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.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.