PharmaGuy (aka John Mack) presented the coveted bright yellow Hawaiian shirt/Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award to Dennis Urbaniak, VP, Joan Mikardos, Senior Director, and Laura Kolodjesji, Senoir Manager, Patient Solutions, at Sanofi US Diabetes. The award was made at the 6th Annual Digital Pharma East conference in Philadelphia on October 17, 2012. Accepting the award on behalf of the winners — who could not make it in person — was Wendy Blackburn of Intouch Solutions.

The Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award is meant to recognize pioneers who work (or have recently worked) within regulated drug and device companies. The award recognizes courage in the face of regulatory and corporate culture road blocks!

This is the first time the award was given to a team of people rather than a single person. The first award went to Alex Butler (see here) and the second award went to Tony Jewell (see here).

I felt that this team deserved recognition because they didn’t give up on social media even after a “disgruntled” patient caused Sanofi to shut down a Facebook page that did not have comments turned off (read about that here). Urbaniak et al learned a lot from this experience and shared what they learned (listen to this podcast: “What Sanofi-Aventis Learned from Its FaceBook Experience“).

Urbaniak and Kolodjeski also received the greatest number of nominations in a poll I ran (see summary of results here). In comments, respondents to the poll described Urbaniak as “the most innovative guy in pharma” and said he “opened new ways of engaging with patients in the diabetes field, with courage and consistency.” Kolodjeski was praised because “she keeps the patient at the center of all her efforts. She is a great example of how we should go about our business in Pharma.”

My bad that I did not include Mikardos as a contender in the poll. When I informed Laura, Dennis, and Wendy — who has worked closely with the Sanofi US diabetes business unit — about the award, they informed me that Joan was also deserving for her contribution to the team’s social media efforts.

What’s With the Hawaiian Shirt?
Let me explain the Hawaiian shirt motif of the award. Around the time that the FDA announced it would hold a public hearing regarding regulation of pharma’s use of the Internet and social media, I started appearing at conferences in a yellow Hawaiian shirt, which was left over from a Hunter S. Thompson Halloween costume (see “Pharma Social Media Crips vs. Legal/Regulatory Bloods: Call for a ‘Peace’ Conference” for a sighting of me in the shirt at the 3rd Annual Digital Pharma East Conference). I also considered wearing the shirt when I made my presentation to the FDA at the November, 2009 meeting (see “Fear and Loathing in Washington, DC”), but out of respect for the FDA and the audience, I opted for a traditional suit and tie.

Although I didn’t wear my Hawaiian shirt at the FDA hearing, it became an emblem for standing out from the crowd, which is a necessary trait for a social media marketing pioneer. I think a Hawaiian shirt motif befits, therefore, what the Pharmaguy Pharma Social Media Pioneer Award stands for. Read more about the award here.