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The 2017-2018 TCNJ–Novo Nordisk Lecture Series


The School of Science, School of Nursing, Health, and Exercise Science, and School of Business are pleased to host and co-sponsor the TCNJ–Novo Nordisk Lecture Series during the 2017-2018 academic year.  The series theme is “Understanding Obesity: A Multidisciplinary Challenge” and will include four lectures throughout the year.


Series Theme: “Understanding Obesity: A Multidisciplinary Challenge”

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Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with more than 90 years of innovation focused primarily on defeating diabetes. As one of the primary risk factors for developing diabetes, obesity presents significant challenges that must be addressed in order to allow for advancements in the care of patients who are affected by either of these chronic diseases. Having recognized the unmet public health needs of people living with obesity, Novo Nordisk has established a long-term ambition and commitment to break through the barriers preventing effective care in the U.S. This four-part lecture series will focus on multidisciplinary efforts to change the course of obesity care through partnering with the community on education and advocacy, increasing access to care, and advancing medical management, while driving a societal shift in the recognition of obesity as a serious, chronic disease.

Fall 2017 Lectures


September Lecture – “Exploring the Obesity Epidemic: How did we get here?”
Dr. Todd Hobbs
Thursday, September 21, 2017, 5:00-6:30 pm (Lecture & Reception), Mayo Concert Hall


Dr. Todd Hobbs, MD; Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Novo Nordisk in North America

Date, Time, and Location

Thursday, September 21, 2017
5:00-6:00 pm – Lecture, Q&A, and Discussion
6:00-6:30 pm – Reception
Music Building, Mayo Concert Hall

Presentation Overview

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The first in a four-part series of lectures highlighting the continued partnership between Novo Nordisk and TCNJ, this initial lecture will introduce the audience to the significant challenges facing the U.S. healthcare system as it attempts to control the rising epidemic of obesity and its related conditions.  Dr. Hobbs will outline the scope of the problem, including factors that have contributed to the prevalence of obesity as well as current definitions used to define obesity.  The stigma associated with obesity will be discussed, as well as how many patient and professional groups are attempting to address this stigma and encourage patients to achieve positive outcomes through weight loss.  Subsequent lectures will focus on public health efforts to address the obesity epidemic, the science behind developing effective obesity treatments, and understanding the commercial and market challenges that are present in the treatment of obesity.

About the Speaker

Todd M. Hobbs, MD   

Todd Hobbs, MD, is Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Novo Nordisk in North America, where he leads the organization’s focus on the implications of diabetes for the patient, healthcare system and healthcare professionals. Dr. Hobbs provides overall medical guidance to Novo Nordisk’s diabetes- and obesity-related projects. He provides input into the clinical development and life-cycle management strategies for diabetes and obesity, as well as medical input into the R&D pipeline. He is involved with the optimization of relationships with top key opinion leaders and medical societies, and provides guidance to and participates in consultant advisory boards and key patient and professional associations and top thought leaders in diabetes.

Dr. Hobbs began his career at Novo Nordisk in 2004 as a field medical scientific director, then moving to the position of senior medical director, diabetes, in 2010. He led the Medical Affairs activities for all of Novo Nordisk’s current insulin products and devices, as well as supporting future insulin products through strategic and tactical activities.

Prior to working at Novo Nordisk, Dr. Hobbs had established a clinical practice based in Louisville, Kentucky, focusing on the intensive management of patients with diabetes of all ages, and served as chairman of the Medicine Department for a large Regional Medical Center in Kentucky. During this 10-year clinical career, he cared for more than 2,500 adults and children with diabetes, including outpatient and inpatient care, as well as intensive care.

Dr. Hobbs’ has a unique perspective on and personal dedication to the treatment of diabetes: his own experience with the disease began more than 25 years ago when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. His passion for defeating the disease intensified even more with the diagnosis of one of his sons with the same condition at the age of five.


November Lecture – “Bridging the Gap Between Public Health and Obesity Care”
Ms. Tracy Zvenyach and Ms. Susan Harris
Tuesday, November 7, 2017, 5:00-6:30 pm (Lecture & Reception), Brower Student Center 225


Ms. Tracy Zvenyach, MSN, NP; Obesity Public Policy for Novo Nordisk in North America
Ms. Susan Harris, MBA; Senior Director, Obesity Management for Novo Nordisk in North America

Date, Time, and Location

Tuesday, November 7, 2017
5:00-6:00 pm – Lecture, Q&A, and Discussion
6:00-6:30 pm – Reception
Brower Student Center, Room 225

Presentation Overview

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For decades, public health departments have made large investments in obesity prevention. Despite these efforts, obesity rates continue to rise. Join a candid discussion about solutions to address obesity from public health, public policy, and community approaches.

