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An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

“Believe you can do anything.” This is a part of my core philosophy and what has driven me over the years. Going back to my father’s philosophy, this has inspired and motivated me to be all I can be no matter the odds.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nkechi Azie, M.D., MBA, FIDSA.

Nkechi Azie, M.D., MBA, FIDSA, is the Vice President of Clinical Development at SCYNEXIS, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCYX), a biotechnology company delivering innovative therapies for difficult-to-treat and often life-threatening infections. Dr. Azie has over 25 years of experience in drug development and medical affairs, having worked in therapeutic areas including infectious disease, women’s health, and immunology. Dr. Azie, who is board certified in internal medicine, clinical pharmacology, and infectious disease and a fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), received an executive MBA from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Science from the University of Nigeria College of Medicine and conducted her medical residency and subspecialty training at Indiana University Medical Center.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

As a young girl growing up in southeastern Nigeria, women were very much considered at best seen and not heard; we were taught to be nice, subservient husband-dependent women. I could not see myself that way, so I worked hard in school to be top of my class including beating the boys in math where the boys were assumed to be better than the girls. Because I excelled in school, I was accepted and attended medical school right out of high school. Those opportunities were reserved for the best and the brightest, and it was rare at the time for a woman to be able to pursue a career in medicine. I was breaking that glass ceiling at a young age. By the time I started my specialty training as a medical resident I was already a mother. Given that, I wanted to still be able to be with my family so one of my mentors advised me to investigate clinical pharmacology and that is when I went down the pharmaceutical career path starting with Eli Lilly. The research and development projects I lead today have the potential to impact millions of lives, which is very fulfilling.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We are being disruptive at SCYNEXIS through our innovative research and development programs. For example, we’ve developed a groundbreaking, first-in-class systemic antifungal with great potential in both women’s health and hospital settings. Until last year when our first product launched, it had been more than 20 years since a new antifungal had been approved to treat vaginal yeast infections. Our work in women’s health is putting a spotlight on vaginal yeast infections, which the scientific research community has all but ignored. If this were a condition affecting men, there would be 25 drugs already created to treat it. I’m extremely proud to be working in an area with so much unmet need.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was a young medical resident starting out, I didn’t always listen to others, but I quickly learned that not listening was a mistake when I almost lost a patient. When somebody tells you something you must be willing to listen. As a physician and now a corporate executive, I need to be as informed as possible because the decisions I make impact our company and the patients we aim to serve. Experience in my early years in medicine taught me many things including to be calm under pressure, to value the importance of teamwork and to call for help when you need it. When you are in medical school you must pay attention in class. It is not an option to not know something because lives depend on it. Every day of clinical practice is an exam, an exam if failed could cost a life. As doctors we are required to give so much of ourselves to patients.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I have been blessed to have 6 great mentors throughout my life:

Chief Sylvanus Mbanefo, my late father who was ahead of his time despite having five sons and five daughters, encouraged all his children equally. If we came home from school and did not get the highest grade in class he would ask if the person who did, had two heads. This was his way of saying that those students were no different from us, and there was nothing preventing us from also being the best in class. He used to say, “you can do anything that anyone else can.” When we did score at the top of the class there would be a lot of celebration and hullabaloos. He would cook our favorite food and tell all his friends. He would say, “Apply yourself!” This was a good lesson to learn as a child and one that I have carried with me ever since. This is what helps me motivate my team members, and celebrate our big and small wins.

Lady G.O. Mbanefo, my mother carried herself with dignity and a regal air. Her ability to respond to our family’s needs, her discipline, and her guidance has informed my work ethic. She was able to balance being a businesswoman while raising 10 children, and would say, “If you see work to be done, do it.” My mother taught us not to wait around for the person responsible. She also gave me my incredible sense of style. “It’s not what you wear but how you wear it that matters.” At the age of 89, my mom still says this to me today.

Dr. Virginia Cain from Indiana University was a strong black female physician who was one of my strongest professional mentors and advisors, and she helped me choose infectious disease specialty as my therapeutic area of medicine.

