At the first Women Who Inspire panel, six dis­tin­guished female leaders in the med­ical industry shared their sto­ries and advice with more than 75 North­eastern stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff, as well as pro­fes­sionals from area hos­pi­tals and cor­po­ra­tions such as IBM, Pfizer, and Novartis.

Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, mod­er­ated the panel dis­cus­sion, which was held in the Alumni Center last Wednesday.

Joining Fulmer were five other accom­plished female leaders: Hoda Abou-​​Jamra, a 1997 phar­macy grad­uate and CEO of TVM Cap­ital MENA; Chris­tine Cournoyer, a 1975 grad­uate of North­eastern and CEO of N-​​of-​​One; Dr. Elvira Ponce Leon, med­ical director of U.S. Med­ical Affairs at Novartis Vac­cines and Diag­nos­tics; Dr. Nancy Simonian, CEO of Syros Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and a member of the Board of Direc­tors of Seat­tle­Ge­netics; and Wendy War­ring, senior vice pres­i­dent of net­work devel­op­ment and strategic part­ner­ships at Children’s Hos­pital Boston.

The women on this panel are not just inspiring in their fields and to other women,” said Diane MacGillivray, senior vice pres­i­dent for uni­ver­sity advance­ment. “Like North­eastern, they are truly global.”

In opening remarks, Fulmer described the panel of women as “bold, excep­tional, and cre­ative.” She said inspi­ra­tional women rarely think of them­selves in that light, in part because they view them­selves through the lens of mother, sister, or friend. “They are so moti­vated, engaged, and focused that they don’t realize the rest of us are looking to them as role models, vision­aries, and people to learn from and emu­late,” Fulmer said.

Throughout the evening, pan­elists dis­cussed trends, chal­lenges, and inno­va­tion in the biotech, phar­ma­ceu­tical, and health­care indus­tries. Their inspi­ra­tional expe­ri­ences in these areas have included per­forming health vac­ci­na­tions in Venezuela to leading advo­cacy ini­tia­tives in Boston, as pan­elists explained how their career paths, lessons learned, and men­tor­ships con­tinue to inspire them to push the bound­aries of health­care access and impact.

Ponce Leon, who has ded­i­cated her career to improving vac­cine adop­tion rates, said that one of the most impor­tant chal­lenges she has to over­come is the public per­cep­tion of vaccines.

We need to vac­ci­nate entire pop­u­la­tions, not treat a single person,” Ponce Leon said. “A dis­ease that could be erad­i­cated through an effec­tive and safe vac­ci­na­tion may not get that far because of a lack of knowl­edge or funding. This is a pro­found issue that I am working to solve.”

When asked to reflect on the early stages of their careers, many of the pan­elists said they wouldn’t change any­thing about the jour­neys that got them to where they are today.

Every part of my life taught me some­thing and made me what I am now,” said Abou-​​Jamra, who is cur­rently chal­lenged with bal­ancing com­merce and ethics to bring qual­i­fied health­care pro­fes­sions to emerging mar­kets in the Middle East.