Change is a given in this world and is a perfect illustration of the old adage “There is nothing permanent except change.” When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), change is a necessary priority. It certainly isn’t just another fad or the latest buzzword, it a shift in mindset. It reflects a more holistic and human-centered approach that spans the companies where we work and the scientific leaders and patients that we serve. DEI opens the door for all to feel welcomed for their talents, celebrated for their diversity, and afforded equal access. There is a certain freshness associated with this cultural norm rather than a check-the-box mentality. We’re at our best when all voices are heard and valued to contribute fully to this call.
Being an agent of DEI change requires more than good intentions; it also means action, resources, time, and energy. Alignment of this type of commitment doesn’t happen by accident, it requires an intentional shift to move away from a few employees (e.g. the HR department or a diversity executive) to each individual holding themselves accountable. We can educate ourselves and others to stand against hateful and bigoted speech, express empathy for all people; while encouraging others to do the same in our communities and at work.
Organizations with strong DEI climates are more likely to have employees with increased job satisfaction, higher levels of trust, and be higher performing. For that reason, it is important to put DEI knowledge into action for organizational transformation. Shifting the thought process within an environment allows individuals of different races, nationalities, genders, ages, cultural backgrounds, experiences, and sexual orientation to be more connected and valued above and beyond a business strategy. It is important to have constant support from our corporate leaders when rooting out the effects of systemic inequity hidden in company cultures. When leaders demonstrate their authenticity for DEI, the company’s employees can stand in solidarity to elevate others to the highest standards of progress.
The Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) associated with strong DEI organizations offer a perfect opportunity to bridge DEI to external customers. No matter what their specialty, MSLs establish and maintain relationships with the purpose of scientific exchange on a macro level. The essence of this job is to showcase open-mindedness and empathy among various external stakeholders of different races, nationalities, genders, ages, cultural backgrounds, life experiences, and sexual orientation. It stands to reason that clinicians are more apt to trust their MSLs when a higher standard of awareness and credibility is demonstrated. Once trust is established, the door is opened for a genuine connection to learn more about real-life day-to-day patient and clinical experiences. The stage is also set for more targeted insights, strategic challenges, treatment landscape perceptions, knowledge gaps, and any other specific feedback.
MSLs are trusted professionals that thrive on education, empathy, and optimism; and are positioned to catapult DEI to the next level of change. It is a collective effort, yet requires individual responsibility, urgency, and accountability. It means speaking up and speaking out in favor of the greater good and a better future for all.
Melissa A. Mims, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Melissa is an Executive Director in US Medical Affairs at Merck. In her current role, she provides strategic direction and oversight for the US GI oncology field medical team. With ~25 years of pharmaceutical experience across several therapeutic areas most notably in Oncology, she has led cross-functional teams, managed complexities, and developed talent. She received her Ph.D. from Howard University and her M.B.A. from Cornell University.
Dr. Kimberly N. Simmons
Kimberly is a multi-faceted professional with 25+ years of pharmaceutical & biotech industry experience across therapeutic areas in Medical Affairs. She currently serves as a Regional Medical Scientific Director at Merck in Oncology and is results-oriented in relationship building, mentoring, training, strategic thinking, and collaboration. She possesses a PharmD from the University of Florida and a BS in Pharmacy from Drake University. Kimberly also completed an Association Management residency with APhA.