Dr Alida Gogescu, Secretary General of Palmed (Patronatul Furnizorilor de Servicii Medicale Private)
Can you please summarise your experience as a woman entrepreneur in healthcare?
To give you an accurate account of my journey as an entrepreneur, I have to begin by admitting that I started my entrepreneurial career without a clear-cut picture of what this entails. I am a diagnostic physician trained in laboratory medicine.
Opening a small medical laboratory with just five employees back in 2001, I thought that the most substantial part of my work will take place in front of a microscope. However, I realised soon after that in order for the company to develop, I had to trade the microscope for business strategies which I had to think through and put into practice. I belive that I grew into the role by learning quickly and thinking through every decision as the challenges unfolded.
By 2015, the moment when MedLife, the largest private provider of medical services in Romania, bought the majority of shares in the company I developed, I had succeeded in growing the business to incorporate five medical laboratories, two clinics and a small hospital providing day-care hospitalisation. Now I am the General Director and minority stakeholder of MedLife Oltenia, a region in the South-West of Romania
To reflect on the experience of being an entrepreneur in the healthcare sector, I think it is very important to mention that my generation laid the groundwork for the development of the medical system in Romania and opened up paths for private medical providers.
It might be difficult to imagine, but the national health insurance body was founded just a year before my debut as an entrepreneur.
So not only was the private provision of medical services in its infancy, but the whole system of regulations for healthcare insurers and providers was patchy. This motivated me, as a member of PALMED to design and suggest policy solutions that would help the medical system in Romania provide wider coverage and be more responsive to patients’’ needs.
Was my journey influenced by the fact that I am a woman? I think so, because I was aware of the need to be patient, diligent and brave. Especially in a society that was going through a substantial transformation, being persistent and consistent can be difficult and frustrating at times.
However, you have to belive me that the challenge was also very enjoyable.
Which advice would you give to young women who wish to undertake a managerial career in the healthcare sector?
First of all, I should mention that there are a considerable number of women entrepreneurs who own small or medium businesses in the healthcare sector in Romania. Quite a few of them run successful businesses and combine a good understanding of medical science with entrepreneurial skills.
I would say to the young women wanting to pursue a managerial career in the healthcare sector that they need to know that the time of autodidactic entrepreneurs is gone, so they should build adequate professional skills.
They should strive to gain a good understanding of the healthcare system, including the institutional and legislative environment in which healthcare managers and providers function.
I would also encourage them to be daring, as they have a lot to accomplish in the context of a healthcare system that is slow to improve its performance.
I would tell them not to give up in the face of obstacles, because the satisfactions of achieving in this sector are not easily comparable to other fields of activity. Healthcare is about human beings and the most essential aspects of their lives. Providing services of high quality to a wide range of customers is not only in your benefit, but in the interest of patients and the wider society. These are not just words, but a testament to how important is to remain focused and motivated.
What needs to be done today to ensure that there are more women in senior positions tomorrow in health facilities and more female doctors in senior positions in hospitals ? (Would you be in favor of quotas for women ?)
There is a well known problem that even though there are proportionally more women than men in the medical sector, a more significant percentage of them occupy positions at the bottom of the professional pyramid and significantly less hold positions in top management.
I strongly believe professional competence for both women and men should be the primary basis for promotion.
However, while we need to ensure that there is a solid base of capable women who are able to work their way up to senior positions in health facilities and in hospitals, we also need to eliminate the barriers disproportionately placed on women. And for this, we need to have some pressure from the top-down, at least until we reach a tipping point from where promoting skilled women becomes a more self-sustainable process.
Therefore, I tend to be in favour of temporary quotas or targets that would pave the way for capable women to accede to top positions. After working with several highly competent and diligent women in my company, which I promoted to managerial positions, I can say that there definitely is a group of skilled and determined young women who deserve the opportunity to grow professionally and rise up to their responsibilities, just as men are allowed to grow into their senior positions.