If you haven’t already, we hope you’ll begin reading this 2-part series by viewing part 1, where we profile 5 women who we’ve identified among specialty pharmacy’s most highly-regarded leaders. In the conclusion to this series, you’ll meet another group of women who are applying their unique capabilities and expertise to positively impact their organizations, as well as the industry at large.
Nicole Hebbert, vice president, patient access and engagement at UBC
As vice president of patient access and engagement at UBC, Nicole Hebbert is responsible for providing manufacturers with best-in-class services to prescribers and patients, including patient support and assistance programs, reimbursement hub services, as well as the administration of risk evaluation and mitigation strategies (REMS) programs.
According to her colleagues, Hebbert possesses the ideal mix of tremendous industry expertise with a passion for improving health care. They often hear Hebbert reminding her team that behind every phone call, fax, or email, is a patient in need of care. In her current role, Hebbert is also committed to developing appropriate solutions for products that may treat small or large patient populations. Clients widely recognize her for her knowledge in the areas of patient access programs, compliance and regulations, and reimbursement processes.
Hebbert has more than 20 years of experience in specialty pharmacy operations, and has applied this knowledge to strategically partner with pharmaceutical manufacturers throughout her career. This culminated in her move to UBC, in which she used this expertise to influence the design and delivery of patient support services. She has also been involved in specialty pharmacy engagements with leading insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, and plan sponsors.
Hebbert’s commitment to high-quality services stems, in large part, from her own experience as a patient. As an individual living with lupus, she has a unique perspective on patient care and the challenges associated with managing a chronic, lifelong condition.
She strongly believes that a diagnosis of this kind doesn’t need to be a limiting factor in life, either personally or professionally. Perhaps most importantly, she takes the lessons she learned from her own treatment to help improve care delivery.
For example, Hebbert has drawn from her own experience in managing this condition as an opportunity to teach her team, coworkers, and colleagues about what it’s like to be a patient living with a serious health issue. Those around her also know that Hebbert is particularly dedicated to improving patient access to powerful therapies. She applies her unique expertise to develop the most efficient processes and routes to help patients quickly receive the treatment they need.
Hebbert also gained a strong perspective on the need for patient-centered care in her very first job, working on the front lines of a patient contact center at Priority Healthcare Specialty Pharmacy. Hebbert’s skills and ambition accelerated her career rapidly, moving from supervisory positions all the way to a vice president role in just over a decade. She also led her teams through multiple acquisitions, ensuring seamless integration during and after every transaction to help the organization maintain its overarching focus on patient care despite these transitions.
Hebbert has continued this philosophy throughout her career, inspiring her employees by example, and motivating them through her own hard work and perseverance. She credits her own mentors for helping her learn and grow in her career and in turn, she has taken the time to give back to her own coworkers and employees. She also regularly extends support to other individuals living with serious autoimmune issues, through her community work through the Lupus Foundation of America and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
When asked what she enjoys most about working in the specialty pharmacy industry, Hebbert cites the ability to make an impact on people’s lives, knowing that even the simplest task she performs may positively affect a chronically ill patient down the line. She is also excited by the new, dynamic technologies that are improving access to treatment by removing burdens on prescribers, payers, and patients.
Hebbert is particularly passionate about exploring ways to create more connected care by standardizing information sharing across electronic medical records and other health care and pharmacy databases. All of these concepts are driving Hebbert to explore new possibilities within her own organization in order to stay on the cutting-edge of new technologies that have the potential to positively impact patient care.
When thinking about her own success, Hebbert credits her willingness to be inquisitive, seeking new information and wisdom from other leaders. She believes that by looking outside of ourselves, we can all play a role in furthering the industry—for example, by addressing the fragmentation of care delivery.
Hebbert regularly advises other young leaders to value their emotional intelligence, as patient care is about so much more than just developing the most efficient, logical solutions to any problem. And in fact, it’s this ability to mix compassion, expertise, and wisdom, which has been the formula for Hebbert’s own success.
Abby Kaplan, general counsel; chief compliance officer; executive vice president of administration for Avella Specialty Pharmacy
Abby Kaplan married into a family filled with doctors and other care practitioners. As such, she is frequently surrounded by individuals in this industry, both in her personal or professional life. Yet for her own career, Kaplan decided to take a slightly different path while still maintaining a connection to health care.
Instead of becoming a pharmacist or doctor, she graduated with a law degree and began working in litigation with a firm that frequently partnered with pharmaceutical manufacturers. Her early exposure to that sector gave Kaplan a unique appreciation of the challenges and opportunities that accompany partnering with these organizations. Kaplan enjoyed working within this environment and, as a result, she knew her career was on the right trajectory.
A move to Arizona in 2011 was the impetus for Kaplan’s transition to in-house corporate roles, which begin with a leading dermatology product manufacturer headquartered in Scottsdale. The organization created a new role for Kaplan focused solely on litigation support, in which she represented the company in any potential government investigations and complex litigations.
In 2015, she learned about Avella Specialty Pharmacy, another Arizona-based company. At Avella, Kaplan would have the chance to contribute to an even more patient-centered organization, as the specialty pharmacy is known for its patient engagement approach and the knowledge of its clinical team. Despite not having specific specialty pharmacy experience, Kaplan had the right mix of skills and legal expertise needed to show Rebecca Shanahan, Avella’s CEO, that she was the right fit for the company’s general counsel role.
In her current role, Kaplan is responsible for ensuring that Avella's specialty pharmacy and compounding operations are conducted in compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements while also serving as a trusted advisor to Avella's senior management team and the board of directors. She is able to succinctly and clearly communicate the implications of new laws and regulations relating to the changing healthcare landscape of specialty pharmacy and outsourcing, and makes strategic recommendations on how Avella can continue its incredible growth in this changing environment.
Kaplan also shares her CEO’s passion for giving back to the industry and has done so in a variety of ways. In 2016, she designed and developed a new 1-day conference in cooperation with Shanahan. The annual Specialty Pharmacy Law Conference was rolled out in cooperation with the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy.
It continues to this day and is intended for general counsel and in-house counsel for national and regional specialty pharmacies, practicing attorneys in health care law, compliance officers, and executives concerned with the legal and regulatory requirements, as well as the extraordinary complexities of operating a specialty pharmacy. The event draws hundreds of legal professionals every year and attendees can receive Continuing Legal Education credits for participation. Kaplan also is active in charitable work throughout her community, including fundraising and event planning benefitting rare cancer research, an area of particular interest for her.
When asked about her advice to others just starting out in this sector, Kaplan encourages these individuals to constantly stay up-to-date on the industry environment, as it is changing rapidly. In fact, that is one of the things she loves best about working in specialty pharmacy, along with being part of an organization positively impacting patient safety and quality of care. She also likes to give back to these up-and-coming professionals as much as she can, which is Kaplan’s way of passing on the type of mentorship she’s received from incredible female leaders throughout her career.