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Zweli Bashman | Managing Director | MSD (Pty) Ltd

From 350,000 reported cases in 1988 to just six reported cases or fewer in endemic countries, polio has been successfully eradicated, as stated by WHO data. Apart from this, the process of progressing toward eradicating other similar epidemics has been a constant endeavor to protect humans and humanity.

Observing the milestones achieved, a triggering question would be – How is this possible?

Well, the answer would be a conglomeration of facts and efforts, but the source that would top the priority list would be Medicines and Vaccines.

From the period of discovering vaccines and medicines as a tool to save lives, they have developed from ailment-treating herbs to nano pills, and their importance can be felt extensively in the age where health is prioritized before wealth.

To further aid the constant efforts of the medical community in preventing health emergencies while considering regional diversities, it has become essential to develop an efficient medical research model that can introduce novel medicines in order to satisfy the needs of the dynamic health ecosystem. To fulfill this purpose, many health organizations globally are designing solutions.

One such standout healthcare organization contributing to the development and invention of medicines and vaccines in the South African and Sub-Sahara African Region is– MSD (Pty) Ltd. This company emphasizes on scientific research and technology aid and has been successful in sprouting hope in humanity for more than 130 years.

Spearheading the transformative wheel is its Managing Director –Mr. Zweli Bashman, and holds a reputation of being an inclusive, flexible, and accessible leader.

Let us know more about how their inventions are saving lives!

The Intent of its Inception

An organization can be best introduced by its purpose.

At MSD, the team is unified around the purpose of using the power of leading-edge science to save and improve lives around the world. For more than 130 years, they have brought hope to humanity through the development of important medicines and vaccines.

Along with this, they are fostering a diverse and inclusive global workforce and operating responsibly every day to enable a safe, sustainable, and healthy future for all people and communities.

Proudly sharing the success of the organization, Zweli says, “We aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world – and today, we are at the forefront of research to deliver innovative health solutions that advance the prevention and treatment of diseases in people.

A Multifaceted Leader

To ascertain the management of an organization, the persons occupying key positions have to execute various duties and responsibilities ably. And hence, this chair should be occupied by a person who can facilitate the organization’s growth in normal as well as challenging situations.

Following this, MSD’s success is geared toward its Managing Director Mr. Zweli Bashman of the South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa region, who is holding the position since Feb 2021.

His multi-faceted personality of being an inclusive, flexible, and accessible leader is highlighted in the several senior roles he has held –from Head of Sales, Head of Marketing, and Regional Key Accounts to Head in various pharmaceutical companies within and outside of South Africa. He has also been a Business Unit Director of Vaccines at MSD- from Jan 2020 –Feb’ 2021 and recently, he was elected as the President of the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa (IPASA).

His experience and leadership have enabled MSD to deliver quality products and services to its customer base.

Products and Services for the Demographies across the Globe

MSD South Africa & Sub Saharan Africa’s therapeutic focus is on Oncology, Vaccines, HIV, and Hospital Acute care. With things getting back to normal post the COVID-19 era, Zweli feels the need to refocus on NCDs like cancer and to renew the organization’s responsibility on how to respond in the context where the world has indirectly eased its attention from other disease areas.

Over a third of all cancer deaths or cervical cancer deaths globally occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, although the region hosts only14% of the world’s female population, which clearly directs one’s attention towards the importance of cancer prevention. Speaking about the details of their cancer care services, he shares, “There are two themes that we tend to talk about regarding cancer care, cancer prevention and treatment. Cancer prevention is primarily through our HPV vaccine.”. Elaborating on HPV vaccines, Zweli says, “We have a solid partnership where we support countries across the continent with HPV vaccination programs.”

MSD aims to provide the best cancer care to create a long-lasting impact that reduces cervical cancer statistics drastically.

Their second pillar is around the treatment. He says, “We have spoken about our treatment, and we continue to work at availing and broadening access.”

