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Healthcare leader Gayathri Badrinath talks about embracing flexibility and seizing unexpected opportunities in one’s career

Gayathri Badrinath

Gayathri Badrinath

Founder & CEO, Devyn

What prompted to establish Devyn & how is it connected to your larger purpose?

So, I spent 20 years in the cardiovascular industry before starting this company. I actually started very early, as a teenager working in the cardiology department of a children’s hospital. While I initially intended to become a cardiac surgeon, I ended up on the business side and gained experience in all areas of cardiology, including drugs, devices, and diagnostics. During my time at Abbott, I also began exploring the field of digital health and recognized its immense potential.

We are currently at a crucial point in the advancement of health technology, and being situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, I was exposed to a thriving entrepreneurship culture. I saw a tremendous opportunity to leverage my extensive knowledge in cardiology and contribute to the digital health space. However, I also recognized a significant challenge within the cardiovascular field, particularly concerning women’s access to established therapies.

Despite the availability of numerous well-established treatments, women often receive them last. For instance, while a man with high cholesterol might be offered medication, a woman in the same situation is typically advised to focus on diet and exercise alone. This discrepancy is a problem that needs to be addressed. With the advancements in health technology, I believed we could develop a better access model specifically tailored to women’s needs.

What are some of the inflections that have brought you here?

So, when I was younger, my exposure to different career paths was limited. I mainly considered professions like being a doctor or a lawyer, as those were the ones I knew about. Consequently, I set my sights on becoming a cardiac surgeon because it was a field I had been exposed to.

However, during my undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins, I had a remarkable opportunity to intern on the business side. I found that I truly enjoyed this experience. Instead of immediately applying to medical school after graduation, I made the decision to work in the pharmaceutical industry and management consulting for a couple of years. I found great satisfaction in those roles.

As a result, I chose to continue pursuing the business side of healthcare. I obtained my MBA at Berkeley and have been working in the business area ever since. Life has a way of leading us in unexpected directions, and although I didn’t anticipate this path initially, I have had the privilege of working closely with physicians and gaining valuable insights from the clinical side, which has been incredibly fulfilling.

What is your advice for the younger people who want to build a career in this direction?

I believe it is incredibly challenging to plan every aspect of one’s life, especially when it comes to career choices. Many individuals naturally desire to have control over their professional path, but it is often a difficult feat to achieve. In my opinion, what is crucial is to recognize and capitalize on your strengths.

In my case, I had a strong aspiration to become a cardiac surgeon. This determination led me to pursue studies at Johns Hopkins, which was a significant motivating factor for me. However, along the way, I shifted gears and transitioned to the business side of healthcare. I learned the importance of being open to opportunities as they arise, while also utilizing those opportunities to pursue my goals.

Flexibility and adaptability are key in navigating one’s career journey. It is vital to remain open-minded and embrace unexpected possibilities, but also to actively pursue the goals you have set for yourself. By combining these approaches, you can navigate a fulfilling professional path.

How can people make a mind shift with the word goal?

I believe that individuals possess a deeper understanding of themselves than they may realize. It is essential to set realistic goals that align with one’s abilities and circumstances. For instance, if someone has never exercised before, aiming to run a mile every day might be an overly ambitious goal. People often fall into the trap of self-judgment, which can have a negative impact. Instead, it is crucial to focus on building self-efficacy and making positive progress.

When setting goals, it is beneficial to approach them incrementally and ensure they are attainable based on what you can realistically accomplish. It is important not to judge yourself or the circumstances you find yourself in. If it’s raining outside and you can’t go for a walk, adapt and find alternative ways to engage in physical activity. The issue with goals often lies in people judging themselves and their capabilities. Additionally, it is valuable to shift the focus towards recognizing and leveraging your strengths.

Our culture often emphasizes weaknesses, and we can be overly critical of ourselves. While it is true that we all have areas for improvement, it is equally important to hone and leverage our strengths. Acknowledging and utilizing our strengths can be a critical and often overlooked aspect of personal growth and success.

Why is Devyn so relevant for the future?

First and foremost, we are currently facing a crisis where cardiovascular health is deteriorating globally. This decline is particularly concerning for women, as significant gaps still exist in their cardiovascular health. It is crucial for people to understand that cardiovascular health is a lifelong framework, spanning from birth to death, aimed at protecting the heart.

