Rochelle Waterhouse ’14 is director of marketing for the medical distributor Medline Industries. Earlier, she worked for pharmaceutical manufacturer Shire (formerly Baxter) in consumer marketing, payor marketing and sales roles. Prior to attending Kellogg, Rochelle worked in market research and digital advertising at Rosetta, a Publicis company, serving a broad range of healthcare clients, from device start-ups to payors to pharmaceutical manufacturers.
What’s one impact you’d like to highlight?
I’m proud to have worked for a company that produces life-saving medications for people with rare bleeding disorders.
As part of the hematology business unit for Shire, I quickly found that although only 20,000 patients across the country were inflicted with this rare disease, they had a large voice. How that developed was fascinating: the medications are made with components of donated blood, and some patients treated with these products in the 1980s died due to blood tainted with HIV; as a result, patients advocated for seats at the table with pharmaceutical manufacturers to promote both efficacy and safety.
I was able to work directly with such patient communities to understand how to serve their needs. In the pharmaceutical world there are lots of barriers preventing such open dialogues, so it was a rare opportunity to speak with end-users, to bring their voice more fully into the business. My employer supported the effort by providing excellent ethics training along with “open doors” to talk to management about anything that came up.
Our mentality was that patient needs always come first. When you have good people with strong morals working on these initiatives, the results can be very meaningful.
“Healthcare is a business”—what’s your take on this statement?
I agree, but I think it’s important to recognize both good and more challenging implications.
Private healthcare firms are willing to take more financial risks to discover life-changing treatments than government-backed healthcare firms. These large investments in new medical innovations from private firms have benefited patients. For example, in my lifetime we have seen huge strides in patients’ life expectancies and quality of life, from AIDS to cystic fibrosis to hemophilia. The business of healthcare is largely responsible for that.
However, the business of healthcare has challenges we need to consider too. I entered the field with experience only as a consumer of healthcare, but as I began to work in the field I came to realize that healthcare businesses are first and foremost businesses. If the business’s goal aligns with patient needs, great. Most U.S. consumers of healthcare assume their hospitals, physicians, pharmacists, policymakers and insurers will put the patient’s best interest before the company’s. This is not always the case. The onus is on the patient to figure out whom they can trust for guidance—a challenge in the increasingly complex U.S. healthcare system.
How has Kellogg been of value for you?
In general, my peers at Kellogg inspired me to think bigger about my career path than I ever would have on my own. Kellogg students also tend to not only be naturally book smart but emotionally intelligent. Kellogg hones students’ soft skills, such as active listening, navigating through conflict and collective decision-making. These skills matter more in my day-to-day than I ever envisioned they would!
Whenever I’m seeking career guidance, the Kellogg network is my first stop. There’s a camaraderie between alumni that’s almost impossible to describe; it’s reflected in how I get an immediate reply any time I reach out.
As it relates to my career in healthcare, it's fascinating to work in the business of healthcare during a period of massive policy change. I’ve needed to understand how political views impact the markets I’ve worked in, and my Kellogg courses provided great strategic frameworks for this.
I also learned a lot from healthcare extracurricular activities at Kellogg. I helped run the healthcare club, creating an alumni steering committee to understand and shape the healthcare program’s specific value proposition. We also worked with Professor Tim Calkins to enhance and market the Biotech Case Competitions, which attracts more than 20 schools from across the world.
Finally, I met my husband at Kellogg—he’s also from the MBA Class of 2014. So that was of value!
I’m very proud to be a Kellogg grad.
What’s your advice for rising leaders in healthcare and business more broadly?
For anyone entering healthcare for the first time, I know it can feel intimidating. Healthcare has so many acronyms and feels very siloed. But there are advantages to being new – you bring a fresh perspective to the company and can ensure we limit jargon unfamiliar to the healthcare consumer. It’s also the perfect opportunity to ask good questions. It’s very likely your coworkers might be wondering the same thing but are reluctant to ask. You'll be glad you slowed everyone down to ensure alignment.
More broadly, my advice to rising leaders in any industry is to think long term. Consider out-of-the-box roles to expand your skill sets, whether in sales, market research or other functional areas. Lateral moves will stretch you, show you the business from different vantage points and boost your credibility as you move up. Lastly, remember you were new to the working world once. Treat everyone as you’d like to be treated.