Nefertiti Greene has spent more than 25 years as a healthcare leader. She’s held senior positions in the pharmaceutical industry and for medical device manufacturers; she’s focused on general management and commercial operations, as well as pre-clinical and clinical research. It’s clear that her work has varied, but her passion has remained resolute: to help change people’s lives for the better. Right now, she’s doing that as the president of U.S. Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices company working to shape the future of surgery. She is also a member of the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices North America Regional Leadership Team and the Ethicon Global Leadership Team.
This month, Nefertiti connected with Tracy MacNeal, President and CEO of Materna Medical and national Chair for AdvaMed’s Women’s Executive Network, to talk about her career – and the leadership lessons she’s learned along the way.
Have you always been drawn to work in health care? What led you to specialize in pharmaceuticals and medical devices specifically?
I was a biology/chemistry major in school and had plans to go into medicine. But during an internship, I found that although I liked working with patients and making an impact, I wasn’t sure becoming a doctor was the right fit for me. I went into research and loved it, then made the leap to commercial leadership where I had the opportunity to guide strategy and lead teams in pursuit of transformational medical innovation and technologies that help patients every day.
I find the medical devices field fascinating and rewarding because we touch so many lives with our technologies. It’s said that a Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices company has a presence in nearly every operating room around the world and our products are used in 75 million surgeries every year. It’s a privilege to be part of helping change so many lives through the work we do.
As President of U.S. Ethicon, you’re working to shape the future of surgery. What does that future look like? What might patients expect to see in terms of surgical advancements over the next 10 years? The next 20?
Surgery has certainly come a long way over the past 100 years, but significant unmet needs still exist around the world today. Our J&J med tech business started more than 130 years ago and we are proud to be on the cusp of a new era of surgery – where we combine the knowledge and products that surgeons have relied on for decades with emerging digital technologies to create a better surgical experience for patients and healthcare providers, ultimately improving clinical outcomes.
We expect that in the OR of the future, we will see a platform of connected technologies powered by data insights before, during, and after surgery, designed to elevate the surgical experience for patients, surgeons, and care teams. Robotic technology, for example, can help create a more personalized care experience, and increase precision and consistency. Enhanced visualization, data analytics and powerful connectivity can offer insights that support real-time decision making with the goal of enhancing efficiencies and improving patient care. It’s an exciting time to be in this industry and we are proud to be part of defining this future.
What do you consider the most important traits of successful leaders? What kinds of traits do you look for when you’re hiring new team members?
First and foremost, I rely on my leaders to help create a diverse, inclusive environment where every voice is heard. As a business leader and a woman of color, I am committed to building teams that reflect the diversity of the patients and customers we serve, as well as to creating a culture that celebrates and encourages different ideas and perspectives. Our people make all the difference at Johnson & Johnson. They’re the “secret sauce” that makes us a fierce competitor, a passionate advocate for patients and a great place to work.
I also look for leaders who are comfortable taking and encouraging appropriate risks. We have a big, bold vision at Johnson & Johnson: to blend heart, science and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity. That means we need to push ourselves to be creative, stay agile and stay focused on what matters most.
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career? How did it turn out?
I’ve learned the importance of taking risks in my career path—and encouraging others to do the same. Without a push from my first mentor, I wouldn’t have made the leap from a clinical role to a commercial team many years ago. Without support from a sponsor more recently, I wouldn’t have considered a jump from the pharmaceutical to the medical devices sector within J&J. If I hadn’t taken those chances, I would have missed out on amazing experiences including leading a large global surgery business, playing a part in bringing new and meaningful technologies and innovations to market around the world, leading high performing diverse teams, and rising to a level where I can help others live up to their potential.
Who do you look to for inspiration or mentorship?
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