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CAREERS & the disABLED Magazine, established in 1986, is the nation's first and only career-guidance and recruitment magazine for people with disabilities who are at undergraduate, graduate, or professional levels. Each issue features a special Braille section.

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 Curative Career Choices

Those working in the transformative and curative pharma and biomed sectors extend and better lives as they evolve their own careers.
Imagine life without antibiotics, insulin, birth control pills and analgesics. Now imagine life with polio, smallpox and other diseases that were once commonplace. Hard to do, thanks to those pushing innovation in the pharmaceutical and biomedical sectors.
Over the last century, the transformative and curative work that has been performed in pharma and biomed has changed our lives for the better. And in another century people will be wondering how we once lived without the coming wonder drugs.
Here are a few professionals who revel in this vital, life-changing work that welcomes diversity of thought and ideas to continue to devise healing solutions for people around the world.
Desjarlais Thrives in Amgen’s Culture
Cathy Desjarlais, human resources manager at Amgen Rhode Island, manages the early career programs, including the internship, co-op and rotational leadership development programs.
She will also be the human resources business partner for Amgen’s soon to-be-built next generation biomanufacturing site in state.
Desjarlais has her fingertips on Amgen’s corporate pulse in both of her roles.
“The culture here at Amgen is fantastic; all staff are appreciated and treated with respect,” she notes.
And Amgen takes good care of its employees in other ways, she adds. “Amgen provides us with a great benefits package, career development opportunities and growth, and work-life balance.”
What Desjarlais might love most is Amgen’s profound purpose, as Amgen is a biotechnology company committed to unlocking the potential of biology for patients suffering from serious illnesses.
“I love that our mission is to serve patients, and I get to come to work every day knowing that my work has an impact on many patients around the globe who suffer with serious diseases,” shares Desjarlais, who suffers from migraine.
“I have for over 20 years now. For those who experience migraine, you understand that it’s much more than getting a headache. The attack can be very debilitating. There are many days that I’m affected, but work doesn’t stop.”
Desjarlais is careful to take quick countermeasures. “I always do my best to catch it at the beginning stages so that it doesn’t turn into a full-blown migraine attack; otherwise, I’m unable to work.”
And Amgen helps in many ways. “We have an occupational health clinic on site, staffed with medical professionals who can help anytime I need it. There are times when I just need to use one of their rooms to lay down after taking my medication. A shut door and lights off is the right environment to ease the migraine,” she explains.
The company is working toward prevention, too. “Amgen received FDA approval for a new type of preventive migraine treatment. I’m working with my doctor to become a patient of this new drug,” she points out.
One of approximately 20,000 worldwide employees with 650 at Desjarlais’ Rhode Island location, Desjarlais didn’t realize at first how fully Amgen would accommodate her.
“There was a period in my career where my migraine attacks were very severe and almost daily. I wasn’t on the right medication to assist with the attacks. I missed a lot of work during this time, and I was afraid this would impact my position at Amgen,” she reveals.
There was no quick medical fix either. “I continued to work with my doctors to find the correct treatment, which took a few months,” she shares.
However, Desjarlais’ supervisors allayed her fears.
“My managers at Amgen were very supportive during this time, and assured me that I wasn’t going to lose my job. They even found some additional health resources for me to pursue that were part of Amgen’s benefits package,” she recalls.
“They allowed me flexibility to work remotely part of the week, and even to work some off hours when I felt better to keep up with my work.”
Desjarlais learned a lot about Amgen’s values through her health challenge.
“It can be very scary to go through a situation like that. However, with support from an employer that truly cares for its staff members, it can be a huge weight lifted off your shoulders,” she notes.
Amgen believes it’s made stronger by its diverse workforce, whatever their challenges may be.
“Diversity matters at Amgen,” states Desjarlais. “They believe that an environment of inclusion fosters innovation. Their global presence is strengthened by having a workforce that reflects the diversity of the patients served.”
