In the early ‘90s, Catherine Sofianou, took a look at the newly installed democratic society in Romania and said, yes! This is a country that needs a healthcare company specialized in high-end medical technologies from the United States. So she rolled up her sleeves and got to work on a task that seems close to impossible nowadays.
Thank you for this interview, Mrs. Sofianou!
1. What inspired your efforts to start SofMedica?
It just so happened that I was in Bucharest towards the end of the 1980’s and I had a feeling that Ceausescu’s regime was coming to an end.
When I returned to Greece, I figured that if Romania returned to democracy, the people would be in need of many things. There exactly, the drop of luck, in which Romanians believe and wish to all newborns, played a major part.
During one of my trips, I happened to meet a couple of Romanian physicians, whom I helped with their luggage in an airport, this was happening just after the dawn of the 90’s when Romania had turned the page to the new chapter.
The rest was simpler, as it turned out that the mother of the Professor I met in the airport, had Greek origins, so this Professor put all his trust in me and asked me to help his country in the field of healthcare, as I had told him that I owned an export company in Greece. In this simple way, the beginning of the 1990’s found me in Bucharest, trying to figure out the needs of this amazing country. We started with hemodialysis, where the needs were huge, just as in the field of cardiovascular care.
2. After the Baxter deal closed, what was your next move?
We started the collaboration with the world-renowned company Baxter in the two aforementioned fields, Renal and Cardiovascular care.
It obviously was not easy for a new company to enter the Romanian market, because the only competing company had monopoly until then, especially in the field of Hemodialysis. I had then to arm myself with great amounts of patience and perseverance in order to succeed in establishing a name for the company in the Romanian market. What I want to emphasize is that when you truly believe in your goals, supported also by lots of work, insuccess is excluded from the equation.
3. If nowadays the Da Vinci Surgical Platform is considered one of the most sophisticated medical devices, what was its equivalent back in the 90’s?
During the 90’s, especially in the Romanian market, with Baxter as our partners, the sophisticated medical devices were the hemodialysis machines, the oxygenators and the high-end heart valves, but the real revolution in healthcare back then was the “CAPD”, the continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis, which was completely unknown in the Romanian market.
4. What benefits do you see from innovation as a company’s core value?
The benefits are huge, because nowadays in the medical science, which has evolved greatly, if you do not follow the trend of high-tech, you cannot go on. This is why SofMedica invested exclusively in high technology equipment like the robotic surgery platform Da Vinci from Intuitive
5. In your opinion is there a difference between how men and women plan their career progress?
Here, I will mention the advantages of a company with a woman in a leading position. As I see them, some of these advantages are:
1) Female emotional intelligence
2) Female social responsibility
3) The thought and attention sharing of a woman
4) The crisis management and finding of the right solutions of a woman and last, but not least
5) The hope which is stronger in a woman than in a man that is why hope is of feminine gender.
6. Have you encountered any gender specific challenges or obstacles in your career?
Obviously, I have encountered many challenges and obstacles in relation to the opposite gender in my career. However, as I mentioned previously there are some advantages for a company with a woman in a leading position, and if that woman can combine them with patience and perseverance, I believe that she can overcome a man and show him that we, the women, are able to do anything we set our mind to.
7. What are your future growth plans for SFM?
Because I am at the dusk of my life, I do not believe it is right to have plans for the future for SofMedica, moreover since now at the helm of this Group is George Sofianos and he has proved that he developed SofMedica in a great Group of Companies.
8. Do you have any advice for female professionals who are in, or are looking to work in, a management or leadership role?
I have many pieces of advice for the female professionals, I have mentioned the most important of them, my personal belief is Faith – Patience – Perseverance and Hard Work!