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BOLD Role Models: Who Inspires You?

At PPD, employees may join business resource groups (BRGs) based on their identity or interests. One of these groups, the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), recently challenged members to reflect: Who is a Black leader that inspired your career in clinical development?

Three BOLD members agreed to share about their role models.

Avie Banks, senior director with project delivery and oversight director of cardiovascular, metabolic and critical care, based in Morrisville, N.C., remembers Dr. Patricia E. Bath (1942-2019).

Avie Banks, BOLD member at PPD, remembers Dr. Patricia E. Bath.
Avie Banks

“As I reflect on my own journey in clinical research and notable members in the Black community that were pioneers in clinical research, I found myself drawn to the accomplishments of Dr. Patricia E. Bath. Dr. Bath is notable for her achievement of discovering and inventing a new device and technique for cataract surgery known as Laserphaco. Many experts credit her for today’s advanced laser eye surgery techniques. She also advocated for telemedicine in the ‘90s. I admire her perseverance through the obstacles that she discussed facing throughout her career, including sexism, racism and relative poverty.

“My research career started out at Duke University Eye Center working on Macular Degeneration Trials with a physician-led surgery technique to help improve eyesight to those experiencing blindness from the disease. For the first five years of my clinical research journey, I worked on ophthalmology clinical trials with innovative research scientists like Dr. Bath. I hope that my work will build on the legacy that Dr. Bath and other researchers have paved for us!”

Terry Willis, manager with medical communications, based in Morrisville, N.C., is guided by many, but reflects on one role model in particular: Les Brown (1945-present).

Terry Willis

“As I examine my role in the medical communication division of PPD, I begin to think about the many great Black people who have inspired me. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Harriett Tubman, James Baldwin, Malcolm X — just to name a few. But as I think about a great Black leader that has had a personal impact upon my life, upon my career, that person would be the great communicator, the great motivator, Les Brown. Les Brown was born into poverty in 1945, but poverty was not born into him. He pulled himself up and became a great legislator in the state of Ohio, a radio and television show host. His gift is motivating and inspiring people to find their greatness.

“Les Brown ranks amongst the nation’s leading authorities in understanding and stimulating human potential. He has inspired and motivated millions of people to shoot for the moon because as he has said many times, ‘if you miss the moon, you will land among the stars.’

“My knowledge of Les Brown is not based on what I have read or what I have heard, I have firsthand experience of his greatness. I was blessed to be the executive producer on his morning radio show in Washington, D.C. Even though the show ended many years ago, the knowledge I gained from working with him travel with me every day. As manager of the Medical Communications Academy at PPD, I focus on motivating and inspiring the new employees as they begin their journey in the medical communication division. Many of the communication skills that I use to help others find their purpose, their greatness, those skills were gifted to me by the great Les Brown.”

Rosalyn Harris, senior site activation specialist with site intelligence and activation, based in Morrisville, N.C., is inspired by the young, American chemist: Alice Ball (1892-1916).

Rosalyn Harris

“My respect for the origins of drug therapies and research is what sparked my interest in the work of Alice Ball. She was the first Black woman to earn a chemistry degree and become a chemistry instructor at the University of Hawaii, formerly known as the College of Hawaii. In her short 24 years of life, Ball made invaluable contributions to science and medicine, with perhaps her most notable one being the development of an injectable oil extract from the chaulmoogra plant that became the standard treatment for leprosy until the 1940s. Today, Hawaii celebrates February 29 as ‘Alice Ball Day.’

“My own unique introduction into pharmaceuticals began in the compounding lab of a privately owned pharmacy in which I worked with raw chemicals to create non-conventional therapies and treatments in various forms such as capsules, liquids, emollients, suppositories and injectables, among others. This work ultimately led me to clinical research and constantly reminds me of how impactful not only pharmaceutical compounds are on health and medicine in our society, but also the importance of the routes of administration for these compounds. As we celebrate the approval of treatments and vaccines to fight the infectious COVID-19 virus, I am intentional in honoring the compounding chemists who work at ground-zero to develop these solutions, just as Alice Ball did in her efforts to fight and treat the deadly leprosy epidemic.”

If you are a clinical research professional, who inspired you to join the clinical research industry? Better yet, who might be inspired to explore clinical research because of the projects and studies that you support?

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