Mitigating suffering is Amgen’s mission, and Desjarlais both participates and benefits from Amgen’s core values.
“During my job search I knew Amgen was a company committed to wellness and to serving patients, but I didn’t realize just how much I’d appreciate their support of this neurological disease with disabling symptoms until a bit later,” she concludes.
“I’m very proud of Amgen’s support of its staff with all types of disabilities.”
Amgen is headquartered in Thousand Oaks, CA. Explore careers at careers.amgen.com, and learn more about Amgen via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Glassdoor, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Valente Attributes Her Success at Mallinckrodt to Her Can-Do Attitude
Kim Valente is a document control specialist at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals today. It’s her 15th year at Mallinckrodt, and she attributes several reasons to her longevity. But first and foremost it’s her can-do attitude that she attributes most.
“As I have a clearly visible disability, I was nervous about how I might respond if asked questions about my wheelchair,” Valente recalls about her first job interview.
“As time went on, I gained more confidence in knowing that I had the education, background, experience and motivation that makes me a valuable employee. I stopped worrying about ‘if’ I could handle a job or new experience and changed my mindset to knowing that I ‘can,’ in spite of my disability.”
Valente was born with spina bifida, a congenital birth defect, where there’s an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord.
“My specific diagnosis is known as myelomeningocele, which is commonly associated with various problems, including the inability to walk and paralysis,” she explains.
“This condition left me completely dependent on using a wheelchair by the time I’d reached my mid- to late 20s. While I consistently faced many physical adversities growing up, living life bound to a wheelchair has presented my greatest challenge.”
That challenge first showed itself in college, she remembers. “My first time away from home was when I enrolled in undergraduate studies at The College of New Jersey. I had to navigate being able to live on my own.”
She did that by being proactive. “I sought information and resources, such as setting up housing and ensuring I could drive my car on campus where I needed to go. I learned how to ask the right questions and to get out of my comfort zone to ensure I had the resources to succeed.”
After navigating her way through college and her first job interview, her can-do attitude propelled her throughout her career, steering her into the position at Mallinckrodt she has now.
“I’m proud to work for a company that’s patient-centric and commits to improving outcomes for some of the most vulnerable patients, those affected by severe and critical conditions,” says Valente.
Some of those patients are term and near-term neonates who have hypoxic respiratory failure associated with pulmonary hypertension. Valente has history with people facing such challenges.
“Earlier in my career I worked for customer care supporting these patients, their families and healthcare providers across varying situations, some of which were emergencies that called for prompt action and compassion,” the document control specialist elaborates. “I felt, in some way, I helped make a difference.”
And while Valente helps others, it helps her to know that today and tomorrow Mallinckrodt supports her.
“There are many ways Mallinckrodt enables my potential. One example stands out. Last summer I was asked to support a project to train and educate colleagues at our site in Dublin, Ireland on our document management system,” she recounts.
A team stepped up to maximize her potential. “As I prepared for the business travel, I received constant support from everyone involved - my manager, my director, our senior vice president over the quality function and human resources - to ensure completely accessible travel, hotel and transportation accommodations.”
The support continued across the ocean, according to Valente. “Throughout my stay my colleagues in Ireland continued to ensure my accessible needs were met. This allowed me to focus on my role and the objectives of the project at hand to ensure the trip was successful.”
Valente returned home with a new perspective. “This opportunity was a valuable learning experience that not only allowed me to accomplish my goals, but also gave me greater confidence to know I can manage my work and perform in my role as well as any able-bodied person.”
That work is essential, as Mallinckrodt focuses on improving outcomes for patients with high unmet needs suffering from severe and critical conditions.
“Our areas of focus include autoimmune and rare diseases in specialty areas like neurology, rheumatology, nephrology, pulmonology and ophthalmology; immunotherapy and neonatal respiratory critical care therapies; analgesics and gastrointestinal products,” notes Valente.
How does a global company with only 3,600 employees meet so many vital needs? Diversity is part of its success.
