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Bringing breakthroughs that change patients' lives

Pfizer works not only to create innovative medicines, but to ensure that no patient is denied access to them

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‘As leaders, we should always remember that we all do our roles for a limited period of time and what matters at the end of the day is the joy, memories and feelings we create and leave behind.’ - Country Manager of Pfizer Singapore, Enver Erkan

AS THE Country Manager of Pfizer Singapore, Enver Erkan leads an organisation that supports sales of the company's pharmaceutical products in over 150 markets around the world. Yet, beyond managing supply chains and bottom lines, Mr Erkan is driven by a far more noble mission: to provide patients with greater access to Pfizer's suite of medicines.

"Our key priority is to become the most patient-centric biopharmaceutical company in Singapore and ensure patients have access to the breakthroughs we bring to Singapore much earlier, much faster. No patient shall be denied access," says Mr Erkan.

"We have a major pipeline of innovative novel medicines, and our goal is to ensure access for these medications. This also allows Singaporean doctors and patients to have first-hand experience of cutting-edge new treatments. As medicines are becoming more targeted and precise, their cost is getting higher and we have the opportunity to explore innovative outcome based agreements."

Pfizer opened its Singapore offices in 1964, a year before the country gained independence. "We take pride in being one of the pioneer companies," says Mr Erkan, who has been with Pfizer for 15 years. Prior to his move to Singapore in October 2017, he worked across Pfizer's Turkey, UK, and Europe teams.

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Pfizer's large-scale active pharmaceutical ingredients manufacturing plant in Tuas produces a range of drug substances for products that cover a wide span of therapeutic areas, including Anti-infectives; Metabolic and Cardiovascular Diseases; Mental Health; Pain; Oncology; Inflammation; among others. To offer Singaporeans greater access to this portfolio of medicines, Pfizer Singapore looks forward to work with the government in a public/private partnership model.

Furthermore, in light of Singapore's fast aging society and corresponding rise in demand for healthcare, Mr Erkan believes in the old adage that prevention is better than cure. For instance, as pneumonia is the second-leading cause of death in the Republic, he advocates for an increase in vaccination rates among adults to deal with this problem. Pfizer also seeks opportunities to collaborate with the government to promote healthy living as a prevention strategy.

Leveraging innovation

Pfizer is driving innovation across its organisation to bring therapies to patients more quickly, and to provide both patients and healthcare providers with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions.

"We are investing in new capabilities and strategies to bring patients therapies that significantly improve their lives. We make it our priority to discover, develop and deliver first-in-class medicines, vaccines and over-the-counter products that provide value to patients across the full spectrum of their health needs - from prevention to treatment to wellness," explains Mr Erkan.

To this end, the company is using technology to automate its internal systems and processes to improve efficiency. Meanwhile in its commercial business, Pfizer Singapore is increasing its use of digital channels to ensure that it provides the right information, at the right time, and at the right frequency to healthcare providers. Underpinning these initiatives is a focus on ensuring data privacy across its digital operations.

Globally, Pfizer is also harnessing digital and data technology to raise the number of people receiving the diagnoses and treatments they need to achieve better health outcomes.

One example is the Pfizer Healthcare Hub, an open innovation platform designed to maximise the company's impact on patient health through partnerships with technology start-ups. Currently, Pfizer has Healthcare Hubs in Berlin, London, Stockholm and Sydney. "My goal is to be able to set up such centres in Singapore in the near future," reveals Mr Erkan.

An evolving leadership style

During his time at Pfizer, Mr Erkan's approach to leadership has been shaped by his experiences and the people around him. In particular, he has realised the importance of learning continually by listening actively.

"You should always be curious about the people and the events surrounding you. In some aspects, as a leader you are a spider in a web and you should always cover the entirety of it to ensure you are constantly connected both internally and externally; both to the ground and senior management; and to your customers and patients. This enriches your leadership experience and always keeps you grounded," he explains.

This need to learn has become even more critical as the healthcare sector transforms rapidly, creating an urgent need for all industry participants to adapt. As such, Mr Erkan has focused much of his efforts on grooming talent and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment "where every colleague is driven by a sense of purpose and brings his or her best self to work every day".

Under Mr Erkan's leadership, Pfizer Singapore created the Women Council - which has since evolved to the Diversity & Inclusion colleague resource group - that aims to celebrate and champion inclusiveness across gender, disability, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, and age at the company.

Yet, amid the hustle and bustle of leading a large organisation in a competitive industry, Mr Erkan is conscious of the need to take a step back to appreciate the opportunities he has been given. "As leaders, we should always remember that we all do our roles for a limited period of time and what matters at the end of the day is the joy, memories and feelings we create and leave behind," he says.

"Over the years, I also feel more appreciative of the importance of my purpose as a leader and purpose of what we do as a company. As a leader, I see my role as a function of bringing the best out of our people and building the right culture. Business results will follow this if you have passionate and driven colleagues and teams around you."