Chat with Vincent Forlenza, CEO of Becton Dickinson

Durreen Shahnaz (DS): BD’s Global Health Initiative is to help strengthen healthcare systems and increase access to healthcare in the developing world. Please discuss a few of the programs or products under this initiative that you feel had the biggest impact on lives in Asia.

Vincent Forlenza (VF): For over 100 years, BD has applied its technologies, resources and institutional knowledge to address fundamental health issues. The Global Health Initiative strengthens healthcare systems by leveraging BD skills and resources to provide technical assistance, increasing access to technologies, investing in new technologies and collaborating with organizations, which share our mission of helping all people live healthy lives.

BD’s Global Health Initiative initially focused on increasing access to technologies and strengthening healthcare systems through public-private partnerships in Africa. Over time, this model evolved to become the foundation of BD’s overall emerging markets strategy across our businesses, particularly in Greater Asia. The following public-private partnerships greatly impacted or will impact healthcare systems in Asia:
BD and USAID TB collaboration in Indonesia

  • The new collaboration supports the National TB Program and will emphasize the adoption of recommended diagnostic algorithms to enable early detection of TB cases as well as monitoring and treatment services.
  • BD associates have trained 12 laboratory workers on liquid culture and drug susceptibility testing in Surabaya, Persahebatan and Makassar provinces.
  • BD and USAID completed biosafety assessments for 5 laboratories and developed training modules with the National TB Programme that are currently being reviewed.
  • BD and WHO committed to develop and launch Odon device for assisted delivery of newborns

  • The collaboration will develop and launch a new innovative obstetrical instrument for assisting the delivery of newborns during circumstances of troublesome labor.
  • The product is being redesigned by BD and the creator, Jorge Odon, and will be manufactured at BD’s facility in Singapore.

    Project HOPE in China

  • Since 2008, Project HOPE and its corporate partners, including BD, created the China Diabetes Education Program.
  • This collaborative program established diabetes training centers, introduced a state-of-the-art training model, and developed diabetes education and training materials that have long been supported from the Ministry of Health and government.
  • BD has contributed both financial and products donations to this collaborative program.
  • The BD Global Health Initiative’s approach in Asia and other emerging markets is to collaborate with local government and ministries of health by sharing core competencies to address unmet healthcare needs, ultimately strengthening healthcare systems.


    DS: In recent years BD formed philanthropic and charitable partnerships with the likes of UNICEF and American Red Cross. How would you measure the success of these partnerships?

    VF: BD measures the success of our partnerships through the impacts our NGO partners have in the communities they serve. Specifically, one of our longest standing partnerships with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF is for their Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Initiative (MNT). Since 1997, BD has donated more than $6 million and 22 million prefilled injection devices to the MNT elimination efforts of UNICEF and its partners. To date, 29 of the 59 at-risk countries have eliminated MNT. As another example, our support of the American Red Cross Measles Initiative has helped the organization achieve a 90% reduction rate of measles in Africa. The program now includes rubella. The American Red Cross and its Measles & Rubella Initiative partners have helped to vaccinate one billion children in more than 80 developing countries, making significant gains in the global effort to stop the disease.


    DS: As a successful Fortune 500 CEO and a leader who is incorporating ‘doing good with doing well’ discussing it in venues such at Clinton Global Initiative, how would you advise other CEOs to do the same?

    VF: It’s important to be built on a strong foundation of core values. At BD, this came from the Becton and Dickinson families themselves and from their sense of purpose around improving healthcare. The values they preached from the start have been fundamental to the success of the company and are embedded in our history. A company’s longevity is linked to having strong principles and a stable, steady executive team that creates and fosters a culture and instills a responsibility for doing good and doing well. If you look back at Jim Collins’ work in the 1990s – Built to Last and Good to Great – he talks about Level Five Leadership; there’s a continuity of leadership in the companies that are the highest performing, because they have missions that go beyond profit only.


    DS: As a fellow Wharton alumni, I have to ask, what role do you think business schools play in preparing students to operate in a world where one has to embrace social and environmental issue not because it is something good to do but is a necessity.

    VF: At their best, business schools are developing leaders who understand the broader social context and the purpose of business, which is to meet unmet societal needs. The idea that management works only for shareholders is too narrow, neglecting key stakeholders.