Navigating a COVID-19 Healthcare World

June 18, 2020 – Marc Gouran is a president and global practice leader at Solomon Page, a multi-specialty executive search firm headquartered in New York City. He is the founder, architect, and general manager of the organization’s healthcare and life sciences division, which he started in 1992. It has expanded since then to three offices nationally.

Mr. Gouran focuses on senior executive searches on a global basis with top companies and institutions in health insurance, consulting, pharmaceutical and biotech, health services and other healthcare related businesses. The Solomon Page client list includes hospitals, integrated delivery systems, health insurance carriers, Blue Cross Plans, HMO’s, employee benefits consulting firms, as well as pharmaceutical and biotech companies and other healthcare services companies and institutions.

Marc, how do you lead a healthcare and life sciences executive search practice, or search firm for that matter, during such a highly volatile, uncertain time like this?

In these unprecedented times, it is even more important than usual for search firm leadership to stay as close as possible and very supportive to their teams, including partners, consultants, recruiters, researchers and administrative personnel at all levels. Executive search has always lent itself to virtual and ‘work from home’ strategies, so we generally already have the best technology in place and it is not a huge work flow change for many people. That being said, we want to reassure our teams, work even closer together, over-communicate, be very sensitive to personal issues (kids at home, day to day challenges, obvious stress and anxiety), while focusing on moving projects forward when it makes sense and holding on others.

How about on the client side?

Clients need to hear from us as trusted partners, but with great sensitivity to what their businesses are going through. As a global practice, there are some parts of the world that are on a ‘full stop’ mode right now, but there are other locales where projects are moving forward, sometimes with accommodation for video interviews as opposed to face to face in person sessions or other process changes. There will no doubt be long term changes in how executive search in healthcare and life sciences will be conducted, but in the short run our most important mission is to re-assure and take care of our internal teams.

How do the best senior executives provide leadership to healthcare and life sciences (provider, payer, pharma, biotech) companies during a highly volatile downturn like we are experiencing today?

The global healthcare and life sciences business is under huge, unprecedented stress due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Because these are the ultimate ‘essential businesses’ and cannot shut down for even a short time, the leadership of this industry has unique challenges and stresses. Providers of all kinds based everywhere around the globe are responsible for the care and treatment of large patient populations and that system is stressed in ways never imagined. Pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies are also highly focused on delivering medicines, medical supplies and devices in support of the providers and patients. Leadership needs to focus on supporting their executives and staffs, as well as staying as clear headed as possible, staying as highly visible and positive as possible, over communicating to people at all levels, keeping the human tragedy in mind at all times, understanding and mitigating the personal stress, anxiety and fear people are feeling, having empathy, focusing people on ‘one day at a time,’ and being supportive and reassuring to people that this too shall pass are all critical to leading in a crisis.

What long-term impact do you see the COVID-19 pandemic having on the healthcare and life sciences sectors?

Longer term, this pandemic will totally change global healthcare systems. Governments, institutions and companies will no doubt rethink the way healthcare is delivered, where drugs and medical supplies & devices are manufactured, how providers are trained and allocated, how and what is researched and developed (particularly anti-virals, antibiotics and vaccines) and how the global system can work more effectively, comprehensively and in cooperation.

How will search firms fair coming out of this pandemic?

We would guess that investment in all parts of the healthcare system, including providers of all kinds, payers, medical devices and most particularly in pharmaceuticals, biotech and vaccines will be substantially increased over both the short and longer term. Recruiting the best talent and expertise will be a critical part of the ability of companies and institutions to meet the needs of a system that will be changing, expanding and working together in totally new ways, with large amounts of new capital investment to fund it. Executive search firms that specialize in those areas will certainly have lots of opportunities to work in partnership with the global healthcare and life science industry and help to facilitate the long term changes that will no doubt take place.

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