About the Speakers

Tracy Zvenyach, MSN, NP  

Tracy Zvenyach leads obesity public policy at Novo Nordisk, Inc. There she oversees public policy efforts focused on reducing barriers to obesity care including prevention of disease progression, increased access to evidence-based therapies for obesity, improving standards of quality care in obesity management, and reducing weight bias and stigma through education about obesity. Ms. Zvenyach spent 4 years of her career on Capitol Hill, in both houses, ultimately serving a U.S. Senator covering health, women’s policy, labor, disaster response, and judiciary policy. Two of her top legislative accomplishments include work on provisions included in the Affordable Care Act and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Ms. Zvenyach left the Hill to pursue a health policy and nutrition focused PhD at the University of Maryland.

Her research focuses on diet quality of pregnant women receiving the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplemental food program. She also serves as adjunct faculty at Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, teaching health policy to graduate students. Ms. Zvenyach has clinical experience in trauma and surgical intensive care, as well as internal medicine. Ms. Zvenyach received a B.S. in nursing from the University of Wisconsin and her M.S. in nursing from the University of Maryland.

Susan Harris, MBA

Susan joined Novo Nordisk, Inc. in 2014 in Obesity Market Access and was a key member of the Saxenda® launch team.  Susan led Novo Nordisk’s efforts to build awareness and understanding of obesity with employers, health plans and PBMs.  She was also responsible for developing employer strategy and tools and resources for Account Executives to work with employers.  She now leads the U.S. Obesity Market Development strategy and its execution, in partnership with PAR, Public Affairs, Medical Affairs, our Field teams, the Saxenda® Brand team and the Global team as Sr. Director, Obesity Management.  Susan has been an active member of the global Obesity Core Commercialization Team (CCT) and has been leading the development of the US market access strategy for semaglutide obesity.  Prior to joining NNI, Susan worked in brand marketing and managed care roles and as a marketing consultant for several pharmaceutical companies.  She started her career in consumer brand management with Procter & Gamble.

Susan holds a B.S. in Management from Purdue University and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.  She currently lives in Langhorne, PA with her husband Ed, sons Ryan and Sean, and their black lab, Riley.  When not at Novo Nordisk, she can usually be found on the beach in Sea Isle City, NJ.

Spring 2018 Lectures


March Lecture – “The Biology of Obesity and its Management”
Dr. Jason Brett and Dr. Gabriel Smolarz
Tuesday, March 20, 2018, 12:00-1:30 pm (Lunch Reception & Lecture), Education 212


Dr. Jason Brett, MD; Senior Medical Director; Clinical, Medical and Regulatory for Novo Nordisk in North America
Dr. Gabriel Smolarz, MD; Medical Director for Obesity for Novo Nordisk in North America

Date, Time, and Location

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
12:00-12:30 pm – Lunch reception
12:30-1:30 pm – Lecture, Q&A, and Discussion
Education Building, Room 212

Presentation Overview

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Obesity has been recognized as a chronic disease by the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), and other professional organizations.  Nevertheless, compared to heart disease or diabetes, it is not treated as such.  Modern science has uncovered a biological basis to obesity, which is underappreciated, even among healthcare professionals.  According to The Obesity Society and Endocrine Society, there are multiple effective modalities to treat obesity, including lifestyle interventions and behavioral modification (which are foundational therapies), anti-obesity medications, minimally-invasive devices, and weight-loss surgery.  There is much research ongoing in the field of obesity to identify novel targets that can ultimately lead to enhanced therapies that are safe and effective.

About the Speakers

Jason Brett, MD   

Dr. Jason Brett is currently Sr. Medical Director in the Clinical Development, Medical and Regulatory Affairs department at Novo Nordisk Inc. in Plainsboro, New Jersey. Dr. Brett oversees a team of Medical Directors who drive the medical activities in the United States for Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 analog franchise, including liraglutide and semaglutide. Prior to joining Novo Nordisk in 2003, Dr. Brett was in full-time clinical practice at Mount Sinai Medical Associates on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In addition, he was a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he graduated from, and was also an attending physician at The Mount Sinai Hospital. His clinical interests include incretin-based therapies and new interventions for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Gabriel Smolarz, MD   

Dr. B. Gabriel Smolarz has been with Novo Nordisk in Medical Affairs since 2015.  He has a part-time endocrinology and obesity practice in Robbinsville, and holds three board-certifications in internal medicine, endocrinology, and obesity medicine. Dr. Smolarz is Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and teaches diabetes and obesity to medical students and internal medicine residents at Princeton Hospital in his spare time. He is also Chair of the Biomedical Ethics committee at Princeton Hospital.



