BMS has long believed that bringing innovative medicines to patients requires a workforce with diverse experiences, perspectives, and personal backgrounds. In fact, we recently launched Tomorrow’s Innovators - HBCU, an initiative that aims to build a sustainable bridge for diverse talent from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to the biopharma industry. Here, we check in with HBCU alumni who are thriving with meaningful careers at BMS.
Laura Williams, PharmD, RPh, is a true example of talent evolving from an HBCU. Raised in a single-parent household with limited role models and resources, she always knew attending an HBCU would be the right professional opportunity for her future.
Laura’s professional journey began in the U.S. Air Force, where she served a highly distinguished career as a world-traveled radiology and mammography technologist. After 10 years of service, she revisited her dream and was accepted into one of the leading HBCUs in the country—Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) to pursue her Doctor of Pharmacy degree. That’s when she found BMS.
“At that time, BMS was the only organization in the industry taking the time to visit our university to recruit top diverse talent for its PharmD programs,” Laura said. “Their commitment and interests in our HBCU really spoke volumes to me.”
Laura was recruited to join BMS through the Rutgers/BMS PharmD fellowship program. “When you come from a background like mine or don't have all of the resources, you tend to get
intimidated by what you can and can't do,” she said. “Once you get an opportunity and have the right mentors, leaders, resources and professional skills, you can truly excel to limits beyond what you can imagine.”
Now an Associate Director on the U.S. Medical Oncology Pan-Tumor Strategy team, Laura leads health equity initiatives, advocating for underserved and underrepresented patients and providers throughout the U.S.
“I truly enjoy the impact I’ve had at BMS,” Laura said. “Raising my hand when there's an opportunity has kept me growing here. It’s made me want to stay, because I see I’m not just a number to get the job done. You can truly evolve professionally into whoever you want to be, you just have to go for it!”
Jessie Nia Hwang, PharmD, CMPP, found her way to BMS during the final year of pharmacy school (St. Louis College of Pharmacy) through the FAMU BMS PharmD Residency Program as well. She had earned her undergrad degree from another leading HBCU, Spelman College and attributes much of her sense of belonging to her HBCU experiences that embraced her mixed Asian and Black backgrounds. The FAMU BMS PharmD program gave her the opportunity to work within the Worldwide Medical Publications organization for oncology.
“I didn't know some of my strengths as far as what value I could bring to the team until I was offered so many experiences here,” Hwang said. “BMS allowed for me to tap into my superpowers and passions.”
Coming from humble beginnings in an underserved community and having grown up with an autoimmune condition, Jessie didn’t always have access to medications or healthcare.
“Even if I'm a very small piece of the puzzle, being able to help change that trajectory of healthcare is something that I pride myself in being able to be a part of because to whom much is given, much is required,” she said.
Now serving as Associate Director for the U.S. Medical Strategy team, Jessie feels like she found her home at BMS with a team that feels like family. She’s also a leader within the Black Organization for Leadership & Development (BOLD), one of BMS’ People and Business Resource Groups (PBRG), and the FAMU BMS PharmD Residency Program. According to Monique Phillips, BOLD’s new full-time Global Lead, members are able to contribute and thrive in a diverse and inclusive environment that values and empowers everyone.
“I’m loving what I'm doing right now,” Jessie said. “I use the term ‘teffort’ a lot, which is a mashed-up word for ‘team’ and ‘effort.’ It requires a teffort to move anything forward. And I love that our team respects one another, we value each other, and we recognize what we're bringing to the table for patients and for the science.”
Laura and Jessie are just two of many HBCU alumni thriving at BMS and doing some of the most meaningful work of their lives. Kwame Sarpong, who is currently in the BMS Business Insights & Analytics Rotational Development Program, was born and raised in Ghana before receiving his undergrad degree in the U.S.
“I remember being one of probably three Black people in an organic chemistry class of hundreds. That was tough for me, especially after being around Africans my entire life,” Kwame said. After attending an HBCU for his masters and joining BMS, he now fits in and sees people like him—in race and like-mindedness. “It motivated me to go above and beyond. Everywhere I looked I was surrounded by greatness. That gave me the fire to go out and be the best version of myself.”
And at BMS, you’re encouraged to be—and bring—your true self to work every day.
Initiatives like Tomorrow’s Innovators - HBCU are just one of the ways inspired, collaborative thinkers find their way to BMS.
“We need you to be here,” said Shamika Williams, Senior Director, Strategy & Marketing, HBCU Initiatives at BMS. “You have passion and innovation that we need in order to make sure we are having an impact on the lives of patients. While we are a scientific organization, we need every function and background too. There may be titles that you have never heard of that will tap into your passion and energy."
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