Interview with Tam Nguyen, EO Research, St Vincent's Hospital

We spoke with Tam about the future of strategic development in healthcare


Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in Melbourne, March 15 & 16, we sat down with Tam Nguyen, EO Research, St Vincent's Hospital, to talk about strategic development in the healthcare industry.

As a senior executive of research at St Vincent's Hospital, Dr Tam Nguyen is responsible for Research Strategy and Business Development. Tam leads a dynamic team dedicated to providing innovative solutions to facilitate health and medical research, which includes the Research Valet® Service, St Vincent’s Bridge™ linking clinicians and industry. His team are leading the sector initiative building the Victorian Clinical Trials Gateway™ web portal aiming to attract new clinical trials to Victoria. Tam is a qualified Bioengineer with a PhD in Biomechanics and an MBA in general management and is an Adjunct Associate Professor at RMIT University.

How did you get started in your career?

I started out as a research engineer at the Royal Children Hospital, and then moved into research management and administration half way through my PhD working at numerous teaching hospitals and medical research institutes in Melbourne and Adelaide.

The transition involves numerous hands-on projects and formal postgraduate management education. In my current role I’m responsible for research strategy and business development, and lead a dynamic team dedicated to providing innovative solutions to facilitate health and medical research, which includes the Research Valet®Service, St Vincent’s Bridge™ initiative linking clinicians and industry. I recently co-founded and manage an investment fund supporting Australian biotech, medtech and pharma start-ups.

What are the main components of a successful business strategy?

A successful business strategy, in particular in the health and medical research (HMR) industry should include three key components: purpose, planning and people. Key component of planning should focus on the agility and adaptability of the strategy. In a highly disruptive environment, adaptability links with survivability. Purpose is central in a successful business strategy as you need to sell the compelling story of health and medical research to numerous stakeholders including investors, funders and end-users. Thirdly, in addition to external stakeholders, people as internal stakeholders such as researchers, busy clinician researchers, or clinicians/surgeon inventors need to be proactively engaged via appropriate education, motivation and effective facilitation structure.

In what ways do you think the role of a strategist is going to evolve/transform in the coming year's?

The role of a strategist is a relatively new role with increasing importance in many organisations, especially in health and medical research sector. In the coming years, we will probably tradition roles such as research business development and research commercialisation transforming to the research strategist roles that develop and implement strategies with the drive for innovation. I think the strategist role will gain wider understanding and acceptance as the sector moves into the innovation era and disruptive technology. If health and medical research organisations wish to shift their focus on maximising the growth opportunities that lie ahead, they will need to reorientate their strategy function into a proactive business role. Depending on how established the organisation is, the function of a strategist could be one of or a combination of the following: 1. Internal Consulting – focusing purely on strategy formulation 2. Specialist – with specific skills that missing from the organisation 3. Facilitator – to facilitate strategy formulation 4. Change Agent – to execute strategy

Whats your best guess for how your industry will look like in 3 years?

With the growing demand in healthcare being transformed by innovation and higher community expectations, health and medical research sector needs to find and apply new knowledge and discoveries that drive innovation and commercialisation. Investments either from public and private stakeholders demands a better ROI and shorter time to impact. In the context of finite resources and disruptive technology, health and medical research organisations must work in partnership with all stakeholders even perhaps with their competitors to create knowledge, innovate and commercialise for sustainability. In the next 3-5 years when the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) which is a $20 billion health and medical research investment vehicle in full swing will disburse around $1 billion annually. This fund along R&D tax incentives and other tax reforms will position the HMR sector tackling future challenges and facilitate commercialisation of research. This ultimately will alleviate some of the burdens on our healthcare system and address the issues of sustainability in health medical research.

What can your audience expect to hear from you in Melbourne?

You will hear about some components of our research strategy in particular innovative approaches to foster and facilitate health and medical research; research advocacy effort and active business development. I will also present lessons learnt from collaboration with industry and government agencies in driving research agenda and medtech and pharmaceutical sector growth.

You can hear more from Nguyen at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in Melbourne, March 15 & 16.

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