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Concordia grad helps life-saving medical innovations reach Latin America

Michael Padvaiskas Ackerman: ‘My education equipped me with the building blocks I needed’
March 17, 2021
By Samantha Rideout, GrDip 10

Michael Padvaiskas Ackerman, wearing a light blue shirt Michael Padvaiskas Ackerman is one of three generations of Padvaiskas to attend Concordia.

There was a time when Michael Padvaiskas Ackerman, BComm 86, EMBA 96, would not have endorsed a university degree wholeheartedly. Back in 1996, when he graduated from Concordia’s Faculty of Commerce, now the John Molson School of Business, he wasn’t sure how to apply what he had learned.

“I was like a lot of business students: I’d expected to get some sort of magic wand I could wave to make great strategy come out," Padvaiskas Ackerman says. "But in reality, business is an art. You can’t just open a textbook and find all the answers.

“What I didn’t realize until later is that my education equipped me with a basic understanding, ways of thinking and tackling problems — the building blocks I needed to evolve my skills over time.”

Fast forward 25 years. Padvaiskas Ackerman is president of Ackerman Pharma, a multi-million-dollar corporate group he founded in 2000. It helps manufacturers bring pharmaceuticals and medical devices to the Latin American market.

Many hurdles must be cleared before new products can reach the patients who need them, from regulatory approval and warehousing to packaging in Spanish and distribution.

“Whether customers require just one or two of these services or the whole package, I’ve got us set up to meet their needs,” Padvaiskas Ackerman explains.

A proud moment amid the pandemic

Padvaiskas Ackerman’s children, Megan and Matthew Padvaiskas, have been heavily involved in Concordia student life. They’ve particularly enjoyed engineering case competitions. | Photo: Hao Yin of Voltaic Photo

Padvaiskas Ackerman’s main role is high-level planning and decision-making. These days, he is particularly pleased about a decision he made a decade ago, to import a novel treatment called InoMax Total Care — a nitric oxide medicinal gas and specialized delivery system — into Mexico.

The product is used primarily to treat newborn babies having trouble adapting to breathing on their own. Ackerman Pharma also strove to get it approved to treat acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a potentially deadly condition characterized by inflammation in the lungs causing severe shortness of breath.

If ARDS sounds familiar, that’s because COVID-19 can trigger it.

“I’m not clairvoyant or anything, but I made a bet,” Padvaiskas Ackerman says. “After the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, something told me that respiratory problems on a global scale were going to come back again.”

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, Inomax was stocked and ready. Since then, 150 severely ill patients in Mexico have been treated with it so far.

“There’s a survival rate of over 85 per cent among those patients,” Padvaiskas Ackerman says. “We played a part in the global battle against COVID-19. We’re proud that we positioned ourselves to do that.”

Concordia in the family — and a long way from home

Padvaiskas Ackerman was raised in Brazil, yet he grew up hearing about Montreal. His paternal grandparents had immigrated there from Lithuania and his father, Peter Padvaiskas, BSc 52, had attended Sir George Williams University — one of Concordia’s founding institutions.

“When I finished high school, my father encouraged me to look at Canadian universities because they offer great value,” Padvaiskas Ackerman recalls. “They’re just as world-class as American universities, but for a fraction of the cost.” Already a budding businessman, Padvaiskas Ackerman was convinced by this argument.

His own two kids, who were raised in Mexico, followed in his footsteps. His daughter Megan Padvaiskas — who graduates from Concordia this year — chose the university’s Building Engineering program because of its emphasis on sustainability. Her brother Matthew Padvaiskas, a current student in the Industrial Engineering program, was attracted in part by Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education, which offers opportunities to get work experience before graduation.

“Having a third generation at Concordia strikes me as funny, since we’ve been so far away,” says Padvaiskas Ackerman. “Everyone went for their own reasons, although I did tell my kids the same thing my dad told me: that Canada’s a good place to go for an education.”

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