As the leader of a company that’s dedicated to developing solutions that help physicians diagnose, treat, and improve gynecologic health outcomes for women, I find myself facing sensitive, often heartrending situations. But I still consider myself incredibly blessed to be doing what I do.
All business owners and executives generally start on our paths because of a passion or need to solve a problem or fill a gap. The emotional connection we associate with our venture drives us forward — and I believe that passion and personal connection have been crucial to my own success.
My Passion Project Journey
Through my own personal connection to women’s health and cancer, I’ve always felt compelled to devote myself to helping women. Let’s face it: It’s been a man’s world — particularly in terms of making decisions about where research funding goes — and I wanted to enact change.
While I’m sensitive to breast cancer because of my mother’s battle with the disease, it’s also a heavily funded, well-recognized cause. No one seems to talk about ovarian cancer, yet there were 21,290 new cases in the U.S. alone in 2015, according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. What’s more, ovarian cancer accounted for more than 14,000 deaths last year.
While these numbers may seem small, they really haven’t budged in more than 30 years. In this time frame, we’ve gone from large satellite phones to handheld smartphones and from record players to digital music, but as a society, we’ve barely made a dent in ovarian cancer.
Detecting ovarian cancer is tricky, as symptoms are largely mild until the later stages of the disease. As a result, more than 70 percent of women aren’t diagnosed until later stages — when the five-year survival rate sits below 20 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. This is in stark contrast to the 92 percent of Caucasian women and the 80 percent of African-American women who survive breast cancer.
There will be a day when women seldom die from breast cancer; I want to see that day for ovarian cancer, too.
Using Your Passion to Fuel Your Business
In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what mission I was on, but now that I’ve sat in this chair as CEO for over a year, it’s been incredible. I took actionable steps in my business and my career, and it shows. Today, people are gravitating toward us because we’re passionate about what we do.
So what can you do to take your passion on the road and build your business and your career?
1. Make sure your passion sparks awareness.
Don’t underestimate the power of your target audience, but keep in mind that you should also focus on the audience that’s not there yet. Developing awareness will create momentum.
2. Find a media source and campaign that works for your audience.
When we started a Facebook campaign, we weren’t sure how to build awareness. But we stuck by the motto that if we helped women, they’d help us. Soon, we went from 10 Facebook hits a week to a few thousand, and we just hired our first digital marketing employee.
Don’t underestimate the power of women and the power of social media and digital marketing. Focus on educating and informing your audience members, and they’ll find you.
3. Form your ultimate dream team to support you.
These are the people who will drive the momentum and turn your vision into reality. We formed our own ovarian cancer dream team in early 2016. Made up of thought leaders in women’s healthcare and support, we now have over $7.5 million in grants to dedicate to ovarian cancer research. Fill your dream team with people who will propel your vision forward.
If you’re not following your passion, what’s stopping you? Having a personal tie to your business and using that momentum to your benefit and others’ will keep you focused on the adventure, not the work. For me, my personal experiences opened my eyes to a real need, and I haven’t looked back since.
About the Author
Valerie Palmieri joined Vermillion in October 2014 and was appointed president and CEO in January 2015. She brings more than 30 years of experience in the diagnostic laboratory industry, serving in numerous sales, operations, and executive leadership positions for both laboratory service and consulting organizations.