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Salesforce’s Chief Medical Officer on COVID-19 Prevention, Safer Gatherings, and the New Variant

Editor’s Note: This article references Dreampass and Salesforce’s Health & Safety Playbook, which have been expanded upon with the launch of Safety Cloud. For the latest on Salesforce’s health & safety-related innovations, check out this press release and FAQ.

When you try to imagine a challenging new job, it’s pretty tough to top Chief Medical Officer of a nearly 70,000 person tech company. Especially when that position begins midway through a global pandemic and with a globally-recognized in-person event imminent.

Despite the difficulties inherent to the role, Dr. Geeta Nayyar accepted the position at Salesforce in September 2021, and has been a driving force for trusted business health and safety practices ever since. “It’s been both humbling and a privilege,” she said, “but I’m tremendously honored to be in this role at this time for a company like Salesforce.”

Nayyar spoke to the Salesforce Newsroom on what the company has learned about running live events with in-person attendees during a pandemic, why Salesforce is launching Dreampass and other new health and safety tools, and how she sees COVID-19 developing.

Q: As Chief Medical Officer, you were one of the people behind Salesforce’s new Event Health and Safety Playbook. What’s a CRM company doing launching a COVID-19 health and safety handbook?

We recognize — just like everybody — this is the first pandemic in our lifetimes! But we’ve developed a certain amount of experience now, both working to help customers operating in healthcare, and in running events like Dreamforce. 

We’ve been working with the healthcare industry for over 20 years. Long before the pandemic, we’ve developed technology for healthcare organizations and worked with providers, payers, and life sciences companies. But frankly, every company is in the business of health now — there is not one business that is not asking questions about health and safety. We asked those questions ourselves as we prepared for Dreamforce this year, and we learned some things that we wanted to share beyond the walls of the company.

But frankly, every company is in the business of health now – there is not one business that is not asking questions about health and safety.”

Dr Geeta Nayyar, Chief Medical Officer, Salesforce

When the pandemic changed everything overnight, many of our customers came to us and said, “We need digital transformation. We have to start seeing patients from the living room! How can you help us?” That’s part of the inspiration behind publishing the playbook and making it a free resource for other organizations. We want to share what we learned so more and more people can start getting together again more safely.

Q: In helping plan Dreamforce, what did you learn about bringing people back together more safely at live events?

We learned a lot from Dreamforce and wrote about some key takeaways in the playbook, but number one is the importance of teamwork. We brought together a team of experts from across and beyond the company. From ‘CMO squared’ — the partnership of the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Medical Officer, to a team of epidemiologists and statisticians — each of us had expertise, a ‘lane,’ that was very important to creating a successful Dreamforce.

We were also guided by a doctor’s approach to patient care, where an ounce of prevention — quitting smoking, eating less red meat — is worth a pound of cure. For Dreamforce, just like with seeing a patient, the most important period is actually before they come to see me — that means prevention. 

Q: What did prevention look like at Dreamforce? 

We really doubled down on COVID-19 testing protocols, striving to make sure we identified the folks that were possibly carrying the virus, and being able to notify them before the event even started. Once they’re in the event, the stakes are much higher. 

We tested 96 and 72 hours in advance of the event, as well as on site. We did so many because every test is just a single moment in time. A problem with this virus is that you can incubate it and have a negative test but actually be a positive asymptomatic carrier. So we took all these little pictures of a person with these tests — so many that we were almost able to show a small movie of our participants before they came.

Out of 18,000 tests administered at Dreamforce, only 12 were not authorized to attend — and all authorized attendees were cleared through our testing protocols.”

Brent Hyder, President and Chief People Officer and Sarah Franklin, President and Chief Marketing Officer, introducing Salesforce’s new Event Health and Safety Playbook

That level of testing and verification requires scale, because manual processes for checking people’s COVID health status are not a long-term solution. Technology helps us achieve that necessary scale.

Q: What tools did you use to test and verify?

There were so many different touch points and metrics we needed to more safely run Dreamforce. We needed to understand if people were vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccines our Health & Safety team approved. If so, are they fully vaccinated? Which vaccine? When you arrive, how can we ensure you’re the person that enrolled and registered? 

Dreampass — the name of the product we built and something we’re making available for our customers today — helped answer all those questions. We essentially created a technology that allowed folks to upload both their COVID-19 vaccination status information, as well as their test results, in a way that helped get them through the different checkpoints we needed for putting on a safer event.

Q: There’s a dangerous new COVID-19 variant happening right now. What do you think the new world of events is going to look like?

First, we have to understand if the tools and technology available to us to prevent and treat the virus have changed with the new variant. If our currently available vaccines protect against the variant, things are going to hopefully look very similar to what they look like now. 

It’s really fundamentally up to us what the future of live events will look like. The way we determine that is by being informed, getting vaccinated, wearing masks, getting tested, washing our hands, keeping our distance, etc.

That’s really what this is about. It’s about conquering the pandemic, making it a part of our lives, and not letting it conquer us.”

Dr Geeta Nayyar, Chief Medical Officer, Salesforce

It’s like when we weigh the risks and benefits of driving in our cars. We put seatbelts on, we choose safe cars; so when we get on the highway, we’re comfortable managing risks as best as we can. It’s the same with COVID 19. 

If we all do our part, if we continue to be smart, if we continue to educate ourselves and keep putting on our seatbelts — we’ll get to where we want to go more safely. That’s really what this is about. It’s about conquering the pandemic, making it a part of our lives, and not letting it conquer us.

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