2022 Health Influencer 30: Cristal Downing

EVP, chief communications and public affairs officer, Merck

Cristal Downing is seizing the opportunity to reframe Merck’s direction and build up its reputation.

The company’s EVP and chief communications and public affairs officer doubled down on communicating around what she calls the “3 Ps,” (patients, pipeline and purpose) in an effort to strengthen Merck’s position as a “purposeful leader” in the pharmaceutical sector.

Downing has only been at the company since last August, but has already helped deliver updates on cancer-treatment immunotherapy drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Merck’s role in the fight against COVID-19, its ESG progress and the company’s health equity efforts such as Merck for Mothers.

Frank Clyburn, international flavors and fragrances CEO and Merck’s former EVP and president of human health, calls Downing a “strategic business enabler, a vocal advocate for [Merck’s] core values and an astute business leader in her own right.”

Downing, a former VP of communications and public affairs of medical devices at Johnson & Johnson, notes that maintaining relationships with mentors and other people in the healthcare comms industry has helped her stay grounded.


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