5 minutes with Emma Chaffin - European Medical Journal

5 minutes with Emma Chaffin, former Vice President, Country Head and Site Lead, Galapagos

2 Mins
Emma Chaffin, former Vice President, Country Head and Site Lead, Galapagos, talks to Jade Williams about leaving pharmacy for the pharmaceutical industry and a key challenge facing her function
Words by Jade Williams

What inspired your switch from pharmacy to the pharmaceutical industry?

I studied pharmacy and worked as a pharmacist for about six or seven years after qualifying. I made the switch because I wanted to help more people than I could as a hospital pharmacist on a day-to-day basis. And it was an interesting choice. It’s not one that many pharmacists make. It was met with looks of horror from people in the hospital. Some people literally said: “Oh my God, you’re going to the dark side!”

How has your MBA in business helped you to succeed in your career?

It was a great experience. My MBA involved spending a week in a developing country to learn about its industries, and I got to go to China. It was part-time for 24 months, and it was incredibly tough – it’s not for the faint-hearted – but it was amazing to go and see a developing economy. In terms of progressing through the pharma ranks, it has crystallised a lot of learning. It’s opened doors that I might not have had without that formal qualification, and it gives you a good general background in all the disciplines in a company such as operations, manufacturing, HR, finance and strategy. It’s a great foundation for a broader career in the pharmaceutical industry.

What is the greatest challenge your function is facing today, and what’s a potential solution?

I think the biggest challenge for any general manager in the pharmaceutical industry now is how to consolidate the UK’s Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access (VPAS) rebate, particularly for this year, and how to think about what it could look like in the future. Competition for budgets internally is tough in any company, and it’s becoming increasingly challenging in the context of the rebate to justify why that budget and that investment should go to the UK with such a high level of return. And it’s something that we as an industry are obviously trying to address urgently, but the sooner it’s done the better.

Do you have any passion projects or hobbies outside of your daily role that help you to maintain work-life balance?

My house! My dad had an architectural design company when I was growing up, so I swore I would never do anything house related, but fast forward 35 or 40 years and my partner and I bought a renovation project. We’ve finished the house, and it’s been a complete renovation. We’re about halfway through the garden, so that’s what I spend every evening and weekend doing. I am occasionally going to work with paint in my hair or dust on my clothes. I also love running. If I’ve had a tough day, I go for a run. I try and set boundaries, but in today’s world with virtual working, it is sometimes challenging. To help with that, I’ve got running. It decompresses me.

If you were to ever write a book, what would it be called?

It would be called ‘How not to do it: Lessons by Emma’. And I think it would be a catalogue of everything I’ve done wrong in my life, and what I’ve learned from it.

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