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Joan Stafslien

In-house counsel helps global firm move forward in health care

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As CareFusion (NYSE: CFN) continues to expand its international reach, ramp up innovation and strengthen its operational foundation, Joan Stafslien’s role within the company continues to grow.

Stafslien handles legal matters for the company on a global basis. She serves as executive vice president, chief compliance officer, general counsel and secretary for the medical device company.

San Diego-based CareFusion manufactures health care products aimed at reducing medical errors and related costs, and helping to prevent health care-associated infections in hospitals. Its products are used in hospitals in more than 130 countries.

Stafslien was senior vice president and general counsel of Cardinal Health before CareFusion spun off from it in 2009. She began her legal career with Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison and Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps.

Making the move to in-house counsel was always her intended path. Stafslien said she doesn’t really miss law firm life.

“Meaning no disrespect to my counterparts in law firms, I enjoy being part of the business, the strategic development of where the business is heading and meeting customers’ needs. Legal does play a very important role in making that happen,” she said.

Stafslien’s legal and compliance team works on issues such as strategic partnerships, intellectual property, transactional law, litigation, international law and corporate responsibility. A significant portion of her work consists of supporting ongoing businesses.

“We do the bulk of the work in-house with a team of in-house legal staff. Their job and their mission is to be closely aligned with our business strategy and help the business achieve its objectives around the globe,” she said.

CareFusion, which employs about 2,500 people in San Diego and more than 14,000 worldwide, has a global legal and compliance staff of about 50. The majority of the company’s 21 attorneys are located in San Diego, with a few in Chicago, Switzerland and China.

“Especially as we continue to look to grow outside the U.S. as a company, understanding and having an appreciation of laws in local jurisdictions is important,” Stafslien said. “The legal and compliance staff is there to help ensure that we’re doing it right the first time.”

CareFusion’s best-known brands include the Alaris intravenous medication safety system and Pyxis medication management technologies.

In 2012, the company released a number of new products, ranging from software and disposable medical equipment to automated anesthesia dispensing systems and take-apart surgical instruments that are easier to clean.

“All of these are highly innovative products in the health care market. We think that these products not only help save lives, but we can also help hospitals save costs and improve patient safety,” Stafslien said.

The company continues to invest more heavily in research and development as a percentage of revenues, she added.

One of the company’s biggest current challenges is building a foundation for growth and simplifying how it does business. Stafslien said CareFusion is targeting both large and small areas for efficiency, from IT structures to the way the legal department processes a sales transaction.

“That’s a big challenge for us, and I think it’s one we’re starting to see good successes on,” she said. “That will give us the platform for global growth.”

As CareFusion continues to expand, it is exploring opportunities in some of the fastest-growing health care markets worldwide, including China and Brazil.

-Klam is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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