Alumni Spotlight Interview
Associate, Johns Hopkins Medicine International
Interview by Lawrence Jones, Johns Hopkins Alumnus
Please describe your current position. Has your career trajectory followed the path you had expected when you started graduate school?
As an Associate at John Hopkins Medicine International, I am part of a team that assists medical institutions internationally, to elevate the standard of care globally. Services include medical education development, training, quality assurance, patient safety and international accreditation. Our team focuses on the Latin American region, the Caribbean, and Canada. I conduct research and analysis of demographics, disease data, healthcare trends, hospital data, and competitive analysis. A large component of my line of work involves project management component, client relationship building, establishing knowledge transfer schedules, working with faculty, and a ton of writing and preparing presentations for leadership.
My career trajectory has somewhat followed the path I expected. I arrived at Hopkins as a Research Post-Baccalaureate at the School of Medicine, and later started graduate school working towards the completion of my Biotechnology degree at the Johns Hopkins University Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. At the time, I knew I enjoyed learning science because I liked the challenge of a demanding curriculum and the rigorous training that came with working in research; I knew I wanted to do something to help people, and I always dreamt of working internationally. I also speak Spanish. I truthfully never knew in what form any of my interests and skills would materialize.
After my Biotech degree, I worked in nutritional sciences and international health at the School of Public Health and later finished an MBA at the Carey Business School. All of these experiences combined helped me land at my current position. What I love the most about the work I do is that it allows me to think of creative ways to contribute to the development of international health—creating depth and breadth to my body of work and collaborations. Graduate school prepared me for the level of research, writing, and analysis required for my job.
As an HBN member, how does your experience enhance your network? How do you think it can continue to become more recognized within the Hopkins Alumni community?
As a member of HBN, I have been able to meet other students, professionals, staff, and faculty from other schools and campuses that I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to get to know or work with on various projects. I also continue to connect people with and within HBN.
Also, I think HBN can continue to grow by having ambassadors amongst different groups and partnering with other associations on campus, in the community, and nationally. I think that hosting Biotech Conferences would be a good way of exhibiting projects, creating network opportunities, and entrepreneurial platforms.
Were any resources (inside or outside your university) particularly helpful in your job search?
The Alumni Network was and still is the most powerful resource. I’ve had the opportunity to be able to link Carey students with HBN students so that the groups can enjoy interdisciplinary diversity while collaborating on projects and events. I have also learned of openings, projects, and conferences through the Alumni Network.
What do you consider is fundamentally different about the biotech industry when you first started compared to now?
The short answer is: Increase in the private sector and greater accessibility to the public.
One of the greatest changes I have noticed in Biotech since I graduated is an increase in products, services, research and development in the private sector. Given the political milieu we are experiencing and finite resources, the biotech industry’s private sector is growing.
I have also noticed science becoming more accessible to the general public. Some of it is evident in the number of DIY science communities growing around the country, like GenSpace in NYC and BUGSS in Baltimore. These are really neat spaces that make science accessible to citizens and provide the necessary support and tools to bring a product to market.
Where do you see biotech heading in 2017–2027 in regards to cutting-edge research?
I think there will continue to be a focus on vaccine development to fight diseases that pose global threats and disrupt people’s lives, like Zika and dengue. I think we will be seeing more and more diseases of this type, especially in tropical climates, requiring continuous research and development.
I also think that scientists will continue to invest time and energy to figure out ways of making renewable raw materials more efficient in order to address issues of sustainability and production. I had the pleasure of attending the BioCouture conference in NYC the last couple of years, and I’m always astounded at the number of innovative ways that synthetic biology for instance, is being used to solve basic problems. It’s like tricking your Saccharomyces cerevisiae to amp fuel production, and your Eschericia coli to produce textiles, or mycelium to make furniture.
What is your perspective of how the Hopkins Biotech Network can expand?
I think there is an opportunity for the Hopkins Biotech Network to expand by hosting national and international events and conferences, by creating platforms for case competitions, workshops, treks, collaborating, partnering with other groups around campus, working with hospitals and creating Innovation Hubs in the community.
How does Maryland’s entrepreneurial biotech landscape compare?
Compared to other states, Maryland’s entrepreneurial landscape is at an advantage due to its proximity to governmental agencies and stellar academic research institutions that function as partners. There are many great places in Gaithersburg, Rockville, Bethesda, Frederick, and Baltimore just to name a few, where biotech businesses are growing.
How can Johns Hopkins take a greater leadership role in the biotech arena nationally and Internationally?
Johns Hopkins is already a world leader in research and healthcare delivery. With its motto of “Knowledge for the world”, there is ample opportunity for the biotech arena to take on a greater leadership role nationally and internationally by engaging in knowledge transfer activities at home and overseas, especially in areas of innovation and analytics.
What do you like most about being a Johns Hopkins Alumnus and how has your education prepared you for your journey?
What I love the most about being a Hopkins alumnus is the diverse number of people I have met around the different campuses, the continuous network, and collaborations, whether it’s work-related or social.
My education prepared me to think critically and analytically when working through any assignment. Most importantly, the people that trained me are genuinely dedicated to their work of solving some of the world’s most pertinent issues. To that end, I am infinitely grateful to have worked with passionate human beings, faculty, classmates, and to continue seeking opportunities and projects that are relevant and captivating.
Published by: Ememabasi Okoh
Editor-in-Chief, Hopkins Biotech Network