Agnes Berzsenyi is the President and CEO, Women's Health, GE Healthcare. She's responsible for driving the strategic and commercial direction for the women's health portfolio, including mammography and bone densitometry. She is focused on commercial growth, customer collaboration, ensuring the right investment decisions and other strategic programs.
Prior to this role, Berzsenyi was the Formation Leader for GE Healthcare Imaging, an $8 B business including services and a portfolio of X-Ray, Women's Health, Interventional, Surgical C-arms, CT, Nuclear Medicine, MR products, and PET. She served as the leader to bring together these businesses under one strategic vision and direction. She is the Executive Sponsor for GE Girls, a company-wide program to engage middle school girls in STEM education. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
She was recently recognized with a career achievement award from Rose-Hulman. In 2016, Berzsenyi was named a “Woman of Influence" by the Milwaukee Business Journal and was included in the “Women to Watch" list by The Business Journal, an honor reserved for the top 100 business leaders throughout the country. She was born in Mateszalka, Hungary and holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Product Engineering and Management from the University of Magdeburg, Germany, and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, USA.
GE Healthcare's new system for mammography creates a better way to detect and attack breast cancer. Designed by a team of women just outside Paris, where most of the design and manufacturing for GE Healthcare's mammography systems is done, the new mammography system will make mammography less uncomfortable and reduce patients' anxiety, with the hopes that more women will get mammograms.
Unlike the clunky, industrial mammography machines of the past, the Senographe Pristina comes with the option for patients to use a wireless remote control that lets them determine how much their breasts are compressed during the scan, with the help of a technologist. This was just approved for use in the United States, in September. Compressing the breasts spreads tissue, resulting in better images and requiring less radiation, an industry first: remote-control managed by the patient.
Agnes Berzsenyi took the time to address questions about the concerns and trepidations of breast cancer screening and detection with SWAAY, and how the Senographe Pristina will help to transform what is too often an anxiety-inducing quandary into an almost spa-like experience:
How will the new system for mammography, designed by a team of women outside of Paris, impact the mammography experience?
Regular mammograms are a critical tool in detecting breast cancer, In fact, evidence shows that finding breast cancer early reduces a woman's risk of dying from the disease by 25-30 percent or more.
Any patient who has ever had a mammogram knows that it can be uncomfortable. We know that one-in-four patients avoid getting mammograms because of the fear and anxiety from the potential result and exam discomfort.
The choice can delay a breast cancer diagnosis negatively impacting their long-term prognosis. Our hope is that by giving women a more active role in their healthcare, coupled with creating a more comfortable mammography experience, we will encourage more women to be compliant with screening guidelines and help improve outcomes for breast cancer screening.
Only 69 percent of women 45 years and older reported having a mammogram within the past two years in 2013, according to the National Health Interview Survey, and according to The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. every 74 seconds, somewhere in the world, someone dies from breast cancer. Might the Senographe Pristina change that?
We do know that one in four women avoid getting mammograms because of the fear and anxiety from the potential result and exam discomfort. The choice can delay a breast cancer diagnosis and impact a long-term prognosis. That's why we brought Senographe Pristina and a more comfortable mammography experience to market. Senographe Pristina and Pristina Dueta have been available in Europe for more than a year. In a patient survey done in Europe with 315 women, when patients received a mammogram on Senographe Pristina while using the Pristina Dueta, 79 percent of the patients who used the patient-assisted compression device found it improved the comfort of their exam, and 54 percent found it led to less anxiety. But even without Dueta, 83 percent of patients scanned on the Senographe Pristina rated their experience as better than with traditional mammography systems, 70 percent noted it was more comfortable and 66 percent perceived the exam was shorter.
How might the Senographe Pristina empower patients and attract, specifically women over 45, to obtain a mammogram?
We developed the Senographe Pristina with insight from thousands of patients, technologists and radiologists. Patients are responding very well to the Senographe Pristina and Pristina Dueta. We're even getting feedback from radiologists and technologists that their patients will only schedule their annual mammogram on the Pristina moving forward. Improving the patient experience has become a major trend in healthcare. Healthcare is a competitive industry and by improving the patient experience, we hope to help healthcare providers get more patients in the door.
How long did it take for the new mammography system to reach the market?
How much market share, in the U.S., does GE estimate that the new system will achieve?
We do not disclose our market share, but we've seen tremendous interest in the Senographe Pristina and the patient-assisted compression device, Pristina Dueta, since it was recently FDA cleared. We launched the Senographe Pristina in November 2016 and have doubled shares for the first two quarters.
How often do GE's customers-hospitals, healthcare centers-replace their mammography systems? What's the cost to purchase the new Senographe Pristina?
The average replacement life cycle for Senographe Pristina is 7 to 10 years. We do not share the cost of the product as configurations vary greatly, affecting the price. Depending on the configuration, it can range from $300,000 to $500,000.
What makes the Senographe Pristina system different from previous mammography systems?
Senographe Pristina was designed by a team of women at GE Healthcare who used their unique insights as women, combined with feedback from patients, technologists and radiologists, to design a new, more comfortable mammography system-one that they would want to be scanned on. The new system offers comfort features for a better patient and technologist experience, including: rounded corners instead of sharp edges that used to poke patients' ribs and armpits; a thinner image detector that requires less hard, cold material touching the patient; and comfortable armrests for women to lean on instead of conventional handgrips, naturally creating a more relaxed body and less muscle tension during the exam. All of these features simplify positioning, compression and image acquisition.
Additionally, it offers the option for patients to use the industry's first wireless remote control that lets patients control their own breast compression during a mammogram with the help of a technologist. First, the technologist positions the patient and initiates compression. From there, the patient, under the supervision of the technologist, operates the remote to adjust compression until she reaches adequate compression.
This remote helps to reduce discomfort during the exam, thus addressing one of the main concerns women have for avoiding mammography screening. We've also designed the rooms (sensory suite) to resemble spas: soothing natural images, scents and sounds that are pleasant, which help to further positively enhance the mammography experience.
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.