Harnessing transformation to invent for life

Mazen Altaruti, AVP Managing Director GCC at MSD, explains how R&D goes beyond simply investing in the invention of new medicines and requires significant investment in human capital.

September 15, 2019 Inga Louisa Stevens

Science discoveries and drug development are the cornerstones of modern medicine. Providing information about diseases trends and risk factors, as well as new treatment options and diagnostics procedures, R&D will lead to increased knowledge and ultimately, better patient care. In an interview with Arab Health Magazine, Mazen Altaruti, AVP Managing Director GCC at MSD, explains how R&D goes beyond simply investing in the invention of new medicines and vaccines and requires significant investment in the resources and human capital involved in the R&D process.

How important is invention and innovation for your field?

Throughout the past century, scientific and medical inventions have revolutionised the lives we lead. Any attempt to pinpoint the most important inventions of this era would certainly be debatable, but we believe our company has been at the forefront of scientific innovation.

At MSD, we’re inventing medicines and vaccines for the most serious illnesses in our region. And while our commitment to lifesaving science is at the heart of our business, our scientists are not the only people at MSD who are inspired to invent. Every day, in every part of our company, our colleagues are finding new ways to bring our medicines and vaccines to more people than ever before both in the region and around the world.

It may take years of investment and hard work, but we believe and invest in our team to change the course of disease.

Every day, in every part of our company, our colleagues are finding new ways to bring our medicines and vaccines to more people than ever before both in the region and around the world."

Mazen Altaruti

How important is it to foster employee diversity and inclusion to improve the health sector?

We’re inventing to change the lives of our people; our employees are our most valuable resource and work daily to fulfil our mission to help improve health around the world. We are constantly seeking to make our workplace an environment that allows our employees to reach their full potential, but also one in which they feel their skills and creativity are valued.

Diversity and inclusion are essential parts of our business, in line with government strategy. We aim to create a unique environment where each employee can demonstrate their talent and capabilities to the fullest. Our differences are our source of strength that allow us to appreciate nuances, develop respect, and ensure stronger business results. Hence, our company fosters over 500 employees within the region from 36 nationalities, including 31 per cent female representation, which is growing each year, and we are continually striving to become even more diverse.

What initiatives do you apply to support employees in the work place?

Our employees are among the industry’s most sought-after talent, and we rank in amongst the top three employer categories for the “Most Friendly Women Employer" and “Best Diversity & Inclusion Initiative in the Workplace” awarded by the Global Women in Leadership Economic Forum and endorsed by the UAE Ministry of Economy.

We have several initiatives focused on supporting females in building more professional confidence to enable their career development. MSD Women’s Network Academy is an educational programme, which provides female employees with skills and knowledge to prepare them for taking higher roles within the organisation. The GROW programme was built by MSD Women’s Network to expand the diversity principles to our external stakeholders through a series of events for physicians where we combine medical educational information with female empowerment topics. We also seek to empower the millennial generation through our Next Gen Network, which exists to optimise their success and we now boast a 78 per cent millennial workforce.  

What is the key driver behind driving invention and diversity amongst employees?

Empowering and celebrating women and millennials in our field is imperative to drive our ability to invent and has proven our diversity makes us stronger as we draw on the different experiences and cultures residing within our region. To celebrate our diverse community of cultures and backgrounds, MSD celebrated Intercultural Day in honor of the World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development led by the MSD Interfaith Organization (MIO). Our team also recently set a record and entered the Guinness World Records for initiatives showcasing our commitment to patients and partners.

Our talent management processes are built in a way to enable fair assessment of employees’ performance and potential and focused on boosting their development: from building individual development plans, sharing available career paths, working with managers to make them strong coaches and career advisors to mentorship and developmental moves across the region.

MSD's Next Gen Network boasts a 78 per cent millennial workforce. 

CSR is a fundamental pillar to large organisations, could you tell us more?

We are strong advocates of corporate social responsibility, and have numerous region-specific initiatives for our employees to get involved in. Our Ramadan fridge campaign in the UAE saw MSD employees’ stock over eight fridges to feed for those in need during the Holy Month, while our Stay Warm campaign in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia saw employees donate warm clothes for people in need. Being a major contributor to the field of medicine, we know the crucial importance of blood donation, so we held a blood donation drive in Jeddah and Khobar for employees to make an invaluable contribution to local blood banks. All these activities are employee-created and employee-driven to uphold our company vision.