OSN talks with Johnson & Johnson Vision’s new chief medical officer
In April, Rajesh K. Rajpal, MD, was appointed chief medical officer and global head of clinical and medical affairs at Johnson & Johnson Vision, after serving as Avedro’s chief medical officer since 2016. Ocular Surgery News spoke with Rajpal about the challenges and rewards of his new role.
OSN: How did your experience as CMO at Avedro help prepare you for your new role at J&J Vision?
Rajpal: Over the past 25 years as a practicing ophthalmologist, I have had the privilege of working in education, clinical research and as a business owner, founding an ophthalmology and optometry group practice. My work on the industry side has given me a unique perspective to entrepreneurship as well as having oversight of clinical operations, medical affairs, regulatory affairs and professional relations for professional societies and clinicians.
So many of the challenges faced by eye care practitioners today — particularly in the time of COVID-19 — are as much related to owning and operating a small business as they are about meeting unmet needs.
Having experience in academia, business and industry hopefully allows me to add perspective and advice on solutions that work for clinicians, business owners, industry and patients.
OSN: What attracted you to the CMO position at J&J Vision?
Rajpal: I am excited to be a member of the Johnson & Johnson Vision team and to have the tremendous opportunity to impact health care, and more specifically eye health, for so many patients around the world.
As you know, globally, visual impairment is a major health issue. Because the need is so great, the ability to deliver solutions at scale is more important than it has ever been. As I learned more about Johnson & Johnson Vision, I found it serves more than 60 million people in 103 countries, across a lifetime of eye health needs, from myopia in early childhood, to vision correction in adulthood, to presbyopia, cataract, glaucoma and other conditions later in life. To be able to help people see better, connect better and live better on such a massive scale was an opportunity I could not pass up.
OSN: What do you hope to accomplish as CMO at J&J Vision?
Rajpal: We are at a crossroads in med-tech and in the eye health space. As a result of COVID-19, we are going to see a seismic shift in the way patients seek and receive eye health education and care. We are going to see a change in how eye care practitioners practice, diagnose and treat, while staying on the cutting edge of science and innovation. We are also going to see a shift in how they organize and run their practices to serve their communities.
Beyond this shift, I see tremendous opportunities for ongoing innovation in technology, products, pharmaceuticals and care delivery methods.
So as much as it is an uncertain time for the world and the industry itself, it is also an exciting one. I am looking forward to being on the cutting edge of both product and commercial innovations that will guide our industry into its next frontier.
OSN: What special challenges does the pandemic present from an eye care company CMO’s perspective?
Rajpal: The biggest challenge has been how to shift gears quickly to support the needs as they exist today and anticipate what is ahead so we can solve for the needs of the future.
The eye health industry is, of course, dependent on relationships and face-to-face interactions between patients and practitioners but also between manufacturers and eye care practitioners and surgeons. One-on-one interaction is how we listen, learn and build trust with one another. How do we navigate in a world where that face-to-face connection has become severely limited? In the mid to long term, that is a problem we have to solve.
In the short term, we have been supporting our customers as business owners and employers, trying to minimize as much as possible the burdens placed on eye care practitioners by the rapid closing or scaling back of eye health services and procedures. Where we can, we are offering payment terms extensions, contract extensions, rebate programs and the list goes on.
We have also mobilized to introduce new virtual professional education resources, such as live trainings, webinars and on-demand podcasts to help practitioners stay up to date on product innovations, clinical techniques and guidance for reopening safely. Since January, I am proud to say we have conducted trainings for more than 60,000 eye care practitioners across the globe.
And lastly, we are developing educational resources such as providing information about contact lens safety and surgical procedures to inform patients on how they may safely seek care as practices reopen for business. People want to resume their lives, but they are also scared to return to normal, particularly in a health care setting. It is our job as an industry to ensure they can come back to eye care safely. We all understand, and patients definitely agree, that we cannot make compromises on your sense of sight.