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‘Each company has to think about the safety of their employees’: Salesforce CMO

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Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, Salesforce Chief Medical Officer, joins Yahoo Finance’s Julia La Roche and Adam Shapiro to discuss the state of the coronavirus and how companies are getting involved as cases in United States top 18.6 million.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: But I want to address something that-- I guess what's old is new again. Because large corporations in years past had chief medical officers, nurses, and perhaps medical staff. And here you are at a company, and you're a chief medical officer. Is this going to be a trend? Are all companies going to have people like you as part of the team?

ASHWINI ZENOOZ: Well, it certainly has been really important and helpful for me to be a part of this company, especially today. But I think what I would say is every company is a health care company, especially when there's a pandemic that's in full force. So I would say, if every company doesn't have a chief medical officer, at the very least I would get an advisory of medical experts and public health experts to help [AUDIO OUT] employers as they are trying to reopen and get people back safely.

I know, for me, when I started in this role, nobody was expecting a pandemic. My goal was to bring in my expertise in clinical and administrative components, so we could help build appropriate useful software. But, of course, that role has greatly expanded in context of what's going on today. So I would hope a lot of the organizations are looking to folks with this kind of expertise. I think it's very beneficial.

JULIA LA ROCHE: Dr. Ash, it's Julia La Roche. And I read a blog post that you wrote, and you're just alluding to it there, that COVID-19 really blew up your job description overnight. And of course, that has changed. Salesforce has come out with new products, strategy. It's doing a lot lately. Take us inside your role and how exactly it has changed, and some of the things that you're doing for employees, for folks outside of Salesforce, for the creation of products as well.

ASHWINI ZENOOZ: Yeah, absolutely, when-- when we started noticing that the pandemic was beginning early in the early stages, our team started very actively getting engaged with the product teams across the company. We as a company noticed that technology would be a great accelerator and helper in the response to this pandemic. So Salesforce has been really active from quite early on in this pandemic.

Back in May, we worked with the product teams to release Work.com, which is technology that helps organizations and businesses continue to remain open, especially in our business, or re-open safely, everything from emergency response management to contact tracing, to helping build a command center, so that organizational leadership has all of the information that they need on hand to make quick decisions, especially things like, do we have enough protective equipment?

Do we have the right types of treatments? Do we have vaccines and syringes? These are-- do we have the right people in the right places? So these are all things that we were able to bring together in one place in a command center. Obviously, we've been prepared. In September, we released Work.com for vaccines, which is an extension of these capabilities to really help deliver vaccines at scale for these organizations that have been actively working on this for months, everything from vaccine inventory management to administration of the vaccines, to appointment scheduling, to outcomes tracking.

JULIA LA ROCHE: Doctor, I'm curious. We're in a-- we live in a litigious society. We're in a crisis. Everything that our companies do, I'm going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, is for the best of their employees. But then you have EEOC regulations for people regarding vaccines. And if someone on religious grounds refuses to take a vaccine, where is all this headed? How does an employer protect their staff but also accommodate the rights, the individual rights, that people have in a crisis like this?

ASHWINI ZENOOZ: That's a really good question. I mean, I'm certainly not a lawyer. I have an MD after my name. So I will tell you from a safety perspective. I know at our own company, we intend to follow guidance that comes out from public health experts and people who have expertise in the space. Obviously, in different countries, there are different rules. In the United States, there are rules where we can-- employers can mandate people coming back in. But there are other things that come with those protections.

So I think, you know, each company has to sort of think about the safety of their employees, whether you're asking them to take vaccines when they come into the workplace physically, or provide means so that they can work from anywhere so that they can continue to choose will depend on each employer. But I really hope, at the end of the day, that this is a collaboration between public and private sector, as we decide how to reopen safely.

Not everybody needs to come into work anymore. We know that now.

JULIA LA ROCHE: It's a good point you make. And that's something I know I've talked to Marc Benioff about is kind of what the future of work looks like and how folks do go to work. I do want to ask you outside of Salesforce, because I know this is something that you're really passionate about is you think about stakeholders.

And how are you thinking about the most vulnerable populations and how you all can help out there, especially as we kind of undergo this massive vaccination effort? How do we make sure folks aren't left behind and what do you all plan to do about it?

ASHWINI ZENOOZ: This is such an important question, Julia. [AUDIO OUT] Obviously, you've heard us talk about a stakeholder capitalism. And we, as a company, we believe in equity. If you haven't heard the news, we are actively working with Gavi, which is the vaccine alliance that is helping deliver 2 billion vaccines equitably across 190 countries by the end of 2021.

We are providing services pro bono here in the early phases to help deliver this. We're powering the country engagement platform. I think for us as an organization, we want to ensure that we take part and help get these vaccines out as equitably as possible and do whatever we can as an organization. In the United States, I mean, it is really important. Because there are communities of color, for example, that have been hit the hardest.

And this is where we see, justifiably so, vaccine hesitancy at the most. So I think for us trying [AUDIO OUT] being able to deliver the information we have-- [AUDIO OUT]

--is transparent, working with organization so that we can get them all this data. So they can have active, truthful conversations about what's happening with the vaccines I think is the best way.

As a technology company, what we can do is bring all that data together in a way that is transparent, so that we can quickly get these vaccines out. So that organizations can get these vaccines where they need to. But we're excited--

ADAM SHAPIRO: Dr. Ash.

ASHWINI ZENOOZ: --to be working with organizations like Gavi to help do this.

ADAM SHAPIRO: And we appreciate your insight. Dr. Ashwini Zenooz is Salesforce Chief Medical Officer. All the best to you in this holiday season, as well as a happy and healthy new year to. everyone at Salesforce.