Interview with Joanne Waldstreicher M.D.

Next month, Healthcare executives from across the nations top health systems will convene in Nashville, TN for our Patient Experience Transformation Assembly.  In anticipation, we had a chance to sit down with our Keynote Speaker, Joanne Waldstreicher. Joanne is the Chief Medical Officer at Johnson & Johnson. 

Joanne shared her insights from her distinguished career in healthcare, the biggest challenges facing healthcare executives in 2019, the future of medicine and prioritizing patient care.  Here is the full interview!

You created the Office of the Chief Medical Officer (the OCMO) at Johnson & Johnson as a global and independent group responsible for guiding medical safety, pipeline development, and bioethical decision-making across the company’s pharmaceutical, medical device, and consumer products. How does the OCMO keep the needs of patients and consumers at the center of its efforts while emphasizing transparency across the company’s pharmaceutical, medical device, and consumer products sectors?

We created the OCMO to ensure that safety, our most important priority, is managed by a group that is internal within Johnson & Johnson but completely independent of other departments – including commercial, regulatory, quality and even research & development. Our team keeps patients and consumers at the center of everything we do. We emphasize transparency, especially in clinical trial data, where we share these data with researchers around the world. By sharing this data with the broader scientific and medical research community, we honor the participants in our clinical trials by giving their data new life to continue uncovering insights to help advance science and medicine.

You recently posted “Why We Always Put Patient Safety First Every Day” on LinkedIn, commenting on how it is a responsibility to prioritize people-centric medical safety above all else. How does Johnson & Johnson maintain a tradition of quality and innovation when looking to keep people well in every stage of their lives?

 Johnson & Johnson was founded on the idea that people should feel safe. From our earliest days, we have pioneered innovations that have profoundly improved people’s lives by addressing unmet critical needs – with safety being a common thread throughout all solutions we have brought to patients and consumers over the last 130 years.

As early as the 1800s, we pioneered the adoption of life-saving sterile surgery during the U.S. Civil War; we introduced the first commercial first aid and maternity kits to make home healthcare and childbirth safer. Today, our focus on safety innovation continues – from collaborations with Ariadne Labs on integrating a safe surgery checklist in operating rooms to establishing internal groups and committees throughout the entire lifecycle of our pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer products such as First-in-Human, Development and Safety committees which guide evidence- and science-based decision-making that is also driven by our values and ethics.

Our team maintains our tradition of safety while pushing the envelope on innovation to ensure we are advancing health outcomes as much as possible. We do this in many ways. For example:

  • We are guided by a single medical safety standard across our pharmaceuticals, consumer and medical devices sectors, enabled and driven by our independent decision-making that keeps the patient at the center of all we do.
  • We collaborate with private and public entities to raise the bar on safety, be it by supporting the U.S. FDA’s post-market electronic safety surveillance platform, or co-developing a network with Columbia University that enables analyses across multiple real-world data (RWD) sources and evaluation of safety and effectiveness.
  • Together with regulatory bodies and patient groups, we work to advocate for more patient-centric approaches focused on research & development, medical safety surveillance and benefit-risk assessment. We do this by engaging patients early, systematically, and directly across important aspects of product development and treatment, starting with the very first use of our products in people through the entire lifecycle of the product once on the market.

What are some of the values that you follow in your role at Johnson & Johnson when it comes to critical decision-making?

As a physician and researcher, my passion is to make the world a better place through science and medicine and to do so with the highest integrity and standards. That is why every action and decision we undertake is done through the lens of the people who use our products every day.

Grounded in ethical and science-based decision-making, our work is driven by our core values:

  • Integrity: We act independently and in the best interest of patients and consumers. We do this by bringing evidence and science-based decisions, transparency, bioethics and the voice of patients and consumers to everything we do.
  • Tenacity: We continuously challenge ourselves, our colleagues and the industry to improve health outcomes through our relentless advocacy on behalf of patients and consumers.
  • Compassion: We care deeply about the needs, expectations and best interests of patients and consumers and keep this at the forefront of all we do.
  • Inquisitive: We are insatiably curious. We believe great ideas can come from anywhere. We relish the creative freedom to ask questions and explore avenues that might change tomorrow.

