Just as eyeforpharma 2018 began to wind down, there was a vibrant burst of energy and focus. It was time to present the eyeforpharma Lifetime Achievement award.
This honor is not presented for work done in the last few months or even in the last few years. It represents a broad and deep body of work done over a lifetime. As in the past, the recipient represents someone who has dedicated themselves to patient’s needs and steadfastly focused on the patient’s voice — long before it was a prevailing topic or driving inspiration.
So, without further ado, the 2018 eyeforpharma Lifetime Achievement award went to Julie Louise Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., executive vice president and chief patient officer, strategic communications, global public policy and population health, Merck & Co., Inc.
Leading up to her current position, Dr. Gerberding held such prestigious positions as American infectious disease expert and was also the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
It’s beside the bedside that I get my energy. It’s where I renew my passion and my purpose in life.”
As Dr. Gerberding took the stage, Paul Simms, eyeforpharma chairman, spoke warmly of the award winner. “Judy is passionate about what she does. Since I’ve known her, she’s been driven by what’s best for the patient. She worked on the AIDS epidemic long before it was even known to be an infectious disease.”
Taking the microphone to thank eyeforpharma for the honor, Dr. Gerberding paused for a moment and then sent out a warm thank you to her patients. “It’s beside the bedside that I get my energy. It’s where I renew my passion and my purpose in life.”
Truth is, Dr. Gerberding said, she knew she would be a patient advocate since turning four. “Santa Claus brought me a doctor’s kit. So, it was about that time when I knew my destiny — my calling — and I’ve been so fortunate to have every opportunity to remain true to that dream.”
Her dedication to the patient’s voice, as she explained, largely evolved in the very early years of AIDS, long before it was identified as a virus or any medications existed to treat patients. “In that time, my patients became my best teachers,” Dr. Gerberding explained. “They taught me to listen, collaborate in the development of treatment decisions, and even talk about where they wanted to die. Those patients were the genesis for where we are today in the world of patient engagement. They are wonderful examples of what can be accomplished when patients advocate individually as well as systemically for care improvements. Just think about where we are today! We owe them a thank you for their commitment to that purpose, and I look forward to a time when we thank today’s patients with a similar gratitude.”
Until that day comes, Dr. Gerberding — and her esteemed peers, students, and coworkers — are listening.