Leah Kendall spent the first decade of her career at corporate law firms, where she was accustomed to working weekends and weeknights after putting her young daughter to bed. During the first few months of her tenure as vice president regulatory affairs and associate general counsel at Cardinal Health, she sat down to her computer each evening expecting to do the same.
“At first, I thought something was wrong with the email system, because I was so used to opening my laptop and working for 2–3 more hours every night,” Kendall recalls. “I continually wondered, ‘Why aren’t the emails pouring in?’ It was an adjustment for me.”
These days, Kendall fields more after-hour emails and calls now that Cardinal Health has broadened its product portfolio and expanded its global operations. But her job still affords the single mom and avid equestrian enough time to ride horses with her daughter three or four times each week. It also allows her to combine some of her professional passions.
Kendall, who holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Butler University, originally planned to earn a doctorate and become a research scientist. A college internship convinced Kendall that life in a lab didn’t suit her, so the head of the chemistry department at Butler suggested law school. After she completed her law degree at Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington, the private practice that gave Kendall her first job happened to need help in US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) law—a specialty she hadn’t considered before on her career path.
“It’s total serendipity, but it ended up being the perfect blend of science and business, combining both those things I really enjoy,” recalls Kendall, an Indiana native who was the first in her family to earn a college degree.
At Cardinal Health, Kendall and the two attorneys who report to her spend their days keeping abreast of FDA policy changes and guidance while also analyzing how the agency’s directives impact the company’s burgeoning business. The Dublin, Ohio-based corporation is a global, integrated healthcare services and products company, which provides customized solutions for hospitals, healthcare systems, pharmacies, ambulatory surgery centers, clinical laboratories, and physician offices around the world.
Although Cardinal Health now ranks among the Fortune 500’s top fifteen businesses, its legal team still takes a hands-on approach. Among other duties, Kendall and her team support both segments of Cardinal Health (medical and pharmaceutical) and cover a variety of issues from premarket regulatory strategy to manufacturing and postmarket compliance. Kendall also works closely with her colleagues on corporate acquisition diligence, execution, and integration. Her role has evolved since her early days at the company, taking on what was then a newly created position.
“My role when I first started was more of what I call blocking and tackling—dealing with putting out fires,” says Kendall, who joined the company in 2012. “Now, as Cardinal Health’s portfolio continues to expand and evolve, I have the opportunity to play a more strategic role, for example, by helping support quality and regulatory affairs as they build more mature systems and integrate various acquisitions.”
In recent years, Cardinal Health has grown rapidly through acquisitions, including the $6.1 billion acquisition of Medtronic’s patient monitoring and recovery division, completed in July 2017, and the $1.9 billion acquisition of Cordis Corporation from Johnson & Johnson, completed in October 2015. These acquisitions, along with other transactions and product development areas, keep Kendall and her team busy familiarizing themselves with new products and adapting and expanding systems and procedures to maintain quality and regulatory compliance moving forward. Kendall says that the Medtronic deal dramatically expanded Cardinal Health’s medical/surgical portfolio and roughly doubled the number of Cardinal Health’s medical device manufacturing facilities.
“The acquisitions have helped build product platforms, bringing on an entire portfolio, whereas the internal development is often focused on rounding out those portfolios,” she says. At Cardinal Health, we manufacture and distribute an enormous range of products—implantable medical devices, over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals, radiopharmaceuticals, positron emission tomography products, and lower-risk devices such as exam gloves and surgical drapes. It’s a huge and diverse portfolio that touches nearly all aspects of healthcare, and that’s what I find fascinating about the company.”
While she has more time for horses and hobbies than she did during her days in private practice, Kendall characterizes her life as balanced but definitely not bland.
“The law firm was so fast-paced that I was a bit worried I’d be bored in-house. I was concerned I’d be doing the same thing every day,” Kendall says. “But I’ve never been bored at Cardinal Health. It amazes me that, for a company this size, it’s ever-evolving, ever-changing, and so responsive to the patients’ and customers’ needs. I get to do something new and engaging every day.”