I have struggled this week to accept the death of Dr. Michael Rosenberg, Founder and CEO of Health Decisions. Michael was an inspiring friend to me, and one of a handful of people that regularly gave me confidence in innovation.
Michael and I would meet periodically at a local coffee shop. These times for me were always treasured opportunities to connect with someone else passionate about our industry. We talked about pharmaceutical and health industry trends, work, books, flying, and anything else that came to mind. We had started making plans for some joint writing and speaking. The coffee was always strong, the conversation was always great, and I can only hope he left these meetings with some sense of the rejuvenation that I always did.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the rarity of people like Michael. An entrepreneur physician and business leader who deeply understands clinical research, analytics, and technology is of course exceptional. But beyond his impressive ability to crosswalk so many disciplines, the things I admire most were his unquenchable thirst for improvement, his passion for technology-enabled advancement, and his unending desire to help organizations and people bring medical treatments to patients faster and more efficiently. Michael ran a highly successful company, but he earnestly wanted a better tomorrow. Some people have careers; Michael had a mission.
He and I had one of our coffee sessions a few weeks ago, and I started to ask him why are you still doing this? Many leaders at his level would have retired by now; in the game of business, he had already won. So why keep doing the hard work of change? But I didn’t ask him; I already knew the answer. The vision has not been fully implemented yet.
Mission work can be hard and seemingly endless, but it can also be very rewarding, as Michael’s life and work regularly reminds me. I have no doubt his vision for more efficient, data-driven, and adaptive clinical research will be fully realized in the near future. It might happen through natural evolution, but my money is on the disruptors, the innovators, the mission-oriented people like Michael who refuse to accept the status quo. I hope I’m there to see it.
In the meantime, it’s going to be a while before I can return to that particular coffee shop. I already miss the sense of connection with someone who sees the opportunity for change, and is undaunted by it. I will miss conversations that flow effortlessly between business, research, analytics, and technology. But mostly, I will miss the spark-like energy in the eyes of a bright, gifted leader — an energy he always seemed able to rekindle in me even in difficult times like these.