Making a Difference

Achieving Meaningful Impact for Patients (and Our Future Workforce) by Investing in the Collective

Kalahn Taylor-Clark, Ph.D., MPH, Vice President and Global Head, Patient Centered Outcomes and Innovation, recognizes the need to ensure our social investments address unmet needs of underserved communities in fundamental ways.

Eager to start my career as a ‘thought leader’ of sorts, I completed my Ph.D. at 27. I then jumped directly into the classroom as a professor at Tufts University in the fields of political science and community health with a particular focus on racial and ethnic health inequalities. I was so eager, in fact, I taught my first class the afternoon of my dissertation defense. One of the central tenets that I insisted on for all my students was that they understand that meaningful impact (in this case, to reduce and sustainably eliminate health inequities) requires a focus on evidence, not just data, and, importantly, a focus on the collective, not just the individual. Their enthusiastic engagement and creativity to address the collective with evidence-based strategies not only inspires me to this day but makes me think differently about the role of patient centricity in life sciences.


Fast forward to my roles focused on patient centricity here at Sanofi. I learned quickly that we have a conundrum in pharma. Our traditional customers had been healthcare providers and payers, however often they were not our end users - patients. In recognition of this, over the past several years Sanofi has accelerated efforts to ensure patients' insights are reflected in everything we do, from early research through post-market development. This includes shifting, through advocacy, the mindset of patient engagement from a ‘sponsorship’ (shorter-term/passive approach) to a ‘partnership’ (longer-term approach). 


Yet despite Sanofi’s important efforts to advance personalized medicine through meaningful patient engagement, 2020 revealed persistent health disparities faced by brown and black communities in the United States more broadly – as evidenced by disproportionate COVID-19 mortality rates. And, at the same time, the killing of George Floyd and others harkened a collective ‘call to action’ to address racial and ethnic injustices globally facing nearly every sector of life – social, economic, and political. 


So, what is the role of a pharma company to solve such issues? Or is it our role at all? Removing the "political" arguments for/against these questions, I would submit that to “get the right patient the right treatment at the right time,” we must be focused on getting it right for and with the patient. Period.  


And, the good news is, we ARE getting it right.  

I am thrilled to have contributed (in even a small way) to a strategic alignment between our research and development, public affairs and patient advocacy, and corporate social responsibility functions, who recognize the need to not only incorporate individual patient voices in “what we do,” but are ensuring that our social investments address unmet needs of underserved communities in fundamental ways.  

In so doing, we are achieving meaningful impact by helping to ‘level the playing field’ for ALL of our patient communities (and future workforce) no matter their origin. We are achieving meaningful impact by measuring what matters to patients and their caregivers and partnering with them to derive solutions. And we are also achieving meaningful impact by advancing a social responsibility that eliminates the idea of passive charity and instead embraces the collective action of community building. Sanofi’s investment in our patients and in a diverse workforce begins with our investment in ‘the collective.’ This is our call to action in the "new normal," and I look forward to continuing to contribute to that end.