Dr. Craig Brater offered me my first break by accepting me as the first foreign medical graduate to enroll in the Indiana University internal medicine residency program. Subsequently, he encouraged me to pursue a career in clinical pharmacology. Dr. Brater suggested I investigate a career in pharmaceutical drug development. At the time I did not know what that was!

Dr. Glenn Gormley, the Executive Chairman and President of Daiichi Sankyo, was another mentor who believed in me. He encouraged me to get an MBA, despite having a full-time job and raising four girls. In a sea of naysayers and voices that discouraged me, he said, “you have to put yourself out there and take it one day at a time.” I was lucky to get him as a mentor, through the ASCPT (American society of clinical pharmacology and Therapeutics) mentoring program.

Lastly, my good friend and spiritual advisor Rev. Paulinus Odozor, C.S.Sp. has been a steady and constant source of support and has helped guide my thinking when I have faced adversity and difficult times.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

To answer this, I have to reference the concept of Polarity Management in the book by Barry Johnson. One illustration is about setting up a project where people can go to extremes between planning and rapid implementation, and each pole being a negative. For instance, in our industry, some people would want to wait until the study protocol is finalized before considering what it would take and how to implement it, wasting many months in the process. Starting implementation without thinking the goals and objectives through leads to a lot of wasted time and resources. Polarity management as a disruptive practice requires that we think through what aspects of the implementation can be initiated prior to finalization of the plan.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“Believe you can do anything.” This is a part of my core philosophy and what has driven me over the years. Going back to my father’s philosophy, this has inspired and motivated me to be all I can be no matter the odds.

“To your own self be true.” Trying to please everyone causes a lot of stress. All my advisors imprinted on me the importance of being yourself. There is only one you. Be authentic.

“As you think so you are.” Be careful what you think as it creates the world around you. It is not what happens to you that matters, but how you think about it. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you will prove yourself right.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Within SCYNEXIS, in addition to seeking approval this year of a new therapy to prevent recurrent vaginal yeast infections, we also are focused on an innovative study to investigate our first in class antifungal as a powerful therapy for serious and often-deadly infections treated in the hospital setting, including invasive candidiasis. If approved it may allow patients to leave the hospital and continue treatment with a potent oral therapy that has shown activity against a broad range of pathogens, including drug-resistant strains.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

In our society there are many gender biases, some obvious and some subtle. If a woman comes up with a disruptive idea, she is often labeled as difficult to work with, but if a man comes up with the same idea, he is considered a maverick. It forces women to be extra cautious or not speak up when they have great ideas, whereas men can be totally spontaneous.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann is my favorite poem of all time. It says so many important things. “You are a child of the universe. You have a right to be here. Be at peace with God regardless of what you perceive that to be. Strive to be happy and do not compare yourself with others. Just be yourself.” It is loaded with so much wisdom.

The West and the Rest of Us by Chinweizu Ibekwe — This is a book that I read at a young age. There is a lot of finger pointing happening out there and this book points a finger back at you. How can we do better, especially when it comes to race relations. It gives insights into how we might be able to reverse things and create better boundaries.

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren is another book that really helped me personally and provides a new perspective on why we are here on this earth. To serve, rather than to be served.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger

Plant more food trees! Specifically, African breadfruit trees. These trees could help world hunger, reduce our carbon footprint and even improve climate change. We are learning about the medical benefits of plants and trees and there is so much value in these trees as food. You can use the leaves, the bark and even the roots to reach broadly and protect the land. Can we please plant more food trees? Plant whatever lives in your part of the world.

Plant medicinal trees like the Neem tree! Most components of the tree are medicinal, and the tree itself serves as a natural pest protector without needing chemicals for pest control on farms. I think about the Indian guru, Sadhguru, speaking about his tree movement in Jaipur, India. Just plant more trees. We need a movement to educate people about trees!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Your attitude determines your altitude.” Believe in yourself, think positive, be positive, treat everyone well, forgive but do not lose the lesson. Greet everyone you meet with a warm smile; those that don’t smile back are the ones that need the smile the most. Smiles have been known to save lives.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn at

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Female Disruptors: Nkechi Azie Of SCYNEXIS On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.