“Mallinckrodt makes it very clear that inclusion and diversity are at the core of who we are as a company, one strengthened by the varied identities, experiences, cultures and views of all employees,” Valente answers.
“The company also is committed to providing a safe and welcoming work environment and treating each employee with individual respect and dignity.”
Mallinckrodt is headquartered in the U.S. in St. Louis, MO, with global headquarters in Staines-Upon-Thames, Surrey, U.K. Learn more at LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and blog.mallinckrodt.com. Apply for jobs at mallinckrodt.com/careers.
Neff Achieves via Accommodations at Accredo
Jennifer Neff is a provider support associate for Accredo, the specialty pharmacy division of Express Scripts.
She serves as the single point of contact for patients, prescribers, and the pharmacy and nursing teams. This includes augmenting the coordination of new referrals from initial order receipt to start of care.
It’s complex, demanding work, but Neff loves it. “It’s extremely rewarding work to help patients get the treatment they need. When I speak to a patient who’s stressed and scared about needing a new therapy and what that will mean for them in their day-to-day life, I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to reassure them,” she says.
“I get to tell them they have an advocate who’ll make sure nothing falls through the cracks.”
Neff might be the perfect person for her role, given her situation. “Having been through my own physical challenges, I know that little bit of connection and reassurance can make all of the difference.”
And it’s deeply gratifying for Neff. “Since I have, it’s even more fulfilling.”
Neff has several physical challenges. “I have myasthenia gravis (MG), which is a rare autoimmune disease that affects the neuro-transmitters between my nerves and my voluntary muscles,” she explains.
“The more I use my muscles, the more that pathways get short-circuited, until I rest and those pathways can be restored.”
So working long hours on a computer caused problems for her. “My eyes would just stop focusing, and I’d have double vision that couldn’t be corrected with glasses. The only way to keep working through it was to cover one eye at a time.”
She continues: “I had productivity goals to meet in my position, and I was lucky that I was still able to meet them.”
However, there was an untapped option. “I’ve since learned that had I not been able to keep up, I could request accommodations that would have adjusted those productivity goals,” she points out.
However, speaking up isn’t always easy. “The greatest challenge I’ve faced in my career was overcoming my fear of speaking out and letting my employer know I have a disability,” she admits.
For Neff, silence eventually was no longer an option. “I also have fibromyalgia, coupled with osteoarthritis in my spine as the result of a bad fall from a horse when I was a kid. I have widespread pain from these illnesses on a daily basis, but luckily, anti-inflammatory medications are effective for my pain management,” she elaborates.
“Then, a couple years ago, I found out that I needed a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy due to a genetic predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer.”
The surgery stirred a vicious circle, with MG flares causing her muscles to stop working, and problems healing due to the medications she took to address the autoimmune flares.
“I was afraid if I spoke up, then someone in HR would decide I ‘had to go,’” she recalls.
However, Neff mustered the moxie to share her situation.
“Finally, I went to my supervisor and let her know what was going on. Trying to pretend nothing had changed was taking a physical toll on me and putting my recovery at risk,” she recounts.
“She reassured me that no one was going to fire me, and she immediately let me start working from home.”
Not commuting made all of the difference for Neff. “It helped me so much to eliminate the commute.”
And it continues to help. “She encouraged me to file for an accommodation to make it permanent. I did, and my request was approved. Since then, I have really excelled and grown within my company.”
Neff is now no longer afraid to speak up. “I speak freely about my disabilities to encourage others, and I’ve faced no ‘repercussions’ as I once thought I would.”
And Neff gives all due credit to the upticks in her performance and confidence.
“My company has truly been so great. I don’t know where I’d be had they not worked with me as I went through this process,” she points out.
Express Scripts is headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Learn more via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Glassdoor. Details about Accredo are at accredo.com. Apply for jobs at careers.express-scripts.com.
Scott Levels the Playing Field at BD
As global inclusion and diversity leader at Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), Tiffani Scott’s focus is on fