When Dave Fleming graduated from Wooster, he thought he was going to be a teacher, but after two years in the classroom, he decided his path lay elsewhere. So he and his wife, Peggy, headed west to California where he landed a sales job with Baxter Travenol (now Baxter International). Over the next 11 years, he held a series of sales, marketing, and general management positions with the medical device and supply firm. Then in 1984, he learned that a biotech startup called Genzyme was looking for a marketing person. He signed on.
Today, that startup is one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies with 11,000 employees and $4.5 billion in annual revenue, and Fleming is group senior vice president, responsible for worldwide operations and distribution for the diagnostic products division, whose more than 200 products include point-of-care rapid tests for influenza, strep A, pregnancy, and infectious diseases.
Since 2005, Fleming has also devoted a substantial amount of time and energy to health care and life sciences public policy issues on Genzyme’s behalf. To cite just one example, he helped launch and now serves as senior advisor to the New England Healthcare Institute, which he calls a nonprofit, health policy “think-and-do tank” focused on enabling innovation that will improve health care quality and lower health care costs. One of the institute’s initiatives, a computerized physician order entry system, which will be implemented in every hospital in Massachusetts by 2012, is projected to prevent 55,000 serious medication errors and save $170 million a year.
When Fleming interviews job candidates, he does so with an eye to “the job responsibilities they will have with Genzyme five years from now, in a company quite different from the one they seek to join today.” That means looking for adaptability and flexibility, along with willingness to take on responsibility, make informed decisions, and take action in a changing environment.
“I like to hire folks with a liberal arts background,” Fleming says. “My ability to go from teaching to medical sales to international marketing to general management to a start up, all the while constantly evolving and building on what you’ve learned before, a big part of that comes from the broad, liberal arts experience across many disciplines that I had at Wooster.
“The students who are at Wooster today, they’re the biochemists and researchers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. They’re the ones who will build the Genzymes of tomorrow and make a difference in people’s lives.”
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