Champions in Health Care — Marie-Hélène Dugal

To mark International Women’s Day 2021 on March 8, and throughout the month of March, we are honouring the women who help lead Medavie in our mission to improve the wellbeing of Canadians.

Iwd2021 Marie Helene 531X628
Product Portfolio Manager, Drug Management Solutions, Medavie Blue Cross

As a leader, who would you say contributed to your success?

Curiosity above all! I started working at Medavie Blue Cross when I was a student. Even though I didn't think I would ever have a career in insurance, I was always interested in learning more about what was behind my daily tasks: what is the purpose of that expensive drug requested by an insured person? Why does our system react the way it does to certain parameters? One thing led to another and I was able to hold various positions where my curiosity was satisfied. Health care, and particularly drugs, is an area where technological and scientific advances abound, which has always fascinated me.

I was also fortunate to have managers who made it possible for me to develop. Moreover, most of these leaders were women! Since my background is unconventional, especially since I don't have a university degree, having visionary managers and mentors who saw my potential and encouraged me in this direction has been invaluable. At the same time, they had to deal with the fact that I ask many questions and do not hesitate to challenge the status quo when I see room for improvement.

How do you feel your role is helping you contribute to improving health care?

In drug insurance, we try to maximize the value of the amounts employers invest in group insurance plans (and employees since they often contribute to the premiums) to provide maximum access to the best care. The prescription ecosystem is complex as it involves both health and commercial issues. This is a reality that we have to deal with. I ensure the products we offer to customers always strike this balance and meet their needs, continue to be relevant to them and evolve with scientific and technological advances while remaining financially sustainable over the long term. Private group insurance plans cover more drugs than public plans and these additional options, developed with today's workforce in mind, are making ideas clash and advancing best practices.

What is your favourite part about your role?

There's never a dull moment! It's a field where scientific advances translate into very concrete results and I find it exciting to learn new things, depending on what's going on in the pharmaceutical field. I also love working with clients and having the opportunity to convey our values and mission and represent the company in various forums.

How do you achieve work-life balance? What is your best self-care advice?

Our personal and professional lives feed off each other, and I find it normal that the two are not perfectly balanced. For example, my hobbies often take the form of projects that I then use in my work projects. And several times a year, it feels great to completely disconnect. While travel used to be the perfect opportunity to break from the daily routine, now small creative projects at home help bring sweetness to our days and care for our loved ones.

What barriers do women still face in advancing their careers?

Prejudices and biases, especially those related to physical appearance, often affect women more than men. Many of these biases are often internalized. So, the first step as a woman is to start by freeing yourself from this constant worry ... easier said than done!

"I ensure the products we offer to customers always strike this balance and meet their needs, continue to be relevant to them and evolve with scientific and technological advances while remaining financially sustainable over the long term. Private group insurance plans cover more drugs than public plans and these additional options, developed with today's workforce in mind, are making ideas clash and advancing best practices."

What advice would you share with young women looking to advance their career?

Trust yourself. Often, as a woman, we feel the need to justify our legitimacy to participate in discussions and take our place, based on a variety of criteria. If your inner voice is telling you to insist, listen to it and make yourself heard — raise your hand! Also, listen to what others have to say and always be open to changing your mind; no one is a rocket scientist.

Where is health care headed? How can we ensure that our system is sustainable? What recent advancements will help toward that goal?

We face many challenges: technological integration, an aging population, scientific breakthroughs and discoveries, and increasingly complex issues. I believe that the more people who are interested in these issues, and the more room there is for a clash of ideas, the better the solutions and directions that the various communities involved in this area will take.

What’s the biggest change you would like to see in the health care system?

Address bias, diversity and discrimination. Large clinical studies involving thousands of participants typically determine best practice rules for health care. We now know there are often biases in participant selection, and that the application of these practices in "real life" is not optimal for all groups. Furthermore, there are many individual and collective "blind spots" — I'm thinking of racial and cultural discrimination and discrimination related to gender diversity, sexual orientation and fatphobia, among others that also influence health care. The first step is to inform oneself and gain awareness of how these "blind spots" influence our actions and decisions.

What do you do to stay on top of your game?

I use variety and learning, which motivate me greatly, to push myself further through readings, podcasts, organizational techniques, etc. Moreover, we can't say enough about how important it is to take care of your mental health. For me, psychotherapy plays a very valuable role not only when you are going through a difficult period, but also to learn to know yourself better, maximize your potential and see things from a different perspective.

What qualities does it take to succeed?

Optimism, curiosity, never being satisfied with the status quo, and knowing where to focus your energies.

Tell us one fun fact about you.

I love dance! I co-direct and choreograph for my own group!

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