While the COVID-19 pandemic has gained a lot of attention since its emergence, other medical issues have had no less an impact on people around the world. For some, the pandemic was a distraction that diverted resources from other diseases that desperately need them.
Varian, a Siemens Healthineers company, continues its journey providing technology, data and expertise in the development of new treatments for cancer. President of Asia–Pacific and Japan Kenneth Tan tells The CEO Magazine that while COVID-19 was a medical emergency, cancer was always front of mind, as cancer does not stop for the coronavirus, and its focus remains as sharp as ever on developing innovative ways to treat the deadly disease.
“What we want to do at Varian is advance what we call intelligent cancer care,” he says. “We want to combine people, technology and data to deliver a personalised, bespoke form of patient care. Our goal is to integrate patient insights, AI capabilities, and software into the cloud so that healthcare professionals can access a deep-knowledge base and deliver better quality cancer care. It provides a team approach, a multidisciplinary approach, so that the patient has the best care.”
Varian believes the best outcome of cancer treatment requires the patient to be an active participant in sharing their information and making their treatment decisions, Kenneth adds. “When patients are more active and more engaged, they feel empowered, and an empowered patient is more fearless,” he says.
“It also gives patients a greater sense of personalised care. Data shows that such a model is able to improve outcomes while at the same time also reduce the cost. This provides a patient-centric approach to cancer care management.”
Kenneth believes the future of health care, and especially for cancer, lies with clinicians who embrace technology as a tool to augment and amplify their capabilities. Varian is at the centre of developing technologies to enable this future of cancer care. “We envision a world without fear of cancer – we don’t say a world without cancer,” he points out.
“In the foreseeable future we actually predict that cancer can become a manageable chronic disease, and then a cancer diagnosis will no longer hold the fear that it does today. As a leader in this space, we are well positioned to bring the people, the technology and the data together to deliver intelligent cancer care.”
Kenneth has more than 15 years’ experience in medical technology and six years in pharmaceuticals. This is his fifth year at Varian and his third as President of Asia–Pacific and Japan. Prior to joining Varian, he spent more than seven years working for Covidien, which was acquired by Medtronic in 2015.
He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a diploma in biotechnology, and completed his advanced management program at INSEAD. But he has long understood the tenets of leadership. When Kenneth was just 13 years old, he joined the National Cadet Corps in Singapore, and his four years there were pivotal in his progress as a young leader. That time would stand him in good stead during his career.
“If I look back, that’s what I would call early leadership development. The Corps has an ethos of ‘the impossible we do right away, but miracles takes a little bit longer’.
That ethos has followed me through life. It shaped my life. It helped me put adversity into perspective and see the value of doing things that others consider impossible. Growth and development can only happen when you do things that are difficult and have never been done before.”
Kenneth considers his greatest strength as a leader is clarity of purpose. He condenses that into clear tenets that guide him in everything he does: ethical, fair, kind and transparent.
“Regardless of what country you’re from, what language you speak or what culture you were brought up in, this leadership language transcends boundaries,” he points out.
“The best people solve the most complex problems, so if you build strength and diversity at all levels of the organisation and include them in decision-making, you’re going to have a very strong team, making great decisions. I think what has really shaped my leadership style is working across cultures.
“As a young leader, I learned the phrase, ‘seek first significance and then prominence will be bestowed upon you’. What this means to me is, as leaders, we need to take care of the people around us both in our organisations and in the communities we serve.” Kenneth is undoubtedly doing just that at Varian.