional response: Women have a long history of taking care of everyone else but themselves. Even the idea of femininity, according to Psychology Today is often linked to vulnerability, although we are in the process of redefining what it means to be a woman in today’s world.
  3. It’s always a ‘chemical imbalance’: The theory of a chemical imbalance for women’s mental health is often at the first forefront of reference, but all this does is undermine the true complexities of the disorders that women face. It’s important to include societal implications and factors which can have an impact on how a person responds.

As a woman and therapist myself, I am working on dismantling these misconceptions by creating spaces where women are seen beyond bias. My work will continue in 2021 through my platform She Aspires, a career network which provides educational tools and career resources to support women to be more fulfilled and successful at work. Also, through my podcast She’s in a Pod, which I co-host with two other ladies, I hope to continue building a safe space for women to have unfiltered conversations about wellbeing, self-development and much more!

About the expert

Jennifer Okolo is a therapist and the founder of She Aspires – a brand centred around a digital platform that asks young females to write and interact on a series of real-world issues that affect them. Passionate about female empowerment, Jennifer has made it her mission to educate, encourage other women, as explored through social activism, podcasting as 1/3 of award-nominated ‘She’s In A Pod’, and numerous other public speaking engagements across Europe.

Image description: Jennifer is sitting with her legs crossed, smiling. She has long brown hair, dark brown eyes, and is wearing a grey collared shirt and jeans.