March 16, 2023
Making a Splash in Clinical Research: How a Pool Party Changed One Woman’s Career Path
Have you ever had a chance encounter that changed the course of your life? That’s what happened to Danielle Mitchell, CEO of Black Women in Clinical Research. She discovered clinical research as a career path during a conversation at a pool party. After landing a clinical research coordinator role, she noticed the stark lack of diversity among staff. Since then, Danielle has been on a mission to educate and empower Black women to succeed in the industry.
“A lot of times when I talk to my members, they will say that they stumbled upon clinical research and that's not the way it should be. We should be telling college students, telling everyone about clinical research as much as possible.”
OK brilliant. So I'm just going to introduce you in 3. 2, 1. This week's brilliant guest is Daniel Daniel Mitchell, CEO and founder of Black Women in clinical research.
Daniel builds up the organization to thousands in just a few short years after she identified an urgent need for more Black and Brown representation in all areas of clinical research. The goal of Black women in clinical research is to empower and support Black women to thrive in the industry through
education, mentorship and training initiatives. Welcome to the podcast, Daniel. Thank you for taking the time out to speak to me today.
So let's start at the beginning. I know there's a really interesting story behind how you got into clinical research that the listeners would love to hear. Hello, Hannah, and Thank you so much for having me. So the way that I found out about clinical research, I found out about clinical research at a pool party.
And so I, my cousin was having a pool party for her birthday. And I ran into a college classmate who told me that she was a clinical research associate. So she started telling me how she travels, how she gets to work
from home. And I was immediately interested because at the time I was working in the lab and I called it the dungeon because there were no windows and I knew that I wanted to make a greater impact.
So when she told me about clinical research, I said, how do I get started? And that's when I realized, you know, there was a lot of challenges with trying to get into the clinical research industry, especially with no experience. It's really interesting that so many graduates don't seem to be aware of clinical research as an option. I discussed this actually in an episode with Latinos in clinical research a few months ago about the workforce shortage.
Why do you think there's such a lack of knowledge about clinical research and how can this be changed? I think there is a lack of knowledge about clinical research because there are not a lot of clinical research programs. And since clinical research is not a part of stem programs, then middle school students, high school students are not learning about the vast careers that are out there for clinical research.
So until we start to incorporate clinical research programs into a lot of colleges or universities or even have it to where it's an introduction to a clinical research career, then I think that there will continuously be a low number of people who learn about clinical research.
A lot of times when I talk to my members, they will say that they stumbled upon clinical research and that's not the way that it should be. We should be telling college students, telling everyone about clinical research as much as possible. And so the way that we have been able to tackle this problem is by speaking at different colleges and universities, partnering with different organizations that are speaking to young adults, and just telling them about the careers in clinical research. And a lot of people know about clinical trials with COVID.
So this is the perfect opportunity to tell more people about clinical research. And so with Black women in clinical research, we have provided careers, we provide career services, resume reviews, interview prep, mock interviews, career coaching, LinkedIn summaries. We really want to help our members find out more about clinical research, what they can do if they are transitioning, and how they can make sure that their resume is good to go. And so we also help our members with having different careers.
talk about different careers every month. So there are so many there are so many opportunities under the clinical research umbrella that we really want to make sure that people have the knowledge about the different career options within clinical research. So that's some great work you've been doing there. How did you initially get the idea to set up Black women in clinical research?
So for me, know, I'll backtrack a little bit. You know, when I got into clinical research, it was because I cold
call clinical research clinics. And from there, you know, for me, cold calling clinical research clinics, I was able to land an internship. And so when I landed my internship, that gave me the foundation that I needed in order to become a clinical research coordinator.
So after I landed my position as a clinical research coordinator, I attended an investigator meeting in a room of hundreds of people. There were only two Black women, including myself. So that's when it really made me question whether or not there was a lack of diversity in the room or if there was a lack of diversity in the industry. So after the investigator meeting, I thought to myself, well, let me create a Facebook group to see if there's anyone that's like me, this interested in clinical research or, you know, trying to get into the clinical research industry and to connect with them.
So I started a Facebook group. And I never imagined that it would turn into a company. Could you talk me through some of your proudest achievements to date?
One of my. I'm so proud that. Creating Black women in clinical research has turned into a movement. We are close to 15,000 members within all three of the organizations, including Black men in clinical research and minorities in clinical research.
So to go from an idea, you know, at the time I thought, well, at the most, maybe 100 people would join Black women in clinical research. But to go from that number like 100 people in my mind, to now thousands of members that we have helped. We have helped over 400 members receive jobs in the industry. So I know that the tools and the resources that we are providing to the members, I know that this is helping people and is changing people's lives.
And so, you know, that's what it's all about. We want to increase the diversity in the workforce, to increase the diversity in the clinical trial population. And so I'm so passionate about helping people and introducing clinical research careers to people who may have never considered clinical research. I told myself long ago, when I was going through my clinical research journey, that I didn't want someone else to experience the lack of resources or trying to get into the industry.
So creating this has become a sisterhood, a brotherhood, a community of people who want to get into clinical research or support for people who are already in the clinical research industry. Wow so you've really gone from strength to strength there. But when setting up any organization that shakes up the status quo, there are always obstacles that can
arise. What kind of challenges have you come up against?
So in the beginning, when I started Black women in clinical research, it was extremely difficult to get companies to want to sponsor. You know, when you have a new company and you haven't really made a name for yourself, so convincing people to give Black women in clinical research an opportunity, opportunity to prove that we belong in this industry as much as anyone else, and that we can really create a shift in this industry. So, you know, by continuously working with different companies and showing that we have talented members that just haven't been given that opportunity to get into the industry.
