Week in Cities Europe: A great learning experience

Andrea ReadhimerSara Ptakowski

The inaugural Week in Cities – Europe was a great success. We met with a variety of different companies in both England and Switzerland, learning about their products, strategies and the general international healthcare trends each of these companies are facing. We all walked away with a much better appreciation for the European market space and some fun memories too – how could we not after sharing a mini-van in Switzerland?!?

Our first visit was with healthcare start-up, uMotif. We engaged in a highly interactive, dynamic conversation in a casual coffee shop setting (very start-up like) with one of the founders. There, he gave us a demo of their software. Their patient engagement app is currently targeting long-term care and post-operative conditions providing patients and their doctors better interactive daily monitoring tools. The app is very aesthetically pleasing and intuitive in its operation. It functions like a mobile app game and even includes some games intended to assess neurological function, among other things (games we were all able to demo). After personally demoing the app, we gained a greater appreciation of the product’s utility and potential: a tool that provides not only a fun, innovative, and interactive way to manage health, but even allows for easy re-engagement for those who fail to adhere to the regimen daily. uMotif’s app is expected to launch in early 2014 and we all look forward to tracking its progress.

Fuqua alum Gloria Lee and GlaxoSmithKline were our next hosts. In addition to the tour of the impressive global headquarters at GSK House and a Marketing presentation that focused on trust and social responsibility initiatives at the company, we had the opportunity to interact with a number of different Esprit employees – and a few more Fuqua alums, through small group speed networking sessions. The Esprit Program is one of GSK’s signature full-time rotational programs offering positions within its Commercial, R&D, and Finance divisions. The opportunity to engage in conversation with Esprit associates from countries and functions across GSK’s global organization was unique to this trip and immensely valuable.

Through Fuqua’s connection with the IPIHD, our final company visit in London was at The Health Foundation. This independent research and policy group looks to improve the safety and quality of care in the United Kingdom’s National Health System (NHS). We met with both a Research Manager and a Project Manager. The conversation was again very casual in that we truly engaged in an interactive dialogue with them about their work, success stories, and compared the U.S. to U.K. to greater Europe healthcare systems. The team we met with was anxious to put us in touch with their NHS contacts, and we hope to visit with them on the next trip, as well!

We then packed our bags and headed to Basel, Switzerland for a visit to Roche’s global headquarters. Fuqua faculty member and former Roche U.S. CEO, George Abercrombie, leveraged his ties to the organization for a truly phenomenal visit. We started the visit with a tour of the state-of-the-art Avastin manufacturing facility, then engaged in a lively discussion focused on Market Access and Pricing in the European Markets with the Heads of Global Pricing & Market Access Excellence  and of Operational Pricing, and finally wrapped up with an amazing lunch at the company’s Panorama restaurant. At lunch, we had the opportunity to converse further with company executives and even a Fuqua Cross-Continent MBA student!

After a quick tourist stop and stroll through the picturesque town of Lucerne, we headed to the Geneva area to visit Medtronic’s European headquarters. A really interesting discussion of their Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management business included a “show-and-tell” of the current Pacemaker model – now not much bigger than a flash drive and capable of wirelessly providing information to physicians. Quite a long way from the original “wearable” Pacemakers we also saw on site. Our visit concluded with a tour of the large facilities where all of the European CDRM devices are produced.

Last but not least was our visit to the headquarters of pharmaceutical, Galderma. We had an interesting discussion about the dynamics of the Dermatology industry, corporate responsibility and the marketing tactics used in a specialty market including the company’s new logo and branding strategies.

Sadly that concluded the trip, but not before we all agreed that this should be the first of many European healthcare treks for Fuqua students. Each employer left us with a clear vision of the European healthcare space, their current roles in it and commitment to making a positive different in the lives of human beings across the globe, and the numerous opportunities that exist in the market for both the companies themselves and for HSM grads going forward. This was definitely a great learning experience and a really nice way for us to bond together as well.  We First Years on the trip are already looking forward to planning next year’s follow up trip!