On, Alumnae: Azita Saleki-Gerhardt

As a pharmaceutical leader with many roles, Saleki-Gerhardt encourages other women to “stretch themselves” and get outside their comfort zones. Courtesy of UW School of Pharmacy

Azita Saleki-Gerhardt ’88, MS’91, PhD’93 has gone from working in the lab to the C-suite at one of the world’s 10 largest pharmaceutical companies. She is president of operations at AbbVie, which had 2017 revenue exceeding that of other industry giants such as AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, and Bayer.

In 2013, after she had worked at Abbott for almost 20 years, the company spun off its research-based pharmaceutical unit into a separate public company, AbbVie, where Saleki-Gerhardt is now responsible for more than 6,800 employees in the divisions of science and technology; manufacturing; quality and supply chain/distribution, and others.

Throughout her career, Saleki-Gerhardt has contributed to various phases of many crucial medicines, including those that have transformed HIV from a deadly disease into a treatable condition, to those that have rendered the once-deadly Hepatitis C to a completely curable diagnosis.

Saleki-Gerhardt’s path went from research and development to science and technology to leading quality assurance efforts. She then rose to president of Abbott’s supply, quality, and manufacturing operations. But making the jump from science to business took courage, and the Iranian-born Saleki-Gerhardt now encourages other women to go outside their comfort zones.

“As a woman scientist,” she told the industry news site Fierce Pharma, “I encourage other women to stretch themselves and get more exposure [to business].” Saleki-Gerhardt has also established a UW–Madison scholarship for international pharmacy students and she continues to serve on various campus boards of visitors.

As part of the On Wisconsin women’s issue, see other UW alumnae you oughta know.

Published in the Summer 2019 issue

Tags: Alumni, Health and medicine, pharmacy

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