Managers under the spotlight - Marian Isac, Zimmer Biomet Romania

Can you tell us about your career journey and how you became the leader of Zimmer Biomet in Romania?

I have graduated the Medical University in Bucharest in late 90s’, in a society transitioning from an ermetical & centralized comunist system to a liberal democracy and in a deeply troubled healthcare system, poorly rewarding its employed staff. I chose to quit the medical field, as many others at the time, and move towards the medical industry field. For 25 years, I have covered Sales, Marketing and Management roles in various companies focused on medical devices all being global leaders in their respective fields (Orthopedics; Spine Surgery; Neurosurgery; Interventional Cardiology; etc.), and I was responsible with areas such as: Central & Eastern Europe; Central Asia; Middle East; Africa.

At the time when Zimmer Biomet decided to change the business model in Romania (2022), moving from a contracted local distributor to start their own direct commercial entity, I was offered to take over the General Manager role for the new organization. My task was to implement the new start-up and lead its way further in Romania, based on my over 20 years of leadership track, in depth knowledge in Orthopedics, and my previous extensive experience with business model transformation and change management. I have accepted the challenge and started in my new position in July 2022. Over the past few months, we’ve opened a new office (in Sema Parc), a new warehouse and hired almost 35 employees, while continuing delivering on a daily basis our products to our almost 100 clients (public and private hospitals).

What are some of the medical technology industry's biggest challenges?

At a global level, I think that the biggest challenge for medical devices companies that want to stay in leading positions on a long term is to invest timely and enough resources in research & development (R&D) and/or in acquisitions (or both), and to make sure they either develop or purchase the right technologies and innovations that will secure their long term differentiation and value, but at affordable costs for healthcare systems and patients, while still staying profitable. With a population that is growing, aging and is more educated and more informed, the pressure on healthcare systems to provide more affordable, highest quality and best outcome medical treatments is increasing.

Specifically in Orthopedics, for a global company like ours, the pandemic context created a huge challenge by lliterally stopping or postponing non-critical surgeries that were not considered emergency treatment : artificial joints implantations (hips & knees) are considered elective surgeries as indication for chronical (not urgent) pathologies (arthritis = joint tissue degenertative pathology). Most of these surgeries dropped and these companies suffered and had to take difficult decisions about their many employees (we have over 17,000 employees worldwide); our company made the choice to keep and continue paying them, waiting for the pandemic to pass and come back to normal. Now that we are back to normal, Orthopedics market faces a new challenge: an increased demand, as all those postponed patients are back for their treatment, versus a limited production capacity overall, for all Orthipedics suppliers. And since troubles are coming more at a time, one more added to the list of challenges: shortage and increasing cost in raw material. 70% of all Orthopedics implants sold are made out of Titanium and the major worldwide supplier of Titanium is… Russia. Easy to imagine that the supply of Titanium suffered, knowing what goes on, not far from our eastern Romanian borders.

At a local level, in a country such as Romania, one challenge is the overall country strategy related to the local healthcare system development and adoption and proper implementation of technology and innovation. That also includes the need for a parallel, proper education and training plan for the medical staff, concerning all those new technologies and modern therapies.

How do you balance the need for innovation with the need for regulatory compliance in the medical technology industry?

This is a very important question and aspect. Companies like ours are strongly driven by the patients’ safety principle. Therefore, products have to be seriously tested and have the time proof, which particularly in Orthopedics (for implants such as artificial hip & knee joints) is very important. These implants should ideally stay in patients for a lifetime, once implanted. Therefore they are usually rigurously tested in-vitro for many repeated cycles, in order to mimic during the shorter testing time, what would happen with those respective implants over many years of real usage in a true patient’s joint. Nowadays, the most important aim of healthcare systems becomes the outcome of treating patient, both on a short as well as on a long term. For that, collecting quality data from exisiting patients deeply serves to help understanding what should become in the future the best treatment for a specific patient, and also to make the best decisions and  be able to anticipate the outcome from using one or another treatment or medical device.

I anticipate that in the future both companies and healthcare systems will become more and more clinical data driven in order to accept, use and adopt specific therapies, technologies, products. We see that already with the new regulations and requirements implemented as of this year by the EU for medical devices more clinical data are required for medical devices to either keep or receive their CE Mark.

What role do medical technology play in the future of healthcare in Romania?

I think medical technology companies should focus in the future on creating local organizations that are delivering most professional services to patients & hospitals, bring new technologies and therapies efficiently to the market and deliver the best training possible to the whole healthcare environement concerned, in order to generate the best outcome of their treatment on patients, through safest and most efficient usage of their technologies. The providers of medical devices and technologies should be true partners of the healthcare system and strong supporters to its continuous development and modernization.

What’s your current hobby?

I love mountain trekking and I do my best escapes at least 2-3 times a year to enjoy the beautiful Romanian mountain landscapes on slightly longer trekking trips. I am also enjoying endurance sports (such as long distance triathlons:  swimming, biking and running). In terms of community responsibility, I am volunteering as a medical coordinator for a long distance running events (such as the Bucharest HalfMarathon & Marathon races - the largest mass sports events in Romania, gathering yearly at the starting points : over 10,000 runners / each event) and I am also an active member of Rotary International, 2nd largest  (membership wise with over 1.2millions members) NGO worldwide, organization that is extremely involved in many impactful community projects in Romania (there are over 140 associations registered in Romania under the Rotary network, with over 3,500 members, most of them being the elite from various social, professional and business fields.

What’s your favourite book? /or Who is your favourite author? (your choice)

In Greek and later in Roman ancient societies, the leaders were given a “complete education”: they were supposed having a strong spirit, a deep knowledge in most important fields in order to be able to contribute socially & proffessionally at a high scale, and also a good health. I think that among the three mentioned (spirit, knowledge and health) at individual level, the Western societies are mostly failing on the spiritual side.

A good guide to support anyone’s spiritual journey, as far as I have perceived it and I do recommend is : “The Tibetan Book of the Life and the Death”.

I truly think that any strong leader should have the right balance between spirit, knolwedge and health. If one is missing, the others will suffer.