Christine Szymanski, Novo Nordisk

Christine Szymanski
All about the patients

Company: Novo Nordisk
Title: Brand Director, Obesity Patient Marketing

Diabetes giant Novo Nordisk ($NVO) exited the autoimmune space in March and launched its obesity drug, Saxenda, in the U.S. the next month. And at the helm of obesity patient marketing is Christine Szymanski, who represents the patient perspective in Novo's marketing of Saxenda, its new obesity drug for chronic weight management.

After completing a degree in communication at Rutgers University, Szymanski got her start in the pharma industry at a small PR company that helps companies accelerate recruitment into clinical trials. Two decades later, she has worn a number of hats, including physician group marketing for Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and working at a digital marketing agency, but has settled solidly on the patient side of pharma: her area of passion and interest.

"Novo Nordisk is very patient-centered," she said. "But I personally feel it is one of the most impactful things I can do, (to) bring the understanding and insights of people who have obesity to the table and have everyone internalize that and understand how we should think about solutions."

When she first joined Novo Nordisk in 2007, Szymanski joined a group that was developing the website and digital marketing and worked on the insulin portfolio, Novo Nordisk's claim to fame. Her team underwent some transformations, first growing from digital work to customer relationship management and from there to patients and healthcare professionals.

Having worked on the insulin portfolio, Szymanski handled the patient-support program accompanying the launch of Victoza, Novo's liraglutide shot for diabetes. She worked on brand teams for Tresiba and Levemir, but when an opportunity appeared on the obesity team, she leaped at it.

"I really enjoy the challenge of launch teams on a variety of levels, but most importantly, there are a lot of moving parts, a lot of strategy, critical thinking and planning that need to happen," she said. "It drives me to come to work every day."

The obesity side was even more of a draw for Szymanski.

"It is such an epidemic in the U.S. There is so much to learn and so much to understand before we can even crack the nut in the situation. … My role representing the patient's point of view and insights we've gathered and continue to gather over time represents a pivotal role in everything we do," she said.

Szymanski attributes her success to several mentors and peers, including inspiring managers, male and female, who encourage her to take on new challenges and "stretch myself."

"I look at every career conversation as an opportunity to refocus on what I want to accomplish--where can I grow and where can my talent help raise the bar."

And her advice for younger women looking to advance in the industry follows the same themes.

"Listen and ask questions more often than you speak--you can achieve a vision in many different ways," she said. "And keep moving toward opportunities that inspire and motivate you. Your most rewarding accomplishments will be achieved when your passion is aligned with the opportunity." -- Amirah Al Idrus (email)

For more:
Eyeing big niche in obesity, Novo rolls out Saxenda at $1,000 per month
Novo Nordisk puts 500 Saxenda reps on U.S. streets, aiming for $1B in weight-loss sales
Novo hopes for European Saxenda launch this year after CHMP nod
Are obesity drugs nearing a breakout? Novo, Takeda think so
Takeda preps to launch Orexigen's obesity drug Contrave as Novo's Saxenda looms

Christine Szymanski, Novo Nordisk