Scientific research has been conducted to comprehend how to safeguard the heart throughout one’s life. While it is commonly known that heart attacks can be a cause of death, much of the knowledge regarding heart health remains underutilized before the onset of a heart attack. People often prioritize other aspects such as weight management or stress reduction, neglecting their heart health. However, our focus is on promoting the idea that women’s health is family health.

Research has demonstrated that women’s health is highly predictive, and by employing science-based frameworks to support women in managing their health, we can yield significant benefits at a population level. Another critical aspect to consider is the impact of pregnancy. Pregnancy has intergenerational effects, meaning that cardiovascular risk factors experienced by a mother can be passed on to future generations. By providing effective support and care for women during the pregnancy process, we can positively influence the health outcomes of subsequent generations.

What is it about women’s health that people are blissfully ignorant about?

It is true that we often place excessive emphasis on our appearance and how others perceive us, even though it may not always be the best indicator of overall health. It’s important to recognize that good heart health can exist irrespective of body size or frame. Being kind to oneself and understanding the significance of regular physical activity are essential.

Engaging in fad diets can be detrimental to heart health. Therefore, it is crucial to move away from a culture overly focused on weight and instead prioritize incremental steps towards managing overall health. This includes reducing sedentary time, as our modern culture has led to increased sedentary behaviors. It’s important to remember that the heart is a muscle and regular physical activity can be highly beneficial for its well-being.

Why do you think women are given diets and not prescribed medicines as much as men?

I believe there is a crucial need for shared decision-making when it comes to healthcare. It’s important to recognize that every medication carries both benefits and potential drawbacks. When consulting with a physician, it is essential to be an active participant in the process, educating yourself and asking questions to understand the pros and cons of each therapeutic approach.

For instance, taking high cholesterol as an example, it is important to consider different factors and potential benefits. Lifestyle modifications, such as changes in diet and exercise, may have a certain level of benefit in reducing blood pressure, perhaps around three to five points. On the other hand, a medication-based approach may offer a more significant reduction, potentially around 20 points. However, individual circumstances may vary, and the actual benefit for each person might differ from what is generally observed. Therefore, taking a proactive stance towards one’s health and actively engaging in these discussions is of utmost importance.

By actively participating in shared decision-making, individuals can better understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of different therapeutic approaches and make informed choices about their health.

Flexibility and adaptability are key in navigating one’s career journey. It is vital to remain open-minded and embrace unexpected possibilities, but also to actively pursue the goals you have set for yourself.

How should people draw a line between modern medication and alternative therapies?

Shared decision-making is paramount when it comes to healthcare. It revolves around considering what is truly best for you as an individual. It involves thoroughly examining all the science-based advice and data provided to you, while also acknowledging that certain factors may make you hesitant about a particular approach. Engaging in deep discussions with your clinician and fostering shared decision-making is crucial.

In the cardiovascular field, there is a wealth of valuable data available. However, it’s important to recognize that data alone has its limitations. It can only guide us so far. The true essence lies in actively participating in the decision-making process, ensuring that your concerns, hesitations, and unique circumstances are taken into account.

By engaging in shared decision-making, you can collaboratively work with your clinician to find the most suitable and effective approach for your cardiovascular health. It is this collaboration that enables personalized care and empowers you to make informed decisions that align with your individual needs and preferences.

I understand that it can be challenging to communicate with physicians, even for someone who considers themselves well-educated. However, I believe that the best clinicians and physicians are those who actively involve patients in the decision-making process. I think those are the ones that can really make a fundamental difference. And it’s a respectful relationship both ways.

As a leader & CEO, what are the defining trends that will shape the future?

If I were to compare my career from over 20 years ago to the present, I see a notable increase in the number of women holding leadership roles. The women I encounter today display a remarkable interest in supporting and uplifting other women. There is a strong sense of camaraderie among them, presenting a significant opportunity for promoting equity and inclusion. It’s important to note that achieving progress cannot be accomplished without the involvement of men. It requires a partnership and allyship between genders, as we reshape our perspectives on work.

