Inspire Young Minds with STEM: BMS Volunteer and Disability Advocate Julie Meade
Passionate volunteers from Bristol Myers Squibb are often out and about in the community promoting the diverse and fascinating careers available within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). They're opening eyes, minds and possibilities to those early in their career and students — some even as young as middle school age.
Such was the case recently at a Tomorrow's Innovators STEM event near the BMS New Jersey campus that was particularly meaningful to Julie Meade, Scientific Writer in Global Scientific & Regulatory Documentation with BMS, and her audience, a group of middle school students with disabilities and allies. Hands-on STEM events like this are examples of BMS's culture and commitment to inclusion of groups underrepresented in STEM careers.
Julie is also one of the Communications Leads for the Disability Advancement Workplace Network (DAWN) — one of BMS’s People Business Resource Groups — and a co-sponsor of the event. For her, helping kids with disabilities discover a world of possibilities through STEM is very personal.
She has first-hand experience with the importance of diversity and inclusion in STEM. She has a
life-long passion for science with a PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology and a BA in Neuroscience and Behavior. She’s been a scientific communications specialist, volunteer scientific educator and mentor, pharmacology podcaster, medical textbook editor, and an EMT — all while living with her own cognitive and physical disabilities.
Making Meaningful Connections Through STEM
Despite stormy weather and even a nearby power outage the day of the event, it seemed nothing would deter the students from attending. The students met Julie and enthusiastic BMS volunteers, which included scientists and engineers who also openly identified as having disabilities, including those who use mobility aids. From building robots and non-exploding spacesuits to flight testing the perfect paper airplanes, the students learned how, through STEM, they could help build a better world and solve some of science’s most pressing problems.
After the hands-on activities, our colleagues spoke about what they do at BMS and why. They shared the kinds of meaningful work they’re engaged in, like drug development, covering molecule design, data analysis, clinical trials, and even medicine patents. The students got a picture of the various roles at BMS and how having different skills come into play.
At the end of the event, the students learned important lessons — that scientists and engineers have incredibly diverse experiences and backgrounds, and that you can’t let a disability limit your ambitions.
“The kids had a blast,” said Julie. “We surveyed them afterwards and they all agreed that it was important for them to see that scientists could really be anyone. The volunteers had a great time, too. It was amazing to see my coworkers come together to help run this, be a real
presence and be supportive. We are so excited to do more of these types of events.”
Discovering the “Science” Behind Career Success
In addition to everyday challenges, people with disabilities often face more obstacles when it comes to higher education and career development, particularly in the sciences. And it dissuades many from fulfilling their personal goals. For instance, in the United States 1 in 4 adults of working age has a disability, but only 1 in 9 college graduates has a disability. Of those with PhDs in STEM fields, that gap increases significantly to 1 in 17 graduates having a disability.
As for Julie’s particular journey, it was through a non-profit that matches recent graduates with disabilities with potential corporate employees that she found her way to BMS. Or rather, BMS found her. Although she didn’t quite envision it going that way when she started out as a student. But at every step, Julie kept applying what she learned and stayed focused on her goals while developing more skills for career success.
“There was a series of coincidences that led to other coincidences and now, I’m here at BMS,” she said. “In college I took a little bit of everything and wound up completing a degree in neuroscience. I also really enjoyed talking about science, so I started doing science communication — creating a blog, starting a podcast, interviewing scientists at my university and turning their complex research into stories for a broader audience.”
After a stint at the National Institutes of Health working in drug discovery, Julie was awarded a prestigious predoctoral fellowship in Pharmacology and Toxicology at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she studied the side effects of cancer treatments, experimental medicines for depression, complementary and alternative medicines for pain relief, and even the effects of flavorings on alcohol and nicotine consumption.
Since joining BMS in the fall of 2020, Julie has received numerous awards for her work, as well as a promotion. In addition, she finds the bandwidth in her busy work life to remain active with DAWN, helping advance the group’s mission by creating and sharing stories of support for people with disabilities in the workplace.
Expanding Our Supportive Culture
Just as Julie is dedicated to her role and her work with DAWN, she’s passionate about giving back through outreach programs like the Tomorrow's Innovators STEM events.
She had another great experience at the next Tomorrow's Innovators STEM event at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, where she partnered
with the recently established Seattle DAWN chapter. The buzz has helped drum up a lot of support among BMS Seattle, with many among them eager to get involved.
“BMS Seattle people are taking this idea of inclusivity and outreach very seriously, which I just love,” she said. “It shows how much my colleagues and BMS are committed to diversity and understanding the importance of being involved and giving back.”
DAWN is just one of the ways BMS fosters an inclusive, welcoming culture where diversity is valued, and everyone can be their authentic selves. We’re grateful for people such as Julie and the DAWN volunteers to show us what it means to transform careers as well as lives. Discover your path to interesting, meaningful, and impactful work here.
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