The road to a career at the intersection of business and politics may have started with a “mean impersonation” of our 37th president, the CHPA chief tells DSN.
Before CHPA you were in charge of government affairs and public policy for HDMA — what is it about the trade association management business that appealed to you, and how did your work at HDMA (now HDA) help prepare you for your present role leading the consumer health industry? If you like business and politics, there’s no better place to work than in a trade association. You get to interact with brilliant business leaders, and you have the ability to help shape the fate of an entire industry. Representing wholesalers at HDMA introduced me to the retail side of the pharmaceutical business. That retail pharmacy perspective is hugely important in my work at CHPA representing OTC and dietary supplement manufacturers.
As a law student at George Mason, you did double-duty as a staffer for former Congressman Jerry Lewis, R-Calif. What attracted you to Washington, and what did you learn from that experience? I did a mean [Richard] Nixon impersonation in elementary school, and politics has been in my blood ever since. After interning on Capitol Hill during my senior year of college, I knew Washington was the place I wanted to be. Working on the Hill while going to law school at night helped pay the bills. You know what they say about law school? It’s like college without the fun. They are right.
What was your first job growing up? My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up. If I wanted the latest bike, or if I wanted gas and insurance for my car, I had to pay for it. I cut my teeth at Burger King and Chick-fil-A, but I soon found the real money was in tips as a waiter and bartender. Those experiences gave me a good work ethic that still motivates me to this day. And I tip well.
Where did you grow up? How do you think your early years influenced you and how you see the world? I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, raised by a single mom who worked as an executive secretary. She would always speak with such gratitude about bosses who treated her with respect, and was hurt when they didn’t. I’ve always tried to treat everyone — at work or elsewhere — the way my mom would want to be treated.
Who was your most important mentor, and what was the most important thing you learned from them? I have been fortunate to have many mentors, but the most influential was probably Frank Baldino, the former CEO of Cephalon. He was a classic entrepreneur who left a secure job as a young man at a big pharma company to follow his dream to start his own drug company. He did, and Cephalon was eventually sold to Teva for $6 billion. He taught me, at a critical point in my professional career, to embrace risk and believe that anything is possible.
What was the best advice you ever received? Congressman Lewis taught me to never talk in elevators. Everyone is listening. It’s good advice outside of elevators, too.
When you’re not working, what’s your favorite thing to do? Nothing beats a round of golf. It’s a five-mile walk through a park, it gets my competitive juices flowing and there’s always the hope that today will be the day I finally get a hole-in-one.
What is the best book you have read most recently? Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run.” My entire life feels like a collection of Bruce songs, as each one brings back a different memory. The book also humanizes the Boss. He’s fragile just like the rest of us.
What are you most grateful for in life? My health, my family, my job and my Philadelphia sports teams.
Did you miss last month's Takeaway? DSN spoke with Albertsons SVP pharmacy, health and wellness Mark Panzer about important leadership lessons he's learned along the way. Click here to read the in-depth interview.