National Consumers League

Member spotlight | Astellas and CDC

DSC_2854(2)_(1).jpgSummer 2015 Newsletter | Q & A with Health Advisory Council Members

Jump to Abbigail Tumpey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Karl Uhlendorf

Director, Communications & Stakeholder Engagement at Astellas

Q. How would you describe your role at Astellas?

A. In one word: exciting. My responsibilities fall within three core areas. I provide broad communications support to our government affairs and policy team, build and nurture partnerships with advocacy groups – particularly those who are patient-focused, and identify opportunities for Astellas leadership to contribute to the evolving health care dialogues in DC and beyond. I also collaborate with my corporate communications colleagues to help share Astellas’ priorities and ongoing programs externally – for example through our growing social media channels. Most importantly, I’m fortunate to work with a very talented team of professionals across the company.

Q. What is Astellas doing to change the way people think about and approach healthcare?

A. I believe one of the most striking characteristics of Astellas is our unwavering commitment to collaboration. This is true throughout the company - whether it's in R&D or medical affairs, health systems or corporate affairs, we constantly seek out opportunities to work with stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem to advance high-quality patient health, particularly in areas of unmet medical need.

Recently, we’ve embarked on a new effort to create and preserve long-term partnerships with patient advocacy organizations, reflected in our inaugural advocacy summit held this past April in DC. It’s thrilling to be playing a key role in this effort, as it gives me the opportunity to meet and work with a wide array of passionate advocates and groups – including the NCL team.

Q. Are there currently any initiatives at Astellas pertaining to health policy you would like to share with Council members?

A. At both the state and federal levels, Astellas champions policies and regulations that foster medical R&D and ensure broad patient access to new medicines. For example, when it comes to reimbursement policies for innovative treatments, we believe it is vital to take a patient-focused approach that balances attention to cost with high-quality, clinically appropriate care.

Q. What do you/Astellas hope to take away from your participation in NCL’s Health Advisory Council?

A. We see the Council as a great forum for learning not only what NCL is doing to improve the health and lives of patients, but also the priorities and activities of other council members. I was struck at the initial meeting by the breadth of participants, which I believe bodes well for effective, collaborative brainstorming and hopefully collective action going forward. 

Q. In 100 words or less, what do you think Health Advisory Council members should know about Astellas?

A. Astellas is a relatively young company – having just celebrated our 10th anniversary – but we strive to be on the forefront of healthcare change, turning innovative science into value for patients. Our core therapeutic areas include oncology, urology, transplantation and infectious disease, although we are constantly looking at opportunities to tackle new areas of medical need. Similarly, when it comes to health policy, we seek to be an active participant in ongoing dialogues toward achieving a value-driven healthcare system that is best for patients and all stakeholders. We look forward to working with Health Advisory Council members in the months and years ahead. 


Abbigail_Tumpey.jpgAbbigail Tumpey

Associate Director for Communications Science at the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Q. The CDC is home to nearly 10,000 full-time employees. Can you discuss which division you work for and how it relates to the overarching mission of the CDC?

A. I have the privilege of serving as the Associate Director for Communications Science for the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at CDC. Our division handles patient safety and healthcare safety issues for the entire agency, including: healthcare-associated infections; blood, organ, and other tissue safety; medication safety; vaccine safety; and emerging threats in healthcare facilities such as antibiotic resistance. CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health and safety threats, both foreign and domestic. CDC is saving lives and protecting people. Our division has the mission to protect patients wherever they receive their medical care.

Q. What drew you to public service work (or more specifically, what drew you to working at the CDC)?

A. While attending school at Michigan State University, I worked for a former CDC Epidemiology Intelligence Service (EIS) officer on a project designed to improve parents’ awareness on immunization choices. The experience made me fascinated about public health, health communications, and behavior change. I started as a microbiologist in CDC’s gonorrhea laboratory, studying antibiotic-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Over my 17-year career at CDC, I have worked on many major public health outbreaks and responses including anthrax, SARS, fungal meningitis, Ebola, H1N1, MERS, and many others. I’ve also had the opportunity to spearhead education programs for a variety of diseases such from rabies and Ebola, to MRSA and C. difficile. I am honored to work with a team that is responsible for communication campaigns and strategies that target patients and healthcare providers in an effort to improve infection control and patient safety in U.S. healthcare facilities.

Q. What are the biggest challenges (or opportunities) the CDC is facing today?

A. One of the biggest public health threats we are facing is the end of antibiotics. Today, antibiotic resistant infections threaten the lives of patients and could significantly impact advances in modern medicine. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. The loss of effective antibiotics will undermine our ability to fight infectious diseases and manage the infectious complications common in vulnerable patients. These include patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, dialysis for renal failure, surgery, and organ transplantation, for which the ability to treat secondary infections is crucial. We have to change how we use antibiotics. We need to be careful not to squander antibiotics and provide patients with the right medicine, in the right doses, at the right time. Improving antibiotic use and tackling antibiotic resistance may save the life of your parent, loved one, child, or grandchild.

Q. Are there any public health initiatives that your division is currently working on that you would like share with the Council?

A. To address the threat of antibiotic resistance, CDC has unveiled CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative -- a comprehensive approach that fully implements CDC’s portions of the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. The proposed $264 million for CDC is part of the broader national strategy and would facilitate action in every state, accelerate outbreak detection and prevention innovation, and improve antibiotic use and reduce antibiotic resistance.

Most recently, CDC collaborated with the White House to host a forum on antibiotic stewardship. This event brought together over 150 of the nation’s organizations and companies all making commitments to improve antibiotic use. These groups represented key human and animal health constituencies who are all involved in antibiotic stewardship – the development, promotion, and implementation of activities to ensure the responsible use of antibiotics. As a result, incredible commitments were made to implement changes over the next five years that will slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections.

Q. What do you believe will be the most valuable aspect of the CDC’s participation in NCL’s Health Advisory Council?

A. CDC and NCL share a common goal: to keep America’s families safe and healthy. CDC supports improved transparency around healthcare and patient safety, so consumers can make informed decisions about their health and ensure accountability. CDC works to educate consumers on various patient safety issues and has appreciated a long-standing collaboration with NCL, specifically on the Up and Away campaign. We look forward to future collaborations with NCL that expand on these shared visions of patient safety and healthcare improvement.