Q&A with Ora Hirsch Pescovitz of Eli Lilly and Company

Ora Hirsch PescovitzOra Hirsch Pescovitz, MD
Senior Vice President
US Medical Leader
Lilly Bio-Medicines
Eli Lilly and Company

We’re seeing new collaborations in health care to address cost, quality, and access, such as accountable care organizations. What sort of emerging partnerships in the health sector do you perceive to be most compelling?

Novel mergers between academic health systems and community health systems, mergers between health systems and payers, mergers of physician groups and others are forming throughout the country. Some of these are formal accountable care organizations and others are various types of consolidations of systems and practices. The ones I find most compelling have typically created a hub and spoke system in which primary care is delivered in a cost-effective distributed community approach. Tertiary and quarternary care is centralized in state-of-the art facilities and delivered by expert teams where there is high volume of services such as trauma, transplantation, cancer, high-risk pediatrics and neurosurgery, while much of the care is delivered in ambulatory facilities.

As a result of these successful mergers, access to care is improved, quality of care is enhanced, patients and staff are more satisfied, technology is centralized, procedures are standardized, patients adhere better to medical instructions and there is greater cost effectiveness.

What advice would you give a young business person going into health care today?

I would remind a young business person that they are going into health care because they wanted to make life better for patients. So often, people in health care, get so caught up in their day-to-day work that they lose sight of the real purpose of their work. I would also tell a young person that there is no more gratifying field of work than health care.

What do you wish you knew at the start of your career that took years to understand?

I wish I knew at the start of my career that I would eventually become a health system administrator, in addition to becoming a physician scientist. I would have considered studying at the Fuqua School of Business or studying for an MHA degree. Eventually, I learned many of the skills required for running a complex health system. But, I would have benefited from formal business didactic training to complement my scientific career.

I am thrilled to now be learning about the pharmaceutical industry, another critical aspect of the health care industry. Since October, 2014, I have been at Eli Lilly and Company and although it is a steep learning curve, it has been an exciting and rewarding experience.

What is the most exciting initiative in your organization today, and why?

In my opinion, the most exciting initiatives at Lilly involve the launches of new medicines to patients. These medicines are just incredible because they target mechanisms of action that we didn’t even know about when I was a medical student. And, they don’t just result in incremental improvements in disease states compared to existing medicines. Rather, they result in exponential advances in treatment. Educating health care providers, payers and patients about these medicines and making them available to patients is truly exciting to me.

Where does the pharmaceutical industry see its greatest opportunity ahead?

I probably cannot speak for the whole pharmaceutical industry. But, in my opinion, the greatest opportunities lie in three things:
a. The pipeline of novel drugs that will transform the way we treat current diseases
b. The delivery of drugs to patients; i.e. novel devices and methods of drug delivery, which I believe will transform how we think about the administration of medicine
c. Marked changes to the costs of drug discovery, manufacturing, sales, and regulations to enable transformational changes to drug pricing


About Dr. Pescovitz

Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, MD is a nationally recognized pediatric endocrinologist and researcher who has published over 180 papers and books. Dr. Pescovitz earned her medical degree from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where she received both the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Northwestern University Distinguished Alumni Awards. Most of her work has been on the physiologic and molecular mechanisms responsible for disorders of growth and puberty, with a focus on the development of novel therapies for these conditions. She has received numerous awards for her research, teaching and leadership.

Dr. Pescovitz had an extensive career serving as executive associate dean for Research Affairs at Indiana University School of Medicine, president and CEO of Riley Hospital for Children and interim vice president for Research Administration at Indiana University.

Dr. Pescovitz has served as president of the Society for Pediatric Research, the nation’s largest pediatric research organization, president of the Lawson Wilkins (North American) Pediatric Endocrine Society, chair of the March of Dimes Grants Review Committee, and as a member of the boards of the Hormone Foundation, the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI), the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and serves on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Board for Clinical Research. She served as chair of the United Way of Washtenaw County’s annual fundraising campaign and previously served on the executive committee of the United Way of Central Indiana.

From 2009-2014, she served as the University of Michigan’s first female Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and Health System CEO. In this role, she led a system responsible for three hospitals, more than 120 health centers and clinics, and the University of Michigan Medical School. She had oversight of $3.3 billion in revenue and $490 million in research funding, and was responsible for leadership and management. During this time, she was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2011.

Dr. Pescovitz is currently Senior Vice President and US Medical Leader for Lilly Bio-Medicines. In this role, Dr. Pescovitz brings her cutting-edge insights on health care, including evolving physician and institutional practices and the challenges of serving patients in a rapidly changing environment. She is also an adjunct professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Her late husband, Dr. Mark Pescovitz, was a renowned transplant surgeon at Indiana University. She is a proud mother to three children, two in-law children and two grandchildren.