Jonathan H. Talamo, MD,Chief Medical Officer & Worldwide Vice President of Medical & Clinical Affairs, Johnson & Johnson Vision [NYSE : JNJ]
Dr. Jonathan H. Talamo is an internationally recognized ophthalmologist with more than 25 years of experience in the eye health community as a leader who is on the cutting edge of new innovation to better serve patients and professionals. Dr.Talamo owned a highly successful private medical practice for almost 20 years, specializing in refractive surgery, cataract surgery, and corneal transplantation. He has authored over 80 original peer-reviewed publications, review articles worldwide on topics related to corneal disease, cataract and refractive surgery and is a recipient of Honor and Senior Achievement awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He went on to serve as the first Director of Refractive Surgery Service at MEEI and has been a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty since 1990.
Dr. Talamo, an extremely seasoned and successful professional, exclusively talks to HealthcareTech Outlook for a special edition of Patient Engagement.
A practitioner’s path to the medtech or biopharma industry is neither well-trodden, nor something for which our training as physicians necessarily prepares us. When I made that move four years ago, I would have described my work personality as outgoing and collaborative, biased towards action. Although I was an independent thinker focused on individual performance and accountability, I also believed strongly in the power of teamwork.
All of the statements above are still true today, but the corporate world required some honing and adapting. While I had created and run successful small businesses for decades, I had to further develop my skills to better negotiate with and manage bosses partners, collaborators, and consultants. Some additional financial literacy was also required to oversee budgets and review balance sheets and cash flow statements, as they are formatted and used differently in large public companies.
I also had to learn to ask questions and listen better(surgeons are not as good at these things as we think we are!).In ophthalmology, my practice was organized around me, but in the corporate world, I have a boss and a team. Everyone is welcomed and valued, but we focus on team results, not the individual as is often the case in a medical practice. In an innovative environment where we often operate with limited information, we rely on each other’s expertise to make tough decisions.
While I had a lot to learn, I also found that practitioners bring invaluable qualities to the medtech and biopharma industries – especially our adherence to the Hippocratic Oath and central focus on the patients’ best interests. If you’re considering making the move, ask yourself these five key questions.
Are you focused on industry trends and solutions?
Working in industry requires knowledge of trends and a desire to find solutions. This is well-suited to my strengths. I’ve always been involved in the latest treatments and now I help spearhead efforts to ensure patients have access to them.
One example in the field of eye care is the aggressive growth of online retailing for contact lenses, which has resulted in a situation where the emphasis on pricing can outweigh patient care considerations, so industry needs to responsibly make pertinent health information available to patients directly, and easily, ensuring that they partner with their eye doctors to access safe, high-quality products. Another example in our field is the surgical treatment of astigmatism, which has long been a neglected area in cataract surgery. Now that tools such as toric intraocular lenses and advanced femtosecond lasers are available to correct astigmatism at the time of cataract surgery, industry needs to make sure surgeons and patients are aware of them, which we do through robust physician training programs, sponsorship of independent medical education and high-quality patient education materials.
"Advances in diagnostics are now determining how artificial intelligence (AI) will guide the entry points and timing of the right care by the right practitioners"
Are you excited about technologies shaping the future?
I am always excited to learn how technologies can fulfill unmet needs in medicine and the real-world practice environment. That enthusiasm has helped me enjoy and excel in my career. For example, advances in diagnostics are now determining how artificial intelligence (AI) will guide the entry points and timing of the right care by the right practitioners and, hopefully in the near future, development of personalized therapies. In ophthalmology, dry eye disease, glaucoma, myopia, and retinal vascular diseases are ripe for an AI approach that draws on data related to structure and function over time.
How will you face regulatory hurdles?
I was aware of regulatory challenges as a physician, but now I deal with them firsthand. Although the regulatory environment has become more stringent for drug and medical device manufacturers, many of the changes have contributed to a product development environment that offers broad benefits, particularly to patients and healthcare provider teams. Nevertheless, there are challenges. Companies have to grow their R&D departments, and the cost of getting products to market continues to increase. At Johnson & Johnson Vision, we want to truly differentiate our products through top-tier clinical data in peer-reviewed journals, but the time required to get study data published can present a challenge (average 12 to 18 months). Physicians making a switch to industry should be prepared to work closely with regulatory bodies to embrace the changing landscape of clinical development.
Can a potential employer match your values?
As an ophthalmologist, I always want to put patients first and make a difference in how they see and live their lives. As I transitioned from practitioner to industry executive, I became aware of how corporate culture influences companies. I became interested in joining Johnson & Johnson in part because of its “Our Credo” document. This single page declaration is universally revered by employees and central to the way the company does business, even at the level of the most senior executive leadership. Established in 1943 by chairman Robert Wood Johnson, OurCredo places the patients, families, doctors, and nurses served by the company at the core of its efforts. It further lays out proper treatment of employees, the company’s role in improving its community, and its responsibility to shareholders. When the going gets tough, people step back to find agreement through the company’s Credo.
Can you make a difference?
Doctors make their patients’ lives better every day. Will you miss that part of your work as an industry executive? If so, look for an opportunity to help through corporate social responsibility initiatives or independent foundation. In my role as CMO of Johnson & Johnson Vision, I’m involved in a partnership with the Lions Club International Foundation called Sight for Kids, through which more than 30 million children have been provided vision screenings and eye health education and services around the world since 2002. I’m also fortunate to work with HCP Cure Blindness and its extensive network of partners across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa to cure needless blindness with the highest quality care at the lowest cost. And through our Jacksonville headquarters, we provide the free Vision Is Priceless program for people without the means or coverage to get high-quality eye care in northern Florida. Outside Johnson & Johnson Vision, I serve as a board member for three different non-profit organizations that serve patients with diverse vision needs. For me, the ability to make a difference through charitable work is an incredibly fulfilling part of the transition from my practice to an industry role. Perhaps it will enhance your journey as well.