As a child, Adele Gulfo knew she wanted to be involved with healthcare. Today, as executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Mylan, she is leveraging her strong background in science and research to help the company set new standards in healthcare and provide the world’s seven billion people with high-quality medicine. “There needs to be better healthcare everywhere,” Gulfo says. “We are really incentivized as an industry to treat sickness. There is really no incentive to prevent illness or try to have more health and wellness.”
HELPING PEOPLE GET ON THE RIGHT PATH IN THE COMMUNITY
Not content to excel only in the C-suite, Gulfo also spends time helping out in the community with Volunteers of America. Through its hundreds of human-service programs, Volunteers of America touches the lives of more than two million people in more than 400 communities in forty-six states, as well as in Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico each year. Approximately 55,000 volunteers throughout the United States help deliver life-changing services—one of them being Gulfo. “We build schools; we teach people who have lost their way,” she says. “It is about helping people get on the right path.”
Gulfo believes her extracurricular work helps her balance her life. Outside of Mylan, she is a corporate director and audit committee member for Bemis Inc. (BMS), and she supports the causes of many other innovative healthcare organizations. She works, for instance, as an innovation adviser to Partners HealthCare, and Springboard Enterprises. She also serves on the Committee of 200 (C200), a group of premier women business leaders that fosters, celebrates, and advances women’s leadership in business. Members of C200 form a unique mix of corporate leaders and entrepreneurs in the exclusive network.
Gulfo is impressed by her compatriots in C200, as she recalls giving a speech to the group recently and being extremely impressed by the résumés of her cohorts. She strongly values the advice they offer as well—the group was instrumental in advising her to make the jump to Mylan, where she carries forth the company’s success.
Reporting directly to Mylan’s CEO, Gulfo works collaboratively with the company’s leaders around the world on its long-range strategy. After spending a portion of her career focused on Latin America, a region interested in good-quality medicine at a reasonable price, Gulfo now looks for opportunities across the globe to deliver medicine and educate consumers about health and wellness.
As a trained scientist, Gulfo brings to the table both strong business acumen and a deep understanding of biology and chemistry. However, when Gulfo was younger and initially wanted to make the jump from academia to business, she found it difficult as researchers are often sidelined in the former and not encouraged to participate in commercial enterprises.
Gulfo caught her break at Pfizer, when she was put on the startup team working on Lipitor. At the time, she was employed in the company’s research and development group, an experience that gave her the confidence in business meetings to speak up, as she understood on a scientific level the issues at hand. “I could talk the literature, I could engage with opinion leaders, I could do a lot of the stuff,” Gulfo says. “I knew where they were coming from as scientists.”
For Gulfo, the launch of Lipitor brought together the various stepping stones of her career, as she learned how to bring a product to market while transitioning to a more strategic role. Perhaps even more meaningfully, she relished the opportunity to reach millions with a drug that could be life-changing. That experience motivated Gulfo when she decided to make the jump to Mylan, one of the world’s leading global generic and specialty pharmaceutical companies. She was inspired by the company’s mission to deliver better health for a better world.
“Many companies put profits first. If they can’t make enough money in a country or region, they aren’t going to go there,” she says. “Mylan is different. It’s wonderfully unconventional. We put people and patients first, and trust that profits will follow. We call this philosophy ‘doing good and doing well,’ and it reflects our belief that Mylan is a cause, and not just a company.” Mylan’s ability to provide medicine to patients in the developing world was what initially drew Gulfo to the company. “Nearly 50 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in such markets who are receiving treatment depend on a Mylan product,” she says.
One key to Mylan’s success is its diverse portfolio of pharmaceuticals. With more than 1,400 separate medicines, the company is able to help people around the world address health needs across a wide range of therapeutic areas. Mylan also believes in the importance of public policy and works with governments and health organizations everywhere to help provide access and create awareness around treatment. Gulfo is especially proud of Mylan’s work to expand access to EpiPen Auto-Injectors, which delivers epinephrine to people experiencing anaphylaxis, or severe allergic reactions.
Gulfo recalls a recent speech she gave at a healthcare innovation conference. While preparing, she looked up a panel she was on ten years ago and was shocked to see the same issues being addressed. Although disheartening, she recognizes that there are many forces for positive change. Millennials, for instance, “will serve as disruptors of healthcare,” she asserts, and help to “transform a broken system.”
We are finally moving to more value-based care, according to Gulfo. She believes that with technology and innovative thinking, there will be more opportunities to engage patients and offer them a better experience.
“You have to want to save lives around the world. It is not just about your product. You need the powerful culture of a purpose-driven company. That’s the true beauty of Mylan,” she continues. “Making a positive impact around the world really is personal to everyone who works here.”
Using the example of those who rely on Mylan’s antiretroviral medications, she adds, “It is not only about the product and the portfolio; it is about enabling the mind-set of helping seven billion people, and then stepping in—and up—to provide the passionate global leadership required to affect meaningful change.”
With a mix of formalized weekly meetings and ad hoc gatherings, Gulfo prioritizes communicating Mylan’s executive strategy with her team.
“I really love knowing what makes somebody tick,” Gulfo says. She tries to link her direct reports’ interests and passions to broader strategies in the company to help “make that person even more inspired to come to work every day.”
Similarly, Mylan’s chief strategy officer encourages her team to work closely together to support Mylan’s mission. “What we do is so very personal,” Gulfo explains. “It really brings meaning to what we do every day. That’s why I’m so honored to be part of a company whose passion for changing the world for the better mirrors my own.”