How Does Innovation Impact Healthcare?

Can you tell me about your role? What do you do, and why is it important?
My current role is Senior Director and Field Strategy Lead at Sanofi Medical. I have worked in various roles within Sanofi Research & Development (R&D) over the past 5 years, mostly in the area of Global Health Economics and Outcomes Research, Translational Medicine and Patient Centered Clinical Trial Recruitment and Retention. However, this new role (6 months in) enables me to think and engage more strategically about how clinical, health outcomes and innovative technologies can be better customized to meet the needs of our patients, health care providers and institutional organizations globally.

Specifically, I have the opportunity to work closely with talented Medical professionals (e.g., scientific medical liaisons and health outcomes scientists/liaisons) to develop and implement customer engagement strategies and communication platforms. This is informed by critical thinking and strategic planning. We want to better understand and be responsive to the dynamics in our business and customer environment that may influence how people think, make choices and act relative to health care services and delivery. This is critical in our efforts to bring needed medicines to people and patient populations.

Clinical research is no walk in the park, when it comes to stepping into the patient’s shoes. As an internal patient advocate, how do you convey the importance of patient empathy during trial design and execution?
You are quite correct! Having to deal with and manage a debilitating health condition is a big deal for a patient, his/her family and caregivers. It should not be taken lightly, disregarded or treated as routine. Therefore, great care is given to think about the impact of a drug being developed, services rendered or technology used in this capacity.

Relative to clinical trial design, we have processes in place to capture patient or patient advocacy input are integrated into each steps of the drug development process, beginning as early as pre-clinical or examining the mechanism of action. So that by the time we get to designing and conducting a clinical trial, we have familiarity to the views of patients and relationships have been establish by clinical development team. These teams are thinking about the impact of treatment and clinical trial protocols on patient experiences and outcomes. We strive to have “Patients as Partners” throughout the process and this is how I advocate for patients as they operate in the diverse communities in which they live.

Melva T. Covington, MPH, MBA, PhD
Dr. Covington is currently a Senior Director, Field Medical Strategy Lead in the Diabetes Cardiovascular Disease Business Unit at Sanofi. She has held various leadership roles within the Global R&D organization at Sanofi since 2010. Her leadership skills, expertise and collaborations in public health, clinical research and analysis have spanned over 20 years, covering the range of lifecycle development and therapeutic areas. She has a background in public health, early intervention, pharmacoeconomics, strategic thinking and business management. Her goal is to apply these skills strategically and innovatively to address complex issues within healthcare systems, organizations and communities. Much of her work focuses on population-based disparities in health outcomes, operations management and cultural competency.

Prior to joining Sanofi, Melva led both Global and US-based teams in Health Outcomes and Pharmacoeconomics across a number of therapeutic areas at Lilly and Roche Labs. She is passionate about assessing integrated data and perceptions contextually and then applying that knowledge for targeted solutions to improve outcomes across diverse patient populations.

She has an AB in Politics/Economics from The Catholic University of America, Masters of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health and PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and MBA from Cornell University. Melva has authored numerous publications and is an impassioned public speaker.