Lisa Smith helped to start Thought Leader Select in 2006 with Paul Meade and Kristen Smithwick. As Executive Vice President of Research and Development, Lisa ensures the company’s highest research standards. She has years of experience leading research and consulting projects for the biopharmaceutical, diagnostic and healthcare industries. Through her work, Lisa has helped scores of companies improve thought leader engagement strategies and strengthen medical affairs, commercial and clinical development functions.
The Thought Leader Select Blog sat down with Lisa, the bedrock of Thought Leader Select’s industry-leading research, to learn more about her role within the company, what drives her at work and the extracurricular passions that make her unique.
TLS Blog: Good morning, Lisa. Why did you help to found Thought Leader Select?
Lisa Smith: I was working at Clear Point Health with Paul Meade on a variety of interesting projects for biopharmaceutical clients. One client, in particular, needed our help to understand how to make advisory boards more effective. Paul and I interviewed executives in several pharmaceutical companies and key opinion leaders to identify best practices in developing, planning and executing effective advisory board meetings. This work sparked our interest in thought leader engagement. Following our work on advisory board best practices, Paul and I helped the same client better engage a group of KOLs by devising an organized system to map the skills and experiences of individual medical experts. This project proved to be pivotal – it was truly the starting point for Thought Leader Select. From this project, Paul and I developed a rigorous methodology to identify potential thought leaders, record their skills and experiences, and build a system for engaging them more effectively. We conducted a few more projects to assess groups of KOLs and decided to spin the service out of Clear Point Health and into its own entity – Thought Leader Select.
TLS Blog: How do your academic and/or professional backgrounds inform your work at Thought Leader Select?
Lisa Smith: I started my career in journalism, reporting on the biopharmaceutical and chemical industries, and developed a handful of skills that I use every day at Thought Leader Select. My investigative reporting background helps me dig deep in scores of public and private information sources to uncover granular details on thought leaders’ areas of focus. Additionally, my interviewing background gave me the skills needed to set up our system of interacting with thought leaders to obtain copies of their curriculum vitae. While covering the biopharmaceutical industry, I became intimately familiar with the unique regulations governing our client companies. This knowledge continues to help me ensure that our research supports our clients’ efforts to meet OIG guidelines and to operate with more transparency.
After leaving journalism, I spent a number of years in healthcare research and consulting. During this time I learned quite a bit about the internal workings of biopharmaceutical companies, including KOL engagement strategies and actions, how pharmaceutical companies interact with advocacy groups and professional societies, and effective structures for medical affairs, commercial and clinical development.
TLS Blog: What do you enjoy most about your work at Thought Leader Select?
Lisa Smith: I’m an information junkie! I love working with data – uncovering new ways to find, organize and represent information so that it’s usable for our clients. I also like learning about people – the thought leaders we assess – to understand their experiences, areas of focus and scientific interests.
Of course, enjoying what I do every day is important, but I also love the intangible benefits of my work at Thought Leader Select. The company embraces learning, and I enjoy the opportunities I have to learn new areas of the business and to develop and try new ideas. We also believe in work-life balance, which allows me not to miss the important activities in my kids’ lives. I can work from home when I need to and still enjoy watching my kids’ games and recitals, attending school functions and spending quality time with each of them. When Paul, Kristen and I started Thought Leader Select, our goal was for no one to miss school plays, piano recitals, soccer matches or date nights. We wanted everyone who worked at the company to enjoy their families and pastimes, and this basic tenet is part of what makes my work so enjoyable.
Last, but certainly not least, I really value working for an ethical company. Paul has a background in ethics, and it is one of the cornerstones of the business. Our work enables the clients we serve to be more transparent in how they interact with medical professionals to develop drugs for better public health. We take this responsibility seriously, and we apply the same rules for ethical operation to the internal workings of the business.
TLS Blog: Final question – how do you spend your down time?
Lisa Smith: My three active children and wonderful husband get a lot of my attention. I love just spending time with all of them. When I’m not working on art projects, playing in the park or enjoying movie night, I enjoy diving into a good book. Historical fiction and non-fiction works are my favorite, and I recently finished 1776 (David McCullough), a good read on the American Revolution. Really, I love all things about words – reading, crossword puzzles (the New York Times puzzles are the best!) and Scrabble. My personal Scrabble best – scoring 101 points on a single word!