Kristin Ciriello Pothier didn’t set out to write a book. As the Global Head of Life Sciences at Parthenon-EY and the creator and leader of EY Precision Medicine, Pothier has her hands full — and she spends as much of her free time as possible with her husband and two children.
Yet when she was approached by a publisher who had read her articles and seen her speak about precision medicine, and he suggested that she channel her knowledge and insight into book-writing, Pothier says she couldn’t turn down the opportunity. “It felt timely; it felt great,” she told Fairygodboss. Her book, titled “Personalizing Precision Medicine: A Global Voyage from Vision to Reality,” has just been published by Wiley.
Precision medicine — a customized treatment plan that empowers individual patients to partake in the decision-making process — has been a focus of Pothier’s throughout her 20-year career, which began in the ’90s when she was working on the Human Genome Project.
But the real genesis of Pothier’s book began when she was just 12 years old and her grandfather, Angelo, was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. “I watched my parents really struggle with it,” she recalls. “It was a terrible death; the lung cancer metastasized to the bone. At the time, in 1985, there was nothing we could do. It was a terrible experience my parents had to deal with.”
Pothier says her book is in part a nod to her grandfather, but also to every other person today who’s dealing with similar pain — including some of her closest friends, who have been willing to share their own cancer stories in the book.
“It’s game-changing what we’ve been able to do in precision medicine,” Pothier says, adding that as a result of this kind of targeted approach, “breast cancer has totally changed over the past decade. Today, we’re diagnosing early and thoroughly, and there are a lot more treatment options than we had in the past. It’s about pinpointing the right treatment for the right patients at the right time,” she explains, clarifying that precision medicine can even be applied to aftercare. Breast cancer patients who have undergone operations can choose, for instance, whether they want their nipples to be constructed or whether they want to get breast tattoos.
In addition to being an expert on precision medicine, Pothier knows a thing or two about what it’s like to be a woman in leadership in a male-dominated field. Yet while she acknowledges that the playing field is far from equal for men and women, she says that “EY is a wonderful place to be [as a woman].” There’s a huge campaign at the company, called “Women. Fast Forward,” that’s aiming to get more women into senior positions.
“This is a male-dominated space, still,” Pothier says, “but what I find is that I don’t really think about it that much.” She adds that she thinks women in her field who do make it to leadership positions actually have a competitive advantage. “As we move forward, I find women leaders in healthcare and life sciences have a leg up. Women still tend to be caretakers and bear the brunt of that work, and this is even more pronounced in other areas of the world [than it is in the U.S. When women are in leadership positions in this field], it allows us to build medical institutions that cater to caretakers — and not to patients only.”
Pothier adds that EY is a particularly great place to be a working mom because of its generous parental leave policy, which offers 16 weeks of paid maternity leave and 16 weeks of paid paternity leave. She feels fortunate to work for an employer whose values and culture haven’t hindered her career growth, but rather have encouraged and supported her journey to the top. And now, she’s paying it forward. As she puts it: “As we bring the up next generation, we really try to push forward [women-friendly policies and the women-in-leadership agenda].”