When reflecting on the past, it seems that women were not necessarily set up for success. They entered the workforce and took on multiple roles, often balancing work and household responsibilities. This trend cuts across socioeconomic status, as studies have shown the additional burdens faced by female surgeons, for example. As a culture, we are still in the process of defining and shaping what a more equitable work environment looks like.

Furthermore, the global mental health crisis is an ongoing concern. It is crucial for us to understand the harmful effects of self-judgment, judgment of others, and external validation. By cultivating kindness towards ourselves and others, we can contribute to a more sustainable and supportive environment for all.

How can leaders build their capacity to look around corners?

Self-awareness is indeed critical. It’s essential to recognize when we become activated and understand the underlying reasons behind it. What judgments are we making? Are they realistic or appropriate? Are they driven by perceived threats? Developing self-awareness allows us to navigate our reactions and be more receptive to diverse ideas.

Being open to different perspectives is key to achieving exponential results. Diversity, including people from various backgrounds and experiences, brings a wide range of ideas to the table. Embracing this diversity leads to greater innovation and growth compared to sticking with the same old approaches. In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, anyone who claims to have all the answers and is overly confident should remain open to different perspectives.

The pace of technological advancement requires adaptability and an openness to new ideas. By embracing diverse perspectives and being receptive to different viewpoints, we can foster an environment that thrives on innovation and continues to evolve at an exponential rate.

How do you connect your body’s flexibilities to flexibilities that you should be connecting with professionally?

A few things shaped my perspective early on, particularly my involvement in sports as a South Asian woman. Although there weren’t many South Asian women participating in sports at the time, my parents were incredibly supportive. Initially, I wasn’t athletically inclined and struggled with weight issues, which presented challenges when playing volleyball. However, as a teenager, I made significant changes and overcame those obstacles. The teenage years are critical, especially for women, as this is when health disparities between genders often emerge, starting as early as age 13.

Sports taught me about self-efficacy and the importance of physical activity. Despite not exercising solely for weight management, I prioritize activities like biking and running for the mental clarity they provide. Engaging in physical activity helps me focus and has numerous proven benefits, especially from a cardiovascular standpoint. While I haven’t been able to meditate in the traditional sense, the focus and inner clarity I experience during sports activities are akin to a form of meditation. It’s a state of flow and motion where distractions fade away, allowing for a sense of inner peace and focus.

The lessons I learned from sports have carried over into my adult life, emphasizing the significance of regular exercise and the mental benefits it provides. Physical activity serves as a source of clarity and enables me to stay centered and focused. While meditation may not be my preferred practice, the meditative aspects within sports help me achieve a similar state of mind.

What kind of cross-cultural experience has helped you in life?

Well, one of the interesting aspects of my role, especially during my time at Abbott, was that most of my work took place outside of the United States. This was a unique experience for me, considering my Indian heritage and being born and raised in the US. Navigating cross-cultural dynamics and finding my own identity amidst these various influences has always been a part of my journey.

Working internationally provided me with the opportunity to understand and appreciate different cultures. It taught me how to adapt and operate within diverse contexts while showing respect for cultural nuances. However, this process requires conscious effort because each culture has its own norms and values. For instance, Europeans prioritize and enjoy their vacations, which is actually a healthy practice. In contrast, in the US, we often don’t take enough time off due to cultural expectations and work demands.

Recognizing and respecting these cultural differences is crucial. It’s about being aware and appreciating that not everyone follows the same path or timeline. Finding common ground and reaching agreements that accommodate these variations is essential for effective collaboration and achieving desired outcomes in my work.

Can you share an interesting experience from your journey of playing many different roles?

In terms of my marriage, there have been interesting cultural differences to navigate. My husband was born and raised in India, while I grew up in the US. When we first got married, I remember an incident where someone invited us to dinner and my husband responded with “we’ll try.” I was taken aback and questioned why he didn’t just decline if we couldn’t make it. He explained that in Asian culture, it is considered impolite to outright refuse an invitation.

This cultural aspect has been explored in publications like the Harvard Business Review, highlighting how different cultures operate and communicate differently. For instance, in some cultures, sending RSVPs may not be the norm, as it is assumed that everyone will attend an event like a wedding.

