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Lessons from Healthcare Leaders: “Take a role in leading change” with Baxter International Vice President of Global Services, Melanie Neal

I had the pleasure of interviewing Melanie Neal. Melanie is a Vice President of Global Services at Baxter International Inc and is a versatile operations expert with over 15 years of deep experience in a dynamic, innovation-driven environment. She is a certified Master Lean Leader and Six Sigma Black Belt, who excels in change management, […]

I had the pleasure of interviewing Melanie Neal. Melanie is a Vice President of Global Services at Baxter International Inc and is a versatile operations expert with over 15 years of deep experience in a dynamic, innovation-driven environment. She is a certified Master Lean Leader and Six Sigma Black Belt, who excels in change management, complex problem solving and creating a culture of improvement. She fosters collaborative cross-functional partnerships, leads successfully through ambiguity and adapts seamlessly to achieve top-tier performance that routinely exceeds the goals of her team and company.

What principles or philosophies have guided your life?

While growing up, every day my dad told my sisters and I to “always try your best”. And that has become a core part of who I am. When I make decisions along the day, when I act, I always try to do my best.

And this concept has defined my work ethic, my optimistic outlook and my approach to solving problems. If you always give it you are all in all areas of your life, whatever circumstances you are facing, you will not have any regrets, and you will learn a lot along the way.

What are the five things you wish you knew?

1. Along the lines of trying your best, have the confidence to jump into something and be willing and open to figure it out. As long as you try your best, as long as you utilize the resources around to the best of your ability, no matter what the outcome, you will have learned something.

2. In respect to healthcare, it is important never to forget that you can have a direct impact on someone’s life on a daily basis. And that doesn’t end with just a single patient. It expands to their friends and family. A lot of the times, we get caught up in the day to day challenges and operations, and it’s easy to forget. For me, it is a privilege to have that opportunity, but it’s also something you should always remember.

3. As you go along in your career, make sure you keep things in perspective. There are times in my career where I didn’t have balance, had to make some tough trade-off decisions or even made sacrifices. Although this may have helped me continue to achieve and be successful in the different roles I’ve taken on, in hindsight, it is important to balance that with broader experiences. Whether that be within work or your personal life.

4. Develop your flexibility and adaptability, and figure out how to get on board with the change. Play a role in leading that change. Add to that, build a foundation of resilience.

5. Invest and advocate for inclusion and diversity. I am a firm believer in building teams that have people with different experiences. Different experiences lead to different perspectives, and that can bring many ideas to the table.

The future of work is a common theme. What do you think we could do to future proof our career?

Wow! I wish I had a crystal ball because that would probably help us to see the future more clearly. However, aside from that, I think it’s essential to have continuous learning, to be curious, and to stay relevant. Regardless of what industry or what role you are in, as long as you are willing to keep learning, and you are open to new ideas, new areas, new technologies, you can continue to grow and expand your responsibilities and opportunities.

What challenges are you trying to solve?

Over the last several months, I’ve been working with a team of people to develop the next version of my organization. I am thinking about the strategy over the next three years, and also what will be required to achieve that strategy. People spend a lot of time dreaming about what they want the future to hold, whether that is for yourself personally or for your team or your business. However, ultimately, you have to set that vision and do the hard work implementing it.

So, now that we’ve identified that vision, how are we going to get there? What are the milestones required, what type of work and skill sets and resources do we need to bring in to achieve that? How will we know if we are on track? So it’s a really exciting time and an exciting challenge.

What are you most excited about regarding the future of healthcare?

The future of healthcare will have better and increased utilization of technology to support patients and caregivers on a daily basis. The technology could be something acute or critical in nature, or it can be something more long term. Technology will play a significant role in the industry, and it could be related to how drugs or devices or therapies are developed, all the way through the full patient care continuum. For example, technology will be infused with pre-diagnosis, to disease symptoms management, to surgery, to patient education. There’s tremendous opportunity in that space, and it’s very motivating!

What is one type of technology you are most excited about?

One thing that comes to mind is wearables. When you track your activities, your nutrition, and your blood pressure, you are contributing to your overall quality of life, and the prevention of disease and illness. It’s a great example of how technology is already having an impact on our day to day health and wellness, and it is something that was adopted pretty quickly. It’s just the beginning of what will be capable over time.

What questions are you asking yourself?

I’ve been asking myself how do I stay relevant, which relates very nicely to a couple of the things we’ve talked about today. The themes of being curious, being a continuous learner, being flexible, being adaptable, the evolution of “always try your best”. For me, it’s what do I want to learn? Learning is very motivating for me — it is something that I can control.

So, to stay relevant, I am trying my best to read something every day, even if it is brief. There are many great and free newsletters and articles that feed you information. You can pick and choose what topics or insights you want to dig more into.

The world has just opened up so much from an educational perspective, and it is so easy to tap into different topics and online courses to further your personal and professional development.

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