Moe Alsumidaie: Danielle, why did you start Black Women in
Clinical Research (BWICR)?
Danielle Mitchell: I started Black Women in Clinical Research after attending an investigator meeting in 2019. In a room of hundreds of people there we only two Black women, including myself. It made me question whether it was a lack of diversity in the room or in the industry. This all stated with a Facebook group. I never imagined that people would join the group or even like the idea.
Initially, spreading the word was difficult. We've partnered with CROs and pharmaceutical companies over time. Big pharma and CROs supported my mission to increase diversity in clinical research because many companies want to increase diversity. The organization has grown to over 12,000 members. People who want to join the clinical research industry are often rejected. I want to be a resource for my members and companies looking to increase workforce diversity.
MA: What's the significance? Why is this important?
DM: Early in my career, I wanted to go to medical school, but there weren’t a lot of career options for someone who has a bachelor’s degree in biology. I ran into a college classmate who told me about clinical research who said I could work from home and travel. I said sign me up immediately! Unfortunately, I was rejected for every clinical research job I applied for. I used my challenges to assist members with the tools to help them enter and succeed in the clinical research industry. It's my life's work. My passion is assisting Black women, men, and minorities enter the clinical research industry.
MA: Indeed. August is Black Business Month; Black entrepreneurs launch innovative startups, but many lack a strong network, mentors, and advisors who foster growth and create a supportive community. 58% of Black business owners in the US believe a strong network would boost their success. How does BWCR help black women enter clinical trials?
DM: We offer career services to the members. Some of the services include resume reviews, interview prep, mock interviews, career coaching, and LinkedIn summaries to name a few. We want to help members get into the clinical research industry. So, we equip members with the tools to prepare them to enter the clinical research industry. Applying to positions and getting rejected can be daunting when starting a career in clinical research. Many people are disappointed when they are rejected and think what is wrong with me?I've been there, so I can relate with what some of the members go through. We provide sisterhood, brotherhood, and support. As you said, the industry lacks mentorship. We want to offer that to members because many don't realize they have transferrable skills and experience. People often don't know what positions their transferable skills apply to, and we provide a safe place for people to get into clinical research. We discuss various clinical research careers monthly, as many only know about CRAs. We want to help people realize their potential in clinical research so they can be successful and thrive.
MA: What worries you?
DM: A lot. But most importantly, I want my members to attend clinical research conferences. The cost of clinical research conferences makes it difficult for newcomers to follow. The clinical research conferences have so much helpful information, but it's hard to convince people to go to those conferences because they're so expensive. If we want diverse people at clinical research conferences, we need to help them financially so they can attend. Newcomers to the industry can't afford to attend $1,000+ meetings. Not to mention the additional costs of travel, food, and lodging. People don't attend conferences for many reasons, but it shouldn't be because of financial restrictions voiced constantly by BWICR members. This is my call to action for the clinical research conference organizers, a scholarship for members and diverse clinical research professionals to attend the conferences would be a great start. I am open to planning or finding a way to get newcomers to the industry to hear this information at the meetings.
MA: What can Black women contribute to conferences, and what will they gain from attending?
DM: Diversity is essential in clinical research and patient care. You want to be heard. We must show up in these spaces to represent people who look like us because people can relate and contribute perspectives from our communities, especially patients. Everyone should be represented in these spaces, regardless. There are also many learning opportunities, creating a level playing ground for blacks and minority clinical research professionals. I always encourage my members to attend conferences. Fall has many meetings. I'm always asking clinical research conference organizers if there's a discount code because I want to see people who look like me and want them to receive the same information.
Our community finds those conferences valuable; I spoke to as many black professionals as possible at DIA conference. One woman thanked me for talking to her. She said, "You're the first person to say hi, stop, and ask how I'm doing." "What you're doing is important and relevant," she said. "I'm glad you're here," she said. I nearly cried. I was moved to tears. You never know how a hello or introduction will affect someone. I value it. I'm passionate about helping people get into the industry and attend conferences.
MA: Is there anything else about BWICR you want to tell the industry?
DM: Yes, we have talented and skilled members. Many have master's degrees, PhDs, physicians, and nurses with skills transferrable to clinical research. Our group is diverse. The industry should consider people who do not have clinical research experience a chance. It shouldn't be this hard to enter, especially if you have transferable skills.