VP & General Manager, Interventional Pain, Medtronic
Take risks and make educated bets. Understand technology, not for technology’s sake, but for how it can improve access as well as clinical and economic outcomes in health care.
By Adam Sylvain
Some would say Anu Codaty T’04 was destined for a career in health care. Her paternal and maternal grandmothers were pioneering women physicians in India, beginning their medical careers in the 1930s and 1940s. Her mother and aunts are also physicians.
Never someone who could easily tolerate the sight of blood, Anu opted to come to the U.S. to study mathematics, biotechnology, and chemistry at North Dakota State University. She then launched a health care leadership career that now spans 23 years. Almost a decade ago, she joined the largest medical device company in the world, Medtronic, where Anu serves as vice president and general manager for interventional pain therapies. Healthcare remains a family affair. Her husband, Prat Verma, T’04, is vice president, R&D Innovation at UnitedHealth Group.
In a time of increasing complexity across the health care industry, what has kept Anu motivated throughout her career is a commitment to using medical technology to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life for human beings—an important tenet of Medtronic’s central mission, which was written in 1960 and remains unchanged today.
“This mission drives me every day. On the good days it pushes you further and on the bad days it inspires you to keep going,” she says.
Anu began her career as a consultant at Willis Towers Watson where she designed, implemented, and managed health care plans for multinational companies that included Honeywell and General Mills. After graduating from Tuck, she joined Bain & Co.’s then emerging health care consulting practice in San Francisco. Although Anu enjoyed engaging with clients, she felt a growing desire to see the results of her work firsthand.
“Setting the strategy is important, but to really experience the full impact, you have to have the opportunity to see it through,” Anu says. “I wanted to be a part of that innovation cycle.” That realization led her to first join Genentech, a biotechnology corporation where she managed market planning and strategy.
At Medtronic, Anu has global P&L responsibility for a business that provides interventions for managing chronic pain, which affects more than 100 million patients in the US alone and costs the US healthcare system more than coronary disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke combined.
Back in May, as the COVID-19 pandemic surged in the U.S., she found herself facing unexpected challenges as a newly named general manager and health care leader. In short order, Anu had to quickly get to know her team, understand the business, and devise a plan to recover from COVID-19 impact to the business. With a majority of states issuing directives to postpone elective procedures, Anu’s team worked collaboratively with medical societies to delineate which procedures were truly elective and which were of high acuity. They then determined which procedures could be safely done in a non-hospital or outpatient setting in an effort to preserve hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.
Following the brief halt in the spring, Anu says her team recovered well, in part because of a renewed focus on patient advocacy and direct-to-patient education. Typically, when Medtronic launches a new product, in-person training of their sales force, and health care providers is key. Due to the pandemic, those trainings pivoted to a fully online and digital format. Medtronic even hosted a live case demonstration with a physician broadcasting from a cadaver lab. By collaborating with patient advocacy groups such as National Osteoporosis Foundation, Anu says her team is amplifying its direct communication with patients.
“We want patients to first seek care,” she says. “One of the scariest aspects of the pandemic is people suffering at home and not seeking appropriate care for conditions other than COVID-19.”
Anu continues to draw inspiration from Tuck faculty, including Cox Distinguished Professor of Management Vijay “VG” Govindarajan, who has written extensively on the topic of health care innovation. Medtronic Executive Chair Omar Ishrak provided some of the case studies VG cited in his book The Three Box Solution: A Strategy for Leading Innovation. After the book was published, VG returned to Medtronic where he delivered a talk on his research and hosted a workshop for the Bakken Fellows, an elite group of scientists, engineers, and researchers at Medtronic.
On a foundational level, Anu relies heavily on some of the earliest skills she learned at Tuck, including how to collaborate effectively and be a strong team player. The ability to look at data and analyze it dispassionately has also been vital. Anu says she grew as an empathetic leader, passionate about equity, diversity, and inclusion because of the influence of Tuck Professor of Business Administration Ella Bell Smith, a long-time gender and equity advocate, whom she credits for her consistent outreach to women of color at Tuck.
“My awareness and empathy for the challenges African Americans face was brought to light because of Ella,” says Anu. “She was talking about DEI before it was a part of everyday conversation.” Anu has been a long-time champion and sponsor of diverse talent at Medtronic, serving on the leadership team of Asian Impact at Medtronic, an employee resource group.
Her advice for the next generation of health care leaders? Determine what it is about health care that most excites you; find your north star and go after it with grit. She says it is also paramount for leaders to understand the full health care ecosystem, citing Professor Michael Zubkoff’s elective course, Structure, Organization, and Economics of the Health Care Industry, as a superb foundation to understanding the different roles patients, physicians, suppliers, and payers play in the industry. Anu has enjoyed being a guest lecturer in Zubkoff’s class. Her visit in 2019 was extra special as her niece, Pooja Kumar T’20, was in the audience.
A key challenge she has witnessed among health care leaders is determining how to leverage technology in ways that create positive impact for patients and health care systems.
“There are a thousand ideas out there, particularly when it comes to digital health, but you have to figure out what matters. Then demonstrate safety, efficacy, and connect them to patient impact,” Anu says. “Have a passion for what you do. Take risks and make educated bets. And understand technology, not for technology’s sake, but for how it can improve access as well as clinical and economic outcomes in health care.”
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