Recollecting the words of the organization’s former global CEO Kenneth C. Frazier says, “Our previous CEO said there were two things we must ask ourselves as employees at MSD. 1) how many people are you helping? 2) how much help are you giving those people? Once you maximize on those two things, the commercial aspect of the business will take care of itself.”

Emphasizing MSD’s action on this advice in the present, he shares, “And for us, that is exactly what we are doing. It would not give us any joy to innovate and create all this cutting-edge science if it would not help or be used by people.”

That is the profound impact MSD has created with its dedicated services to cater to the audience.

Committed Providers

When an organization is committed to its values and service provision, it is positioned better in an industry or a sector. MSD has achieved its market positioning as a top healthcare provider as it delivers on the trust of its customers with innovative technological solutions backed by thorough research and a dedicated staff. Zweli proudly shares, “Our commitment is vast, and we’re continuously seeking ways to further invest and scale up our current efforts.”

This commitment and these efforts are mentioned by the MD as follows:

  • Investment in R&D to find scientific solutions to some of the world’s most challenging diseases. They have the continent’s largest clinical footprint, with over 1250 clinical trials conducted.
  • They have deployed over 300,000 doses of the world’s first Ebola vaccine
  • They invest in health systems to make them more responsive and effective in delivering quality care. Explaining about this the MD shares, “Our Recent partnership in this area is with AMREF, for the Public Health Preparedness and Response Leadership training program, which is a continental, pandemic preparedness response program based around engaging healthcare practitioners and providing skills and learnings for multiple countries around how to ready themselves as well as the health system to deal with pandemics.”

They have also invested in initiatives whose aim is to improve local communities and their access to care, which include:

  • 10 000,00 Women Challenge to boost cervical cancer awareness and education in Ghana & Nigeria
  • Unjani Clinic- low-cost private healthcare in South Africa supported through MSD for Mothers. Established to address the gap in healthcare access for low-income communities.
  • We’re also Part of the Strategic Training Executive Program (STEP 2.0) to support the professional development of health supply chain managers managed by People that Deliver PtD

Their devoted service provision has been enhanced by adapting to changing technology and including novel solutions provided by it.

Technology Improving Service Delivery

Sharing his opinion on the technological advancements and their inclusion in the healthcare industry, Zweli shares, “Without a doubt, companies need to ensure they stay ahead of the trends in digitalization and virtualization; and if we were trailing behind COVID-19, we should ensure we close that gap.” Adding further, he says, “The other is ensuring ongoing education, which is what innovative pharmaceutical companies do daily.”

MSD is certainly instilling this in their operations. They are shelling out more of their promotional budgets on educating and building awareness among health practitioners where they teach them particular therapeutic areas and interventions that are not limited to their products and services.

The pandemic has impacted a number of organizations service delivery, but MSD have overcome this challenge by shifting to digital engagement, which allows them to reach a much wider audience. Zweli elaborates, “Now it is very common for us to be hosting a thousand healthcare practitioners on a weekday on a 2-hour-long webinar sharing valuable information around a particular therapeutic area. That is the real benefit organizations such as us bring to the healthcare landscape, not only bringing these therapeutics to the market but partnering these therapeutics with upscaling and bringing knowledge to the users of these products.”

Envisioning the Future

MSD plans on expanding its reach and operations further, as Zweli shares, “2023 will be a year where the need for broad-scale vaccinations will continue to resonate within the public discourse where vaccinations are the sustainable and impactful healthcare interventions in situations such as this.”

Testing and treating are going to become part of their way of life, the MD shares, “To make this come true, we also continue to work with both patient organizations, industry associations, and governments to create conducive legislative environments for alternative access programs or alternative reimbursement mechanisms which South Africa currently does not have.”

They have been spending quite a lot of time focusing on policy and shaping the legislative landscape with the hope that as they move into NHI and universal healthcare, they will move into that with a framework that would result in broadening healthcare access. Focusing on this and their people-centric services, Zweli states, “For us, it is a market that we simply cannot fail in because our innovations are for the people on this continent and if they do not gain access to them, then we wouldn’t have done our job.”

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