The future of women’s healthcare lies in horizontal collaboration and preventive medicine. Women make up more than half of the US population, yet their unique and specific medical needs are frequently ignored. Many women receive fragmented, inadequate care that leads to either no diagnosis or misdiagnosis. As an industry, we must evolve and progress to a horizontal care pathway, especially for women. We should concentrate on establishing an approach that is focused on preventive and personalized care versus a decentralized approach in which her signs, symptoms and/or family history, may be lost in translation.
Kaile Zagger, Chief Operating Officer of Aspira Women’s Health Inc, has been praised by her peers and the healthcare community at large for bringing a fresh and transformative perspective to the healthcare industry over the course of the past twenty years. She has been acclaimed for her leadership style and unique abilities to bring insights to businesses and bring them to unprecedented levels of growth.
Kaile’s career began in the Global Leadership Development Program at General Electric, where she was deeply rooted in strong process management, financial principles, leadership rigor, and Six Sigma methodology. She has been awarded for her people-centric leadership style and ability to pivot businesses while building a strong culture of collaboration and cross- functional leadership.
Although Kaile’s career has been spent in large cap healthcare companies, she most recently joined Aspira due to a long-held personal mission. She is firmly committed to bringing about the transformation of the prevention and diagnosis paradigm for ovarian cancer, one of the most lethal of cancers. Kaile emphasizes that prevention and awareness efforts, widespread use of novel diagnostic tools to enable early diagnosis and treatment, and public advocacy for a definitive call to action are key elements for progress concerning this malignancy. Tragically, her mother died of ovarian cancer in 1999 at the young age of 46, a victim of the fragmented and unorganized state of the healthcare industry.
Kaile has dedicated her life to improving businesses and delivery systems in order to improve patient care. Her dedication extends to ensuring the preservation of lives through improved access to healthcare and acceleration of products to market that are life-saving. Her ongoing efforts have brought the vision and practice of “the whole” business to the forefront of the minds of her peers. In her presentations of transformational principles, Kaile states that the components represent a Venn diagram that are inextricably linked. She emphasizes that in order to transform and lift the whole one must improve the parts – all of the parts.
Please brief our audience about Aspira Women’s Health, its mission, and the key aspects of its stronghold within the women’s health solutions niche.
Kaile has served various Fortune 500 healthcare companies and has brought her accomplished history to Aspira Women’s Health with a mission to strongly transform and position the company for acceleration and growth. The mission of Aspira Women’s Health is to transform women’s health, starting with ovarian cancer. Kaile notes that Aspira is dedicated to discovering, developing, and utilizing novel high value diagnostic and bioanalytical solutions that help physicians diagnose, treat, and improve gynecologic health outcomes for women.
“Our product portfolio includes an ovarian cancer risk assessment tool for women with pelvic masses called OVA1plusTM as well as another innovative ovarian cancer risk assessment test for women with pelvic masses that we will be launching soon OVAWATCH. Our portfolio also includes GenetiXSM, genetic testing to for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Our Synergy technology transfer platform provides clinicians the ability to run Aspira’s portfolio of testing options at the point of care, such as hospitals or regional/local laboratories. This allows more healthcare providers and their patients easy access to these ground-breaking tests,” notes Kaile.
“About 10% of ovarian cancer cases are due to hereditary, so early knowledge that a woman has a genetic risk can make a tremendous difference in survival. It’s also important to note that there still is no FDA-approved screening test for ovarian cancer. Moreover, many women and, tragically, their doctors dismiss the subtle symptoms of this devastating disease,” explains Kaile.
Tell us more about the solutions that give Aspira Women’s Health a distinctive edge to stand out from the competition?
“Aspira is completely focused on developing early detection solutions for ovarian cancer. We collaborate with key leaders in this field, including Elena Ratner, MD, associate professor obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive services and co-chief of gynecologic oncology at Yale University School of Medicine. These integral working partnerships help us to further develop the product pipeline and accelerate a solution for early detection of ovarian cancer,” says Kaile.
When a healthcare provider has identified a mass and is planning surgery – it’s imperative to understand if that mass has a risk of ovarian cancer so the provider can determine the correct next step. If the results indicate low risk, the surgery can be performed by a gynecologist; if the results show high risk, the patient should be referred to a gynecologic oncologist, according to Kaile
“There is a significant difference in the 5-year survival rate for ovarian cancer when it is detected early (stage I) – 93%—compared to late stage detection (stage III and IV) 30%. Unfortunately, most patients—more than 60%—are diagnosed with late-stage disease. Kaile notes “Aspira’s OVA1®plus test is unique in that it is able to confidently detect risk in the early stage,” notes Kaile
She continues “Although healthcare providers often use the blood test CA-125 to assess ovarian cancer risk, it does not have FDA clearance for this use. OVA1® (a component of OVA1®plus) has been shown to perform better than CA-125 in detecting ovarian cancer risk in Black women; this is important to ensure risk is not missed, and that all women, regardless of race or ethnicity, are assessed accurately.”
“As a result of the success of our innovative tests, in 2021, amidst a pandemic, we have outperformed all previous years and have had eight record months of performance,” says Kaile.
