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Lisa Earnhardt, Abbott
As Abbott's executive vice president since June of this year, Lisa Earnhardt helms the company’s global Medical Devices business, which comprises over 30,000 employees and generates over $12 billion in revenue. Abbott’s mission to advance medical technology to help people live better is as straightforward in its purpose as it is broad in its scope. A little daunting perhaps? Not for a trailblazer like Lisa, who has been solving problems and leading teams in MedTech for 25+ years. While some see challenges, Lisa sees opportunities.
Recently, Lisa sat down to speak with Tracy MacNeal, President and CEO of Materna Medical and national Chair for Advamed’s Women’s Executive Network. They discussed Lisa’s passions for healthcare and technology, reflected on the challenges of learning a new role, courageous leadership and more.
What is it like going from the world of med-tech ventures to a 130-year-old global healthcare company?
Well first of all, Abbott may be 130 years old, but it is truly age defying. I was intrigued by how the company has transformed itself throughout its history to stay relevant to the needs of healthcare by continually reinventing itself. Yes, it’s a complex, global enterprise and there are necessary processes and procedures in place to manage it well … that’s part of what has made it so successful. My decision to join Abbott was based on the opportunity to create an even greater impact in healthcare – to build on a foundation of strength, to bring my dozen years of experience working for large companies in the cardiovascular space, and importantly, to leverage my learnings from the last decade working at a start-up.
Can you tell me more about those learnings and how you are applying them at Abbott?
In my previous start-up role, there were 13 of us initially, and we all did a little bit of everything. And while we grew eventually to a few hundred employees, there was still that “all hands on deck” attitude that is typical of start-ups. Of course, that would not be efficient or effective on a much larger and more complex scale. However, even in a large, complex organization, there is opportunity to have an entrepreneurial mindset and agility that allows for quick decision making. That’s more important today than ever in the fast-changing healthcare environment, where technology plays a powerful role in redefining how healthcare is delivered. The speed at which we innovate is directly related to the impact we can have for people to live better, healthier lives.
For example, Abbott has a device that serves as a wearable sensor for people with diabetes to continuously measure their glucose levels in real-time without the need for routine finger sticks. It’s a great example of a product that combines healthcare and technology to make a real difference in the lives of people with diabetes – and it puts consumer experience at the center of innovation. And, as we continue to explore ways to make products better and to apply technology in new ways, speed, agility and a keen focus on the end user are all-important. I’ve always surmised if you do what’s right for the patient and you do what’s right for the physician, the rest will follow.
Where do you see the need for courage in our industry these days?
Courage is more important than ever because of the rapid pace of change in healthcare. You need courage to make big, bold, calculated decisions and move forward in a mission-driven way. You need courage to lead your organizations to bring forward the kind of disruptive, life-changing technology that not only makes people healthier, but that is accessible and affordable and delivers meaningful value to the entire healthcare system. And that’s about more than technology itself, it’s also about driving new ways of thinking in all aspects of our work from go-to-market strategies to fundamentally rethinking our business models. It is an exciting time in medtech where courage (with a capital C!) is paramount.