Global Corporate development

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Global Corporate development

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Empowering Female Voices: A Conversation with Althea Danzey

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Interview with Althea Danzey, March 2024 – At Merz Therapeutics, diversity, equity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of our organization. As part of U.S. Women’s History Month this March, we sat down with Althea Danzey, Senior Director, Pricing & Contract Operations, to discuss her unique career journey, how she handles challenging situations and the importance of allyship.

First Althea, can you tell us a little about your career and the path that has led you to become Senior Director, Pricing & Contract Operations at Merz Therapeutics?

Althea: I just happened to fall into the pharmaceutical industry. I was looking for a job and started out as an administrative assistant to the Manager of Sales Operations at a pharma company focused on diagnostic imaging products. I always had an appetite to learn and grow and as opportunities became available in the organization that were interesting to me, I would apply and land the job. I did stints in HR – Comp and Benefits, Sales, Contract Admin and Market Access. I enjoyed negotiating contractual terms and implementing strategies to meet or exceed brand goals. It was easy for me. I moved from that company to work at another organization, Eisai, in Northern NJ. I spent 15 years at Eisai developing the Contract Operations department, implementing contracting systems and building relationships with vendors. At Eisai I had the opportunity to build a department, learn various aspects of the business by working with Sales, Finance, Reimbursement and Government Pricing. I wanted more of a challenge and moved to Market Access and pricing and contract strategy at Eisai with oversight of the Pricing Committee. I left Eisai in 2018 and did a stint as a consultant before the opportunity became available at Merz and here I am.

What does your current role entail?

Althea: I like to say I do all things contracting and pricing here at Merz Therapeutics. My role entails understanding the industry and our customers to develop contracting strategies that support the growth of our neuromodulator. I work closely with the Account Directors and field sales team to identify the contract strategy and negotiate terms with the payers, physician practices and with group purchasing organizations or hospital systems. I analyze the impact of the strategy from a financial perspective on the business and then work closely with Legal to transform the strategy and administration of the contract to paper. The last piece of my role is to ensure that the strategies are implemented and effectively administered to report on performance and such.

Looking back on your career, were there one or two events that you view as turning point(s) in your career?

Althea: The first event that impacted not only my career, but also my life, was meeting my partner in crime, husband – Carmichael. He is pivotal to my life and my son’s. He has provided stability and was a huge source of encouragement to me. It is always important, I believe, to have someone in your life who encourages and believes in you and what you can accomplish when you do not see it in yourself or do not have the vision for what could be. Also, Carmichael was key because he told me the truth, even when the truth was not really what I wanted to hear.
The second event that impacted my career was when I interviewed for a Sr. Manager position. I was a Manager and my Associate Director at the time doubted my ability. I had a bachelor’s and was working on my MBA part-time. He called me in his office and showed me the job description and said, I heard you want to apply. I said yes and he asked me, doesn’t this position scare you? That did it for me – I said no and instead of dissuading me, it enraged me. I was enraged that someone else would try to limit my ability and my opportunity with a tactic like that. It was insulting. Another Director heard about this and became my advocate and ensured that I was interviewed and really advocated for me based on my intelligence, work effort and my skills. I got the job of course and I exceeded my nay ’sayer’s professional level into the Sr. Director role at Eisai and here at Merz.

Did you know at the time that they were monumental moments?

Althea: Yes. I knew that they were monumental moments, because they shaped my future and my family’s. I hope I became an example to my son, my niece and nephew that you can do anything you desire. To not allow anyone to put limitations on you and to have someone in your personal life that believes in you. We have always told our children that they can do anything they want. When they complained about something, we told them then you need to be better at it. Do not complain, find out what you need to do to excel and then do it. Learn from it and continue to grow.

If you could have dinner with one woman, past or present, who would it be and why?

Althea: I would have dinner with Maya Angelou and discuss her poem Still I rise, which I absolutely love. She represented grace and wisdom and resilience to me. In the face of adversity in her life, she maintained her faith, hope and was able to transition the adversity into a creative form that impacted generations with her poetry and writings.


For allies, how can they better support women, and what is the impact that allyship can have on women’s advancement?

Althea: For allies, I would say that they can better support women by being their advocate to correct a wrong or unfair treatment. Speak up for that individual or call out when what is being perceived is simply a perception but not a truth. The ally cannot do it for you, and they should not be asked to, but they can provide support. Allyship can be tremendous. The allies I have had in my professional life have shaped me and taught me so much about my profession, schooled me, saw my blind spots and cleared the way so they became my strengths.

How have you handled awkward or uncomfortable conversations or moments in your career as a woman and a woman of color?

Althea: Well, I take a deep breath. There have been some very difficult situations that I have dealt with either because I was a woman or a woman of color. Each situation prompted a tidal wave of feelings and doubts, but I had a strong supportive family that kept me sane and told me the truth, again, even when I did not want to hear it. As you can tell, there is a theme with me, I like being right and do not like being wrong. I have matured to the point where I can admit that.

I try to remember that who I was being told I was, was not actually who I am. I would remember my parents struggles and thought, I can get through this because I come from resilient people. I also tried to remember and re-enforce in my spirit and mind that whatever comes my way I will rise. Here is a perfect example of how I have dealt with it from the poem – Still I rise, by Maya Angelou.

“Still I Rise”
Maya Angelou

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.


Finally, what do you wish you knew 20 years ago that you know now?

Althea: I wish I knew early in my career that it was more important to be respected than liked, and 20 years ago, I wish I knew the importance of cherishing the day-to-day moments. I am still learning to do that to this day.