Is it just us, or do pharma and medical device meeting professionals seem to face more and more challenges every day?

They must ensure compliance amid the ever-changing regulatory landscape, continue to execute stellar events despite budget cuts and perception challenges, and track and report on nearly every aspect of meeting spend. All while ensuring their meetings not only satisfy attendee and meeting sponsor expectations, but also deliver return on investment. Dedication, perseverance, and leadership are all pre-requisites for the job.

So when MM sister publication Corporate Meetings & Incentives set out to identify its 20 Changemakers for 2009 — the 20 individuals who exemplify the crème de la crème of the meetings industry — we weren't surprised to find that six pharma meeting planners.

For the following medical meeting professionals, it's not enough to simply deliver on the aforementioned goals. They have earned the unique distinction of “Changemakers” for their ability to successfully initiate strategic meetings management programs at their respective companies, gain the respect of the top brass, and help elevate the meetings role to a strategic function.

They also share their knowledge and expertise, acting as leaders, mentors, and teachers to others in the industry and beyond. Here's how they got to where they are today and how they plan to continue to advance their roles — and the profession — going forward.

And the Winners Are …

Debbie Andersen
Senior Manager, Americas Meetings & Conventions
Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics

Kathy Lieberman
Manager, Event Management
GlaxoSmithKline

Donna Foppoli-Patrick, CMP, CMM
Manager, Group Meetings, Events, and Travel
Medtronic Inc.

Marybeth Roberts, CMP
Director of Global Meeting Management
Amgen

Tom Tolvé, CMP
Senior Manager, Meeting Operations
Novo Nordisk

Alice Woychik
Director of Meeting Solutions
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.

Sidebar #1: How the Winners Were Chosen

Our sister publication Corporate Meetings & Incentives reached out to fellow editors at MeetingsNet, a focus group of high-profile meeting-planner readers, and members of a specially created advisory board to develop a universe of nominees and select the winners. The advisory board members included:

Lee Ann Adams Mikeman, VP conference planning and special events, Science Applications International Corp., McLean, Va.

Betsy Bondurant, CMP, CMM, president, Bondurant Consulting, Coronado, Calif.

Terri Breining, CMP, CMM, formerly president of Concepts Worldwide Inc., Carlsbad, Calif.

Dianne Devitt, CMP, owner, DND Group, New York

Joan L. Eisenstodt, chief strategist, Eisenstodt Associates, LLC, Washington

Julie Martinez, CMP, CMM, director, events and incentives, Lennox Industries, Richardson, Texas

Debbie Andersen
Senior Manager, Americas Meetings and Conventions
Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics
Deerfield, Ill.

Past: Debbie Andersen began her career at Dade Behring in 1997 as an administrative assistant, moved into the meetings department 18 months later, and took the reins of that department in 2005. Two years and one corporate acquisition later, Andersen assumed her current role.

Cred: She has been instrumental in developing the company's SMMP, having implemented online registration and centralized sourcing and planning of meetings.

Forward Thinking: Andersen and her team have been focusing on a green meetings initiative for the past year that incorporates environmentally and socially conscious efforts while maintaining cost efficiencies. So far, they have worked with hotels to donate excess food, conserve energy, and reduce material use, and they will be expanding on these efforts in the future.

Advice: “Regardless of whether you are on the planner or supplier side, take time to create and develop partnerships,” says Andersen. “That is something I pride myself on.”

Kathy Lieberman
Manager, Event Management
GlaxoSmithKline
Philadelphia

Past: Lieberman has been in the events industry for 35 years — 28 of which have been at GSK. When SmithKline Beecham merged with Glaxo Wellcome in 2000 to form GSK, Lieberman and her staff of one became a cross-campus team of 10. She has been heading up the event management team in Philadelphia and Research Triangle Park, N.C., for the past five years.

Cred: Lieberman was instrumental in getting an SMMP off the ground at GSK after the merger. The team, working under an outsourcing model, now has a preferred-hotel program for all meetings conducted in the U.S. and also uses preferred suppliers for group air, event management, and venue sourcing.

Aha! Moment: One day Lieberman got a call from an admin who had signed a contract for a meeting and was stuck with a huge cancellation fee. “That was a real wake-up call for us as a team,” she says. “We needed a higher, more strategic view of our total meeting package — not just the ones we had our hands on.”

Forward Thinking: The event management team at GSK is taking a hard look at virtual meetings. “New technology will give us opportunities to shorten meetings or have more frequent meetings while minimizing the travel component.”

Donna Foppoli-Patrick, CMP, CMM
Manager, Group Meetings, Events, and Travel
Medtronic
Minneapolis

Past: Foppoli-Patrick came to Medtronic in 2001 as a planner in the company's CardioVascular business unit and soon was promoted to manager of her department. In 2007, she was promoted again and moved from California to Medtronic's world headquarters in Minneapolis to develop, launch, and manage its SMMP.

Cred: Foppoli-Patrick created a meetings advisory board composed of internal senior-level planners and managers from various divisions in the company. “I have involved them along the way and asked for their feedback on the improvements we make,” she says. She is now considering an international meetings advisory board to assist with her team's effort to expand the SMMP globally, which is expected to launch in 2011.

Giving Back: She is president-elect of the Minnesota Chapter of Meeting Professionals International and still finds time to mentor four Medtronic employees who are interested in getting more involved in meetings management. “We try to meet quarterly to discuss their career paths and what they can be doing to advance in this industry.”

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Marybeth Roberts, CMP
Director of Global Meeting Management
Amgen
Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Past: Roberts has taken on an increasingly strategic role at Amgen in the nine years since she came on board (after 17 years with Procter & Gamble). In January, she was promoted to her current position.

Cred: Roberts was brought to Amgen to help consolidate meetings companywide. In January 2008, she was part of a team that presented an opportunity analysis to senior management realigning the meetings team and consolidating meetings across the organization. The team received approval, and Roberts worked with Amgen's sourcing department to create an operational structure for the newly formed global meetings management team, which was rolled out last year. She worked with the sourcing department to create the policy, which includes preferred suppliers, a meeting registration platform, and outsourced meeting logistics.

Giving Back: About three years ago, Roberts spoke at the Pharmaceutical Meeting Management Forum (co-organized by Medical Meetings magazine) for the first time. “That is when I realized that we had a great story that people really wanted to hear.”

Tom Tolvé
Senior Manager of Meeting Operations
Novo Nordisk
Princeton, N.J.

Past: Tolvé came to Novo Nordisk in 2002 from Bristol-Myers Squibb and three years later began the drive to implement the company's SMMP.

Cred: Tolvé boasts a 15 percent savings, on average, for meetings booked through the program. Tolvé and his team have forged strong partnerships with the procurement, compliance, and legal departments to develop policies on everything from registering meetings and using preferred suppliers to tracking data and ensuring compliance with the regulatory guidelines for pharma companies.

Success Story: One of Tolvé's biggest accomplishments has been generating revenue through his department. He has negotiated preferred-supplier agreements that stipulate Novo Nordisk will get rebates for using these vendors. Also, when his team uses third-party logistics suppliers, they split hotel commissions with the company.

Forward Thinking: Tolvé has his sights set on small meetings that come in below the minimum requirements for using his department. “We're looking into a small-meetings tool to get a tighter capture on that spend,” he says.

Alice Woychik
Director of Meeting Solutions
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.
East Hanover, N.J.

Past: Woychik has logged 10 years in the meetings industry and has been with Novartis for the past two years.

Cred: Within six months of joining the company, Woychik had reor-ganized the entire meetings team into an account-management structure where meeting managers act as liaisons between preferred third-party logistics planners and internal meeting sponsors. She has also implemented preferred-supplier agreements, as well as a supplier relationship management model, which was rolled out in 2008.

Forward Thinking: Woychik is leading a cross-operational team tasked with rolling out a new technology solution and developing a new process for capturing and reporting on physician spend data in order to comply with increased regulations in the pharma sector. The new operational structure for data reporting is expected to launch later this year; the technology solution went live in July.

Advice: “You don't have to be in a leadership position to bring new ideas to the table. Always look forward to the next thing and push the envelope, and you will differentiate yourself and your organization.”