EP. 82 Big tech, big data and knowing your WHY.

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Laurie McGraw is speaking with Inspiring Woman Dr. Amy Abernethy.  As a leader, physician, researcher, author, public servant, speaker, advocate, and more, Dr. Abernethy’s storied career centers on her WHY.  As an oncologist at Duke, Dr. Abernethy’s patients were relatively young adults.  These patients more often than not would pass away within a few short years after their diagnosis and would face very tough choices.  Her clinic was between research facilities doing groundbreaking work in the area of melanoma, yet, those new therapies or clinical trials would not be available in time to help her patients when they needed it.  Speeding up the process of bringing therapies to the patients who needed them to change their outcomes became her driving focus.

It was an unexpected leap to move into healthtech when she joined Flatiron Health, however, exploring the problem from a different angle was very instructional.  Her move to public service and the FDA meant tackling the regulatory angle.  Focus on patient centricity and evidence generation required modernizing the agency’s technology capabilities and demystifying how to work with the FDA.  Amy describes public service as both important and awe inspiring and highly recommended.  Today at Verily, this is the next chapter of tackling the same issue, now with big tech and big data at her disposal.  To unlock this potential, she suggests this requires bringing all professional disciplines to the table with equal voices and respect.

Amy’s professional WHY is centered on those early patients.  She aims to significantly speed up the process of bringing lifesaving therapies to market, advance the state of medical care, and to change outcomes.

In solving those large problems and pursuing her WHY, Amy was also strategic about her professional development, this included implementing a strategic mentor plan.  Early on, she conducted a self-assessment SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).  From that, she identified six people she felt could help her advance professionally or develop key skills.  She also wanted help advancing as a female leader without being characterized in unflattering ways (the “B” word).   Valuing people’s time, Amy was thoughtful about what she could bring to these relationships.  Over the years, Amy has changed who is part of her strategic mentor plan and credits those key relationships with having great impact on her professional development and pursuits.


Dr. Amy Abernethy

President, Clinical Research Platforms at Verily

Amy Abernethy is the President of Verily’s Clinical Studies Platforms, where she oversees the company’s clinical evidence generation platform product vision and related clinical research portfolio. Dr. Abernethy was most recently Principal Deputy Commissioner of Food and Drugs of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the agency’s acting Chief Information Officer. Prior to her role at the FDA, Dr. Abernethy was Chief Medical Officer, Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President of Oncology of Flatiron Health. Before joining Flatiron, Dr. Abernethy was Professor of Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine and directed the Center for Learning Health Care in the Duke Clinical Research Institute and Duke Cancer Care Research Program in the Duke Cancer Institute. Dr. Abernethy is a hematologist/oncologist and palliative medicine physician who has authored more than 500 publications. She holds a BA in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, an MD from Duke University School of Medicine, and a PhD in Evidence Based Medicine and Informatics from Flinders University in Australia.

You can follow Dr. Abernethy on LinkedIn.

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