April Lecture – “Make Obesity CARE Happen! A Human, Societal, Economic Mandate”
Ms. Blandine Lacroix and Ms. Abhilasha Ramasamy
Tuesday, April 3, 2018, 5:00-6:30 pm (Lecture & Reception), Education 212


Ms. Blandine Lacroix; Vice President for Obesity for Novo Nordisk in North America
Ms. Abhilasha Ramasamy; Director of Health Economics and Outcomes Research for Novo Nordisk in North America


Date, Time, and Location

Tuesday, April 3, 2018
5:00-6:00 pm – Lecture, Q&A, and Discussion
6:00-6:30 pm – Reception
Education Building, Room 212

Presentation Overview

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This lecture will delve into understanding of the human, societal, and economic impact of Obesity, as well as related comorbidities, from a patient, healthcare system, and employers’ perspectives. The presentation will provide a sneak-peek into the Novo Nordisk way to engage and contribute to driving change and make Obesity Care happen.

About the Speakers

Blandine Lacroix, MBA, MIBS   

Blandine joined Joined Novo Nordisk in 2002.  She is a global commercial leader, who has worked in all parts of the world. She brings over 20 years of experience in Marketing and Commercial Leadership within the pharmaceutical industry, with a focus on obesity and diabetes.  Blandine embraces diversity, personal commitment and passion as critical success factors in developing people and driving business impact.  She has a French and American Undergraduate Business Degree, MBA Institute (INSEEC), Paris – France; and a Master of International Business (MIBS) from University of South Carolina.  She is French-Australian, and a proud mother and step-mother of 5.

Abhilasha Ramasamy, MPA

Abhilasha Ramasamy is a Director of Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR) for Obesity at Novo Nordisk. Abhilasha joined Novo Nordisk, Inc. in June 2017. Prior to Novo Nordisk,  she has over 8 years of experience working in the Pharmaceutical industry with companies such as Bayer and Allergan in varying capacities in Real World Outcomes Data Generation and HEOR supporting multiple therapeutic areas ranging from Oncology, Alzheimer’s disease, Szhizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Depression and Chronic Low Back Pain.  Abhilasha has worked in several health economic and outcome research projects/studies focusing on value, positioning and unmet needs of pipeline and/or newly launched products across various therapeutic areas.  Abhilasha got her Pharmacy degree and Master of Science in Biological Sciences degree from India and she also has a Masters in Pharmacy Administration from the University of Toledo in Ohio.

TCNJ–Novo Nordisk Student Scholarships

In addition to sponsoring the Lecture Series, Novo Nordisk will support four Novo Nordisk Student Scholarships in the amount of $2,500 each for the 2018-2019 academic year.  These scholarships will be competitively awarded to students who have attended at least two of the TCNJ–Novo Nordisk lectures during the 2017-2018 academic year and who have been deeply engaged in TCNJ’s signature experiences.

Student Eligibility and Application

Eligible students will include those in their Sophomore or Junior years who are pursuing majors in the School of Science, School of Nursing, Health, and Exercise Science, or School of Business. These students should have (1) attended at least two of the Novo Nordisk lectures during the 2017-2018 academic year, (2) been deeply engaged in TCNJ’s signature experiences (i.e., undergraduate research, mentored internships and/or Field Experiences; community engaged learning; global engagement; leadership development), and (3) presented their work in a formal on-campus or off-campus professional setting (e.g., TCNJ’s Celebration of Student Achievement, a professional conference).

Eligible students will be invited to complete an application, which will include (a) demographic and academic information (e.g., academic major, year in the college, grade point average, etc.), (b) an essay on what they learned from participation in the TCNJ–Novo Nordisk lectures and how this connects with their coursework and/or signature experience work, (c) an essay on what they have learned from their signature experience work, and (d) an essay describing their aspirations and plans for pursuing their career. The four awardees will be competitively selected by a group of TCNJ faculty members.

About Novo Nordisk

novo nordiskHeadquartered in Denmark, Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with more than 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. The company also has leading positions within haemophilia care, growth hormone therapy, and hormone replacement therapy.

With the company’s U.S. headquarters located in Plainsboro, NJ, Novo Nordisk has long been committed to establishing programs throughout the Garden State that strive to make an impact in our local communities.  The TCNJ–Novo Nordisk Lecture Series, initiated in 2015-2016, is an exciting collaboration that provides students and faculty with the unique opportunity to learn and engage in a dialog with company leaders representing a variety of disciplines.

For More Information:

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