September 26th is National Compliance Officer Day. For the next few weeks, ECI will be highlighting a number of our members in celebration of their contribution to our industry. Our goal is to share some insight on two of the groups that comprise ECI’s membership – established CECOs, new CECOs and those who desire to be a CECO.
A conversation with Cynthia Patton and David Childers, Senior Vice President, ECI.
David Childers (DC): Please meet Cynthia M. Patton. Cynthia serves as Senior Vice president and Chief Compliance Officer, responsible for Amgen’s worldwide compliance and business ethics organization. Cynthia joined Amgen in 2005, and most recently was a vice president in the Amgen law department with responsibility for commercial legal activities in the United States. Prior to that position, she served as the lead commercial lawyer for both the oncology and inflammation business units.
Cynthia, you had a great legal career. What took you to compliance at Amgen?
Cynthia Patton (CP): When I joined Amgen’s legal department in 2005 supporting certain areas of compliance was part of my role. Later as the compliance program continued to grow, my group provided legal services for the enhanced compliance organization. The work was interesting and challenging. It definitely tapped into a skill set I had not had to use in law.
DC: Cynthia, would you elaborate a bit about the “enhanced” compliance program?
CP: In 2007 Amgen’s CCO enhanced the program to more clearly reflect the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seven elements of an effective compliance program. This included revising all the compliance standard operating procedures. In 2012, I was asked to lead the group as CCO.
DC: That is very interesting. What has kept you engaged with compliance?
CP: I have come to love the role. As a bio/psychology major it captures two of my passions – biology and understanding human motivation and behavior. I have a diverse team that is an absolute joy to work with and it is truly fascinating to develop programs that promote ethical behavior. Amgen’s mission is to serve patients with serious illnesses. We consider what we do a privilege and we must earn that privilege every day. Being ethical is a big part of how we earn the privilege.
DC: Sounds like you really enjoy the role. What has surprised you along the way?
CP: One of the big surprises for me has been the global nature of the role. I have had to build a compliance program that resonates in over 100 countries. As much as I am developing a culture of compliance, I am also gaining a vast knowledge of cultural beliefs and dynamics around the world.
DC: Do you ever look back and miss practicing law?
CP: I missed the practice at first but now I don't miss the day-to-day of being a lawyer. My role is just so much bigger. The global nature of the CCO’s role, and this requirement to understand all aspects of the business, board and government engagement and the ability to develop a strong team make every day more interesting and rewarding than the last.
DC: Your passion for the work is impressive. Where do you see yourself on your career path?
CP: I am still enjoying growing and building the program. I thrive on challenge. I guess you can say I am still very much in the middle of this one. I hope the skills and experiences I have developed, and are still developing, will someday provide me with an opportunity to use this expertise in board work, the nonprofit world or education.