Have your personal focuses in regards to medical, pharmaceutical, and consumer practices to name a few inspired you to continue to transform health outcomes around the world in your profession?

Science and medicine are on a rapid and transformational growth curve. For example, we have moved from working on cancer drugs that extend life by a month to solutions that offer a cure. We have moved from treating some diseases with pain medication to genetic therapy and cure. This is the most exciting time in science and medicine! As we become more sophisticated in our approach, we also want to be sure we are more sophisticated with our data. Each patient encounter with our healthcare system should be a learning opportunity so that we’re putting big data and big analytics to work for everyone. These advances in science, medicine, and analytics inspire me to work even harder towards more scientific rigor, more collaboration, more networked approaches, more public-private partnerships, so that together, as a society, we can make an even bigger difference in the world.

What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned over the past 7 years in your position at the world’s largest and most broadly-based healthcare company?

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is that new, innovative ideas do not always happen right away. It takes vision, collaboration – and tenacity.

Some of the products we’ve worked on that have been successful have taken more than a decade or two of dedicated effort. Some of the novel partnerships we created bring greater clinical trial transparency through the Yale Open Data Access (YODA) Project with our partners at Yale School of Medicine and improve access to investigational medicines through the Compassionate Use Advisory Committee (


) with the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University School of Medicine took several years to bring forward and launch. In our world, nothing that is very worthwhile and transformational happens easily and quickly. We need to weather many storms and overcome tremendous hurdles and risks before we succeed. The key is to learn from every failure and get that much more tenacious with every delay. From my perspective, the honor of working on something that is life changing makes it all worthwhile.

In your opinion, what are the most significant challenges facing modern Chief Medical Officers and healthcare leaders today?

As healthcare companies and Chief Medical Officers collectively strive to advance health outcomes, it’s important to recognize that no one company or organization can accomplish this alone. There’s a place for competition in the industry and in science – it’s part of our success and


for innovation – but we have to recognize that there’s also a place for collaboration. It’s one of the greatest opportunities available to transform healthcare today and for generations to come. I believe we need to collaborate more to embrace new technologies and approaches. For example, we can work better together to advance the use of RWD and clinical evidence to improve health outcomes, clinical practice, and a better learning healthcare system.

Where do you see the future of medical and pharmaceuticals heading?

Healthcare is undergoing unprecedented change on every front, from new technologies and data sources to a growing call for industry transparency and a public that is more engaged in their health than ever before. As technology and medicine continue to advance – including CAR-T and genetic therapies that offer the opportunity for transformational efficacy – it is more important than ever to ensure the voices of patients are at the helm every step of the way. We need to continue to engage directly with patients, not just as participants, but with patients and caregivers as our partners. Further, we need to harness the power of big data to work together to advance our collective vision of a learning healthcare system.

We are very excited that you are keynoting at the Patient Experience Transformation Assembly this May in Nashville. Would you be able to give us a glimpse into what you would be speaking on?

I plan to speak about my journey from academia to industry, and some of the innovative work that my team leads to advance science and medicine – with our products as well as how we operate – all focused on making a difference in the world by transforming health outcomes for everyone.

Thank you, Joanne, for joining us and we look forward to having you at our assembly as the Keynote Speaker next month!


About The Patient Experience Transformation Assembly 

The Millennium Alliance is thrilled to announce the dates for the Patient Experience Transformation Assembly.

Working with our Members and Advisory Board, we are putting together a program to enable you to test out new technology and hear from experts about the latest strategies changing the patient experience. We understand that for C-Level executives time is precious, so we are bringing the best content and technology together in May.

Are you a Patient Experience Officer interested in attending this event? Inquire here today to find out if you qualify for Millennium Membership >>

Download your copy of the sponsorship prospectus to see if you are eligible to sponsor this event >>

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PUBLISHED BY Nick Peacocksmith

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