Assuring Quality Medicines and Commodities: A Conversation with Chryste D. Best

Assuring Quality Medicines and Commodities: A Conversation with Chryste D. Best

Chryste D. Best recently was named one of the top 300 women in global Health. Best establishes the processes, procedures, and controls to ensure that all products procured and supplied by the Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) meet appropriate quality standards.

We spoke with MSH’s Chryste D. Best, BS, product quality assurance manager, The Partnership for Supply Chain Management (PFSCM), about her selection as one of the top 300 women leaders in global health by the Global Health Programme of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. Best provides innovative quality assurance oversight for the global procurement of medicines and commodities by MSH and partners.

Congratulations on being named by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies as one of the top 300 women leaders in global health! Were you aware that you had been nominated for the honor?

Thank you; I was totally surprised and honored to be mentioned alongside such great women! One of my colleagues mentioned in January that he had nominated me, but I didn’t understand what it was about. I had totally forgotten about it, until he emailed the Partnership [PFSCM] the link to the list of 300 Women Leaders in Global Health. I have since learned that I was nominated for implementing groundbreaking quality assurance programs for commodities, such as rapid test kits and male circumcision kits, to name a few.

Here is a link to the full list (PDF) and more about the movement, led by women, for women in global health.

What is supply chain quality assurance, in layperson's terms?

In layperson’s terms, product quality assurance involves developing and implementing procedures to ensure that the commodities (e.g. anti-retrovirals, essential medicines, rapid test kits, male circumcision kits, and food by prescription) we procure for our programs are of the highest quality – specifically the same quality as we would expect of products consumed in the United States.

Initially, this requires forecasting potential risks associated with the commodities and developing strategies to mitigate these risks. Primarily, this means developing stringent criteria for supplier selection, performing supplier site audits, and performing random testing of the products we procure.

What is most challenging, rewarding, or memorable about your work?

I recall visiting a manufacturer in Tanzania of fortified blended flour, which is one of the commodities that we procure under the Supply Chain Management System (SCMS). The purpose of the visit was to inspect the company to see if it met the standards that would allow us to buy products from them.

The owner of the company was a woman. She was very proud to show us her company. We completed the inspection and found numerous deficiencies. I was very sorry to have to deliver the failing audit report and bad news.

To my surprise, she was encouraged by receiving the report. She smiled, looked me in the eyes and thanked me immensely. Her words were:

Thank you so much; no one has ever taken the time to visit and tell me what I am doing wrong. Now I know what I must do.

It really left an impression on me.

Sounds like sometimes the most challenging part, can be rewarding.

Yes, there was another instance where I visited a pharmaceutical wholesaler in Ethiopia that initially did not meet our quality standards. They implemented corrective actions based on my audit report and they were eventually approved for procurement.

They too expressed real gratitude for the feedback and said the experience motivated them to do even better. They clearly recognized that meeting the quality requirements would better allow their company to improve the health of the Ethiopian people.

How did you decide to enter this field?

Prior to joining MSH in 2007 and working with SCMS, I spent several years working for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a regulatory microbiologist performing inspections of domestic and international manufacturers of foods, drugs, and cosmetics. I also worked as a consultant in private industry preparing manufacturers for FDA inspections, and worked for Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company as a quality team leader. 

Altogether, I’ve been working in quality assurance for 25 years.

The work I have been performing at MSH and SCMS has allowed me to utilize the valuable experience from the FDA and private industry to help raise the quality standards of suppliers in lower income countries. This is extremely rewarding!

Name something interesting or surprising about yourself.

I am a certified massage therapist and an avid Washington Wizards fan.

PFSCM, a nonprofit organization established by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and John Snow, Inc., manages two major projects that strive to reduce the worldwide impact of HIV & AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis -- PEPFAR/USAID’s Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) and The Global Fund – Pooled Procurement Mechanism (PPM), as well as a number of smaller procurement contracts.