These cultural differences have gradually become apparent and have fostered an appreciation for diverse perspectives over time. It’s through these experiences that we learn to understand and respect each other’s cultural backgrounds and the unique ways they shape our behaviors and communication styles.

What are the defining trends of the healthcare industry?

I believe the pandemic has opened up numerous opportunities that were not previously considered. For instance, before the pandemic, the idea of consulting with a doctor over Zoom might have seemed absurd. However, now it has become a common and convenient method of healthcare delivery. People have become increasingly engaged in their healthcare and have access to vast amounts of information. With advancements in technologies like GPT, the availability of information will continue to grow exponentially.

As a result, we can expect to see a more empowered consumer in the healthcare landscape, especially in the United States where different payment models exist. The payment models in healthcare are likely to evolve, introducing new approaches and options for consumers. This shift may not be exclusive to the US, as other countries, such as India, also have unique payment systems, like cash pay, which may raise questions about its long-term sustainability.

In this changing landscape, the way we seek healthcare will also undergo transformations. We are approaching a tipping point in cardiovascular health and overall well-being, which calls for innovative approaches and a reevaluation of our current practices. It is crucial to think differently and explore new strategies to address the challenges and improve healthcare outcomes.

What advice would you give women to independently pursue their passion?

I believe it’s challenging to predict the trajectory of one’s career. The decision to have children is undoubtedly a significant moment that can shape a person’s professional journey, especially for women. In my own experience, I continued to work tirelessly, even while traveling extensively, and I remember traveling to Europe at a fairly late stage in my pregnancy with my second child. However, at some point, I had to slow down and make adjustments. I couldn’t maintain that level of intensity, and this is something that cannot be predicted.

It’s important to seize opportunities as they arise but also recognize that we don’t have complete control over everything. Women, in particular, often struggle with perfectionism, and it can be a major challenge. We must acknowledge that we cannot control every aspect of our lives or achieve perfection in everything we do. It’s crucial to let go of the need for absolute control and embrace a more flexible mindset. Just as in surfing, we need to navigate the ups and downs, and understand that our careers will have ebbs and flows.

Do you have any tweaks to combat perfectionism?

You know, being aware is actually the key, right? The first step is to be aware that it is happening. And you know, trying to control it goes hand in hand, making it perfect. But sometimes, you just have to let it go. I have to say, having children can really change that, you know? They are dynamic beings with minds of their own. It has taught me a lot about my pursuit of perfection and how it’s not always possible. At some point, you reach a breaking point where you can’t juggle a full career and manage the home perfectly. It’s important to take a step back and be self-aware about the idea of perfection and realize that it doesn’t have to be absolute. Remind yourself of that.

What is one powerful story that has stayed with you?

For me, it tends to be my story about volleyball and how I overcame numerous challenges to pursue it. The power of believing in yourself can truly make a significant difference. Additionally, it has been crucial for me to be realistic about the experiences of women in the workforce and what that truly entails. By being realistic and charting my own path, I have gained confidence in entrepreneurship. The success I achieved in volleyball played a vital role in shaping my mindset and establishing a connection to what I can achieve in other areas of life. It highlights the notion that deep life experiences can have an impact on your present pursuits and aspirations.

Gayathri Badrinath

Gayathri Badrinath

Founder & CEO, Devyn
With deep clinical and commercial expertise in healthcare, Gayathri Badrinath has embarked on a groundbreaking journey to harness the power of digital solutions and innovative business models in the face of a rapidly transforming healthcare landscape. Her expertise encompasses diverse sectors such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and diagnostics. Recognizing the significance of empathy and humility, she emphasizes the value of embracing diverse viewpoints and perspectives. As a devoted mother of two, she empathizes with the distinct obstacles women encounter in pursuing improved health and ascending to leadership positions within the corporate realm.
Chandrani-datta-Content-Manager-Tripura-Multinational-Singapore-our-team 2
Chandrani Datta works as a Manager-Content Research and Development with almost a decade’s experience in writing and editing of content. A former journalist turned content manager, Chandrani has written and edited for different brands cutting across industries. The hunger for learning, meaningful work and novel experiences keeps her on her toes. An avid traveller, Chandrani’s interests lie in photography, reading and watching movies.

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