Amy Schulman, SVP, general counsel and head of the $3.2 billion healthcare business at Pfizer, has suddenly agreed “by mutual agreement” to depart the company—a switch that is being billed as a firing by the pharmaceutical trade press.

schulmanAlthough pharma companies are notably reticent with the media, Schulman gave an interview to the New York Times Oct. 12 in which she said that women should not be “afraid to speak up” and that they should “Own the room. Speak with confidence.”

Forbes described her in 2011 as “a master networker” who courted media attention.” It quoted previous CEO Jeff Kindler as saying she was “overly ambitious.” Current CEO is Ian Read, who had put her in charge of Pfizer Nutrition.

Fiercepharma.com, describing the NYT interview in which three other women executives discussed “women at work,” said that “Schulman was unafraid to speak out about such issues as gender and power…she said women need to fight for what they believe in rather than going with the corporate flow.”

Describing two decades with law firms, Schulman told NYT that female lawyers are often seen as the “dutiful daughter” and they rarely make partner.

She said: “I don’t mean being a perennial troublemaker, but it’s about having conviction and courage. Spend that political capital you earn by being intellectually credible, by being a fighter for the people on your team when appropriate, and by arguing for principles that matter.”

Leadership Role Evaporates

Pharma websites said that Schulman was expected to head three units—vaccines, oncology and global healthcare. Pfizer is in the process of splitting into three business divisions.

Fortune magazine senior editor at-large Pattie Sellers said she had lunch with Schulman Dec. 12 and Schulman talked about the three businesses that would have more than $8 billion in annual revenues.

Pfizer revenues were $56 billion last year. Its stock is currently $30. It was $48 in June 2000 and has risen 19% this year. Total debt is $36.75B.

Schulman played a role in the ouster of Kindler in 2010, according to an award-winning 2011 cover story in Fortune.

Pfizer’s drug Chlortetrapib, which was designed to increase high-density lipoprotein (the good kind), resulted in a higher death rate than experienced in a control group while in test and was never marketed.

Pharma companies are continuing their search for such a drug.

Recent stories in the press have focused on diet as a means of controlling cholesterol while other stories have said that inflammation rather than cholesterol is the real culprit.

Supporters of dieting to reduce heart attacks rather than taking prescription drugs including Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. George Scheele, and Dr. Fred Kummerow.

Kummerow, like Perlmutter, believes that eggs are “one of nature’s most perfect foods.” Kummerow, who is 99, eats scrambled eggs with butter every morning.