You know what I was of use, for example, I helped the company with 2020 members were able to get hired at their organization. So, you know, just proving myself and proving to the company that we are a great organization to work with. That that was a challenge in the beginning, just trying to build that relationship with companies and letting them know that we have talented people within Black women in clinical research that are eager and ready to get into the industry. And I would say, you know, also some challenges a lot of times with the members is that when they are switching from another industry into clinical research, it's not always clear what position would be the best role for someone to transition to.
So I know a lot of times the members are struggling with trying to figure out what is the best role for me, because a lot of people just know about being a c, r, a, a, so they don't explore other positions and other possibilities. So those are some of the challenges having a working relationship with, with new companies and that sponsorship. But, you know, we've been able to push through and create those partnerships. You know, once we got through the beginning stages of the challenges, when we started to introduce that, we were interested in sponsorships.
But I'm so glad that I persevered in that I kept, you know, talking to companies and letting them know about Black women in clinical research. Yeah sponsorship can always be a challenge for sure. Did you want to mention the
story, by the way, of the CVS or. Oh, Yes.
You want to sit by that? I mean, I think probably I don't think I'd ask the question then. I think I'll just add it onto the last one. Or maybe we could.
We could ask another question around it, maybe. I mean, to me, that's really that is such an interesting part. OK if you could just talk about that and then I'll edit it later. OK OK.
I can do that. So we have a couple of members that have reached out to me and told me that they have applied for hundreds of positions. So I know we had one member who reached out to me. She said she applied for over 100 jobs with the same, you know, resume.
So a lot of times, you know, especially if you are applying to so many positions and you are not receiving an interview, you really have to take a step back and see, you know, is it my resume? You know, we always are making sure that we give our members the information that they need. So we never want you to apply for this many positions and you're not hearing back. You're not getting any feedback.
So a lot of times you have to switch it up. And I don't think a lot of people realize that getting into clinical research is more than just applying to a job. You have to network. Networking is a huge piece of getting into the clinical research industry.
And so, you know, telling the members how to network and how to switch it up so that you're not applying for jobs and you're not hearing that it's important to show up to different conferences, to reach out to people on LinkedIn. You have to set yourself apart from everyone else because the clinical research industry is competitive. A lot of people are trying to get in. So
how are you different from the next candidate?
And we really want our members to think about that. How can you make yourself stand out from the rest? Wow 100 CVS. I mean, that really surprises me because there's still a shortage in the industry.
With sierras, for example, suffering from burnout, the great resignation where a lot of CEOs and other site staff have left the industry. So it does seem strange that she didn't get a response. Yes I just know that a lot of times when hiring managers are sifting through the resumes that, you know, depending on if your resume doesn't have transferable skills, if you don't have buzz words. So there are so many things that go into play when it comes to your resume, making sure that you are connecting the dots for the hiring managers so they know that they should give you an opportunity.
So if you are sending out your resume and you know, you you have to see, OK, is there something I need to change on my resume? Is the person who's reviewing my resume, you know, are they able to see why I should be a good candidate for this clinical research role? So, you know, and a lot of times, too, people look at their resumes all the time. So you think that your resume is perfect.
So it's important to let someone else look at your resume and see,
you know, maybe we needs maybe this area is not clear. Maybe we need to pull out some more of your skills. And so it's just important to make sure that your resume is that walking introduction that you need in order to get you in the room to have an interview. Great advice.
So I'd love to get your thoughts about something that's been making industry waves. The FDA has launched a new requirement, with researchers and companies having to seek approval for late stage clinical trials. And they'll have to submit a plan to ensure diversity among trial participants. So this is pretty groundbreaking, and it would be good to get your thoughts on what this means for Black women in clinical research and potentially other similar organizations.
I think with know, the FDA and with what they are doing, that is amazing plan like the diversity plan that they have going on because this makes sure that the drugs are safe and effective for everyone and not just, you know, white males. Because when you look at the numbers, especially when it comes to clinical trials, that is where we are receiving our data from. So the fact that the FDA is now making this a requirement I think is a great idea because now we will have data that will help us when it comes to treating and people in diverse communities. Thank you so much for joining me today, Danielle.
It's been really fascinating learning more about Black women in clinical research and the important work you do. Before you go, could you tell us what's coming up next for Black women in clinical research? Yes, absolutely. Hannah so we just launched our clinical research, her campaign, where we want people to go out and talk to their community and tell them about clinical research.
of people don't know what exactly is clinical research. So being able to talk about your career and how you are making a difference in the clinical research industry, we want to have those conversations. So people are aware. So we don't have people who say they haven't heard about clinical research.
So if we are consistently having these conversations about clinical research, then our community will be more aware about clinical trials and how is important for them to get involved. And we are also doing our mentorship program. Our mentorship program is going on right now because we realize that in this industry that we don't have mentors and there is not a path saying, OK, this is how you get into clinical research or this is how you level up in your career. And that is so important.
And I know that the mentorship program has helped a lot of members with thinking about which direction they should go when it comes to their clinical research career. And in addition, we are also planning the Black women in clinical research conference in October. So I am super excited about that. This is our first conference and it is, you know, really refreshing that we are going to have a conference where we get to talk about topics that we want to talk about and that are important to, you know, Black women in clinical research.
So those are some of the upcoming events that we are doing. And in addition, I'm going to be it pretty much all of the clinical research conferences as well. But we really want to make a shift in this industry. And I am doing my part to make that.
I would say make that as make that as a dream to really help change the industry and have those difficult conversations with people. Thank you so much, Daniel. And I hope you'll come back and update me on your progress. My pleasure.
Thank you, Hannah. Thank you for having me. OK so I'm just going to stop recording.
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