As a seasoned business leader, what is your opinion on the effects of the pandemic on the healthcare sector, and what were the challenges that Aspira Women’s Health came across?
“I would summarize these effects as follows”, explains Kaile:
- Commercial – Commercial access within physician practices and health systems has become increasingly challenging. This has accelerated our strategic plans around digitalization and integration within our go-to-market. We hired a cutting-edge and highly progressive chief marketing officer from the private equity and CPG space to accelerate this transformation.
- War on Talent – Corporations must evolve and progress for success in the future post-pandemic world. There are multiple factors that the best minds weigh when contemplating their careers. In order to secure great talent, companies must evolve. They must have great leadership who understands how to effectively lead in a hybrid work environment. Strong, open, flexible, and rigorous leadership at the highest and middle organization ranks is key to successful progression.
- Organizational Challenges- I have a fundamental belief in the power of collaboration and what is created when people are inspired, supported, and moving towards insights together. The pandemic has presented significant challenges for everyone, including having to revisit how, when, and where we collaborate.
“We have moved to a highly structured, well-defined, limited in-person environment at Aspira,” notes Kaile. “Key performance indicators and metrics for growth have never been higher at our company. Our teams are firing on all cylinders and performing at the highest levels in the company’s history – all with our new remote work structure in place. We are midstream on a large-scale transformation of the company, which we have accomplished faster and more efficiently than expected. We attribute this success to the agility we have deployed and the processes we have put in place to harness and capture the levels of brilliance that can come from a strong balance of work and home.”
Kaile continues “A time of crisis for women has emerged, and it is something that I take very seriously. Here are some of the important points:” –
- In 2015, the attrition rate for companies was slightly higher for men than women.
- The pandemic has radically changed that progression, and we are in an emergency situation for women in the workforce.
- The potential impact of $1T to GDP by 2030 if we allow a gender regressive situation to play out compared to a $13T additive to GDP in the same time frame if we protect women in the workplace.
- We must change how work is done and make significant investments in flexible work environments in order to retain employees who are most affected by the new normal. We must nurture a culture in which women have equal opportunity to achieve their potential and positively impact corporate America – the way the statistics show they do. There is a direct correlation between profitability and employee satisfaction when women are in leadership positions in a corporation.
- Up to 2M women are considering leaving the workforce – we are heading into a crisis, and the great downshift and action are required by leaders to ensure we continue to progress.
- Decades of research show that women do significantly more housework and childcare than men – so much so that women who are employed full time are often said to be working a double shift.
- With the pandemic, mothers are more than 3 times as likely as fathers to be responsible for the home. They are 1.5 times more likely than fathers to spend an additional 3 hours or more per day on housework and childcare. The challenges are even greater for the one in five mothers who don’t live with a spouse or partner.
- 1 in 3 mothers has or is considering leaving the workforce or downshifting her career because of COVID-19.
- Companies cannot afford to lose women leaders:
- Profits and shares can be close to 50% higher when women are well represented at the top.
- Senior level women have a solid and meaningful impact on company culture.
In a year marked by crisis and uncertainty, corporate America is at a crossroads. The choices companies make today will have benefits or consequences on gender equality for decades to come.
The Visionary Leader
COO Kaile Zagger has always been fierce in her commitment to success and the success of other women. Kaile fought her way to survival and self-made success after losing her mother to ovarian cancer, which gives her a deeply personal connection to eradication of late-stage cancer diagnosis.
She has experienced the devastating nature of late-stage ovarian cancer, beginning with her mother’s diagnosis at age 40 and her death only six years later. Her mother’s early death from ovarian cancer has fueled her fierce commitment to the horizontal revolution that needs to transpire within the healthcare system in order that patients are better cared for, and disease is either prevented or captured at early stage.
Her first job was at GE, where she experienced significant exposure to business in four continents through her participation in the world-renowned Jack F. Welch Leadership Development Center. She Kaile excelled in rigorous financial management and process rigor – a Six Sigma Blackbelt, Kaile is a tremendous believer in strong financial management, strong strategic planning, and lean process deployment throughout an organization.
Kaile’s over 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry has led to her emergence as a healthcare expert with significant knowledge across healthcare service lines, as well as a leader in white space builds who is renowned for her work in transforming and accelerating the performance of businesses.
She is also the cofounder of MAT Designation, a foundation built to address the unequivocal need for early detection education regarding gynecologic malignancies for healthcare professionals. Kaile is an activist and a warrior for women, and is fiercely committed to solving the ovarian cancer early detection crisis.
At Aspira, Kaile has restructured and redeployed the operations and deployment of the company’s go-to-market. In less than one year, she lifted five new verticals within the organization and has positioned the company for great success in 2022.
“There is significant power in a strong and viable healthcare system. One that intersects the right products and services at the right time, in order to save lives. The time for transformation is now. We have learned a tremendous amount through the pandemic. The healthcare industry is ever evolving and on the verge of a radical revolution across every aspect of the healthcare sector. It’s a very exciting time for patients and the future of the system,” concludes Kaile.