Culture of public health, patient focus inspire biotech leader
Lisa Bowers, MHSA ’98
Chief Commercial Officer for Day One Biopharmaceuticals
Looking back, Lisa Bowers can trace her interest in public health to two societal crises that loomed over her as a teen: the emergence of HIV/AIDS and the attacks on abortion rights.
“It seemed to me, as a teen, that I was facing huge public health issues every day,” said Bowers, who earned a Master of Health Services Administration from the Department of Health Management and Policy in the School of Public Health in 1998. “I found myself thinking about macro public health debates that could impact me personally — like the risk of pregnancy, of STDs, of drinking and driving, the necessity for bike helmets, and fluoride in my water — and wanted to find a way to shape the community conversation on public health through my career.”
Bowers, now chief commercial officer (CCO) for Day One Biopharmaceuticals in San Francisco, received a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale, which helped her develop important communication and empathy skills early in her career that are critical in life sciences management.
“As a manager, I need to fully understand the experiences of the individuals I lead in order to help them perform at their best and consider how my actions and decisions can affect individuals throughout the company who I perhaps have not even met,” she said.
“This empathy is particularly important in health care because we are dealing with people’s lives. We embrace a sense of personal commitment when we work in biotech, knowing that our work can make such an indelible impact on the lives of not only the patients but also their families. We want to understand their experiences and find ways to support them — not only with medicines, but with support services and community connections. If we work with empathy, we can find ways to create change for the better.”
At Michigan Public Health, Bowers founded the Women’s Health Student Collective (WHSC) because of her passion for and commitment to women's health and reproductive health.
Part of her passion for reproductive health came from intergenerational trauma. An older relative had experienced a sexual assault followed by an illegal abortion that left her infertile. Her grandmother experienced an unplanned pregnancy because she had no access to contraception.
“I carry these events with me in my life — along with the recognition that I would not have had the ability to build the career that I have had and support my family if I couldn’t manage my own fertility decisions,” Bowers said.
This is a fundamental issue to the future of women’s rights.
While earning her master’s degree at Michigan, Bowers selected a suite of classes that helped her refine critical competencies that would serve to accelerate her career ambitions.
She gained a holistic understanding of how the US health care system works and how the economics behind health care drive access to care, which Bowers credited as a “major part of my success.”
At Day One Biopharmaceuticals, “I am responsible for decisions like how we will ultimately price our products and the services we establish to support patients and families,” she said. “I am also considering critical economic trade-offs for our company, so the foundational classes on the US health system and economics curriculum has contributed to my capabilities and confidence as a leader.”
Bowers also took classes on epidemiology and biostatistics at Michigan, which “gave me a necessary proficiency to help interpret data, including clinical trials results as well as the results of my teams’ quantitative research efforts.
“The epidemiology of any disease is the main driver behind both the value of any market as well as a marker of the breadth and depth of a company’s investment in trying to reach those patients and their physicians. We need to understand these key data points to inform our decision making.”
Her class in operations research helped in prior roles when she ran a large patient assistance call center and when she was the regional lead for North American supply chain. Classes in finance and accounting helped Bowers not only lead those organizations but also benefited her during a tenure as a venture investor, where she evaluated the financial viability and health of companies considered for seed investments.
Ultimately, her time at Michigan brought Bowers a sense of community and purpose.
“The most important thing that I learned at Michigan is that I’m not alone in my passion for public health,” Bowers said. “There are so many people who want to ‘nerd out’ with me about how to bring important medicines to developing countries, how to provide services to Medicaid communities, and how to drive real health education to change the behaviors and choices of large groups of people.
“I had never known that such a group of people existed before coming to Michigan. Now, I embrace this culture of public health and patient focus and see it as a fundamental for any role I take in my career.”