LFGSM Alumni Spotlight: Alina Fernández, MD, MPH, MBA
Even before entering Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (LFGSM), Dr. Alina Fernández, MD, MPH, MBA, was an extremely accomplished professional. As a medical doctor with extensive experience in teaching and leading public health initiatives, Alina transitioned into the pharmaceutical industry. Now, she serves as Vice President of US Pharmacovigilance for Lundbeck LLC.
Throughout her career – whether as Director of Child Health Programs for the Chicago Department of Health or Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology for the University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Peoria – Alina has been committed to ensuring the health and safety of the public and the care they receive.
We are proud to count Dr. Alina Fernández as an alumna of the Lake Forest Leadership MBA program.
While your background is in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, you returned to school to get your MBA with a specialization in Global Business. How do you apply the principles and skills you acquired through your MBA in daily business practice?
“Having worked in the private sector for some time, I adopted a global business approach as an executive; I use the skills every day. When I started my career, business was more localized but our sector (like all other sectors) has moved to global business practices with external stakeholders, through networks and in development.
“In the healthcare field, it was a slow transition but when I came into the private sector, I began to work more often with foreign offices. My current employer is headquartered in Copenhagen and I am located in the US affiliate, and business practice includes understanding social and business cultures that differ from our own. It has been very valuable.”
What applied leadership skills are most important for a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry?
“Passion and commitment are essential to a career in pharmaceutical safety. You really have to care about patient safety and public health. To be true to your advocacy for patients, you have to believe in what you are doing, and know that you are making a difference. You are constantly advocating for patient safety.”
What did you value most from your student experience at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management?
“I loved the diversity in the classroom; having students who were from various industries (manufacturing, marketing, technology & information services, banking, telecommunications, etc.). I learned a lot from the faculty but also through the work I did with other students, from all sectors. I was studying with people from entirely different business sectors, but we shared a common theme and function, regardless of the corporations that we worked for. The leadership skills we were there to [refine were] really universal among the students. So basically having the opportunity to learn from students as well as the faculty was very rich and meaningful experience for me.”
What networking opportunities were available to you as a professional MBA student during the course of your study at Lake Forest?
“While I was completing my MBA, the company I was working for was ‘bought out’ and I opted not to move to the new company. In our MBA program there were a number of students who were employed within leadership positions in the pharmaceutical industry, and many of them were very supportive, reaching out through their networks to help me find a new position.
“Eventually I was connected to my present employer through Kathy Leck, LFGSM faculty and former leadership team member, who was instrumental in my decision to pursue the MBA at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. She was a mentor to me through the MENTTIUM 100 Program and she invited me to a presentation at Lake Forest where the former CFO of my current company was the keynote speaker. I met him, connected and that led to my current role at Lundbeck LLC.
“I am very grateful and appreciative of Kathy and the generous faculty and students that I met in my MBA program. Within nine months, I had a new role which I have enjoyed for over six years. That was a big example but only part of the value of my networking experience at Lake Forest.”
What is your advice to those looking to advance in the pharmaceutical sector? What value do you place on your MBA in terms of professional development and advancement?
“For someone who comes from a science background without experience in accounting, finance or microeconomics, the exposure to that in the MBA program was [valuable] for me. It validated some of the skills and knowledge that I gained through my work experience, because now when I am dealing in finance, my work is viewed with a certain amount of respect, given the fact that I have completed my MBA.
“I am always extremely enthusiastic about encouraging my immediate staff, peers and friends to further their education and acquire their MBA…It sends a signal to your employer, to your peers and your network that you are serious about investing in your professional development and career. From an employer perspective, it also demonstrates gratitude and appreciation to the employer to take part in educational incentives and opportunities; it shows that you are committed to growing and improving your skillset and value to them.
“It takes real commitment to acquire your MBA when you are working full time. It is a lot to handle, but you are also showing your employer that you are capable, and ready for advancement and promotion.”
Alina is an accomplished Lake Forest MBA alumna and Latina woman in business. In addition to her advice for people with science backgrounds entering an MBA program, she is also a strong advocate for women in business, particularly minority women. She encourages women to seek out mentors and inspiration from successful executive leaders. And, Alina wants visible minority and female leaders to support and create equal opportunities for women in leadership roles in the pharmaceutical sector and other industries.
To learn more about Alina, please connect with her on LinkedIn.