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Students, healthcare industry experts and leading academics gather every year for the Malcolm MacEachern Symposium, an opportunity to connect with peers and explore the complex challenge facing the healthcare field. Taryn Puranmalka ’22 (2Y) shares her experience attending this year’s conference, which was held in person at the Global Hub and focused on the theme, “Biopharmaceutical Innovation After the Pandemic.”   

Tell us a little about yourself and your interest in healthcare. 

I’m a Full-Time MBA student at Kellogg.  Before embarking on my MBA journey, I worked in nursing for five years. I’ll be graduating in a few weeks and am planning to join McKinsey Chicago to focus on healthcare consulting. I’ve been involved in the Healthcare Club and have taken many courses within the Healthcare at Kellogg (HCAK) pathway, so I was very excited to attend the MacEachern Symposium, which was back in person this year.  

What is the MacEachern Symposium?  

Dr. Malcolm T. MacEachern was a legendary figure in healthcare management with a strong drive to improve the standards and quality of medical care delivery. After working on quality improvement with the American College of Surgeons and creating the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, MacEachern founded a hospital administration program (now the Healthcare program at Kellogg) in 1943. His students started the Malcolm MacEachern Lecture in 1976 in his honor and it evolved into a full-day symposium in 1983. The symposium has continued annually at Kellogg in his honor and features globally distinguished speakers and business leaders to discuss the most pressing issues in the healthcare industry. 

Why Attend the MacEachern Symposium? 

For any student interested in healthcare, this is a great event to hear from industry and academic experts while networking with peers and alumni. The MacEachern is a high-quality conference and coming from the provider world within healthcare, it’s been a major goal of mine to understand the larger ecosystem of different players during my MBA journey.

The “Biopharmaceutical” focus of this event meant hearing from those who worked in big and small pharma along with those who invest in innovation. The experience was complemented by perspectives from the FDA and a major payor (Cigna). It was a unique way to gain a diversely represented view into an area of healthcare that I’m still learning about. 

Curious to learn more about the MacEachern Symposium? Read the highlights of my experience over the event below. 

Networking and a conversation with a Kellogg alumnus leading in healthcare 

On Thursday night, students and alumni met at MATTER, Chicago’s healthcare startup incubator at the Merchandise Mart. After saying a quick hello to some friends, I met a few Kellogg alumni over drinks. Shoutout to Kat, who shared her post-Kellogg career path at AbbVie and career advice.  

Taryn Puranmalka ’22 (2Y)  with other students at 2022 MacEachern Symposium
Kellogg MBA students during a networking break at MacEachern Symposium 2022 

Professor Craig Garthwaite
moderated a talk with Jeff Walsh ’93, a fellow Kellogg graduate. After starting his career in big pharma, he’s made a dizzying number of moves between pharma startups and now has settled into VC at Third Rock Ventures. Jeff spoke about how responsibility to the patient is a core tenant of his business strategy; even to the point of not selling a company because his team felt better equipped to handle the technology for patients. He also talked about the complexities of decision-making when it comes to patient-centered care. 

Diving deep through keynotes and panels  

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, leads a keynote speech 2022 MacEachern
Scott Gottlieb, MD and former FDA Commissioner was this year's keynote speaker

The day kicked off in Evanston at the Global Hub, one of the newest buildings at Kellogg. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, led a keynote via Zoom to share his thoughts on current issues within the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. Given recent tensions in the pharma space, he summed up the current situation as a questioning of how our system is set up. The system is set up to heavily invest in high-quality research, outcomes, drugs, and more. In his opinion, the United States is questioning this in two ways: (1) the pricing/profitability model for these companies and (2) what the government role should be in drug development (e.g. more original NIH research, price controls, etc.). During the following networking break, a few students and I met a Chicago-local health lawyer and Janssen employee who gave a lecture-quality overview of the J&J lawsuit against SaveOn (thank you, Kathy!).  

The following panel focused on China as an emerging biotech consumer and supplier. Ricky Sun from Bain Capital Life Sciences discussed how China’s development has made the market more attractive and regulatory changes have made it easier to enter that market. Patrik Ringblom brought his perspective as the VP of Janssen Business Development sharing how they were able to partner with a Chinese company (Legend) to commercialize a product together. It was a nuanced discussion on the current opportunities to invest and partner in China such as the potential benefits and tradeoffs of sourcing clinical trials there.  

Connecting with peers, and even more learning from distinguished speakers 

Over lunch, I was able to reconnect with some friends from other programs like Federica, an Evening & Weekend student I met over the HCAK Deep Dive program. In the next session, we dove into the system of NIH research, peer reviews, and funding with Dr. Pierre Azoulay. He discussed how NIH funded researchers are not incentivized to take risks and how the peer review process does not differentiate average ratings from diverse ratings.  

Dr. Pierre Azoulay at 2022 MacEachern
Dr. Pierre Azoulay served as this year's Memorial Lecturer

Dr. Steve Miller, Cigna’s Chief Clinical Officer, took the stage to discuss how payors are innovating and planning to pay for innovations. He talked about the main three areas he and Cigna are focusing on including drug payments, re-platforming healthcare, and behavioral health. The discussion also highlighted Cigna’s recent acquisition of Express Scripts and the consolidation in the PBM market. After the sessions, we were able to continue networking over drinks.  

Dr. Steve Miller, Cigna’s Chief Clinical Officer at 2022 MacEachern Symposium
Steve Miller, MD leading the Lakeside Chat: Paying for New Innovations
Taryn Puranmalka ’22 (2Y) at 2022 MacEachern healthcare symposium
Taryn pictured next to Paul Campbell (L) and Professor Craig Garthwaite (R)

What I Gained  
MacEachern provided two days of fostering connections with alumni and fellow students as well as high-quality discussions of current biopharmaceutical trends. I could list many people who made this event possible and contributed to its success, but I am extremely grateful to Julie Gertz, Professor Garthwaite, and Professor Paul Campbell who made it all happen. 

Although I’m saddened to leave the student experience in a few weeks, it is exciting to know that I can still attend MacEachern as an alumna. 

Learn more about the MBA Healthcare program at Kellogg.