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What I've Learned Leading AmerisourceBergen's COVID-19 Task Force

Heather Zenk

RPh, PharmD

I have the privilege of leading AmerisourceBergen's COVID-19 Task Force. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Task Force has had the responsibility and the privilege to lead our enterprise response to COVID-19, making recommendations on actions and policies to AmerisourceBergen’s Executive Management Committee as our 22,000 associates navigate this global pandemic together.

The Task Force (a group of ten leaders) meets twice a day to make key decisions about our response to COVID-19 across the enterprise – everything from making exceptions for critical travel needs to keep the business running to helping guide our re-entry Task Force as they prepare for our eventual return to an office setting and generally, helping AmerisourceBergen's teams through the challenges a global healthcare organization faces while navigating a global pandemic—both for our own associates and for the stakeholders we support.

Additionally, more than 50 of AmerisourceBergen's leaders comprise a COVID-19 "advisory board" —representing every global AmerisourceBergen business—and we meet regularly to hear updates on how each business is being impacted by COVID-19, how we can support our customers, clients and patients, assess any associates or teams that need support, and triage any challenges that have arisen over the previous week.

The Task Force meets (at any time of the day or night) with any leader who has an associate on their team who tests positive for COVID-19 and advises on action, communication and next steps within minutes of the case being reported. We also meet with government officials, especially in the U.S., as they advise us on AmerisourceBergen's response and as AmerisourceBergen continues to use our distribution network to support the country’s response to the pandemic.

Ultimately, the Task Force's goal is to help keep our associates, their loved ones, our customers, clients and patients safe and healthy.

While it's challenging to sum it up, I wanted to share what I've learned as the COVID-19 Task Force Lead:

  • The world was not ready for a global pandemic. This is a time of high stress, high emotion and high stakes, but every single player in healthcare is doing their best to react, to be responsible, and most importantly, to protect our global community.
  • I am deeply proud of AmerisourceBergen's associates who continue to rise to the occasion to support our customers, clients and patients. The amount of energy, effort and dedication to our purpose has been heroic.
  • I have never witnessed the level of collaboration that this time of crisis has brought to AmerisourceBergen and our partners. There are hundreds of examples of associates, leaders, government agencies and healthcare providers working together across businesses, teams and geographies to do what's right for the world and for patient care.
  • As a global organization, it's not easy to navigate the different guidance, ordinances, laws and regulations that countries, states and counties have issued in response to COVID-19. But I am continuously surprised to learn that in every location that AmerisourceBergen operates, we have the right relationships with officials to guide us in our response. In the United States, this includes agencies like FEMA, Healthcare Ready, the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, lawmakers, and the White House task force.
  • What I'm perhaps most humbled by, though, is how tenacious, resilient and deeply dedicated AmerisourceBergen's customers and associates are. Every day, AmerisourceBergen’s pharmacists, nurses, distribution center associates, packaging associates, courier drivers and essential workers show up for work, roll up their sleeves, and take every precaution possible to protect their own safety, their family's, and to continue to deliver on the critical role they play. In turn, our customers have demonstrated unwavering tenacity, ingenuity and innovation to work through this unprecedented event.

As we continue to work our way through this challenging time, I simply want to thank you for entrusting me with the privilege of working with you and dedicated teams as we all get through this together.

Heather Zenk, RPh, PharmD
President, Distribution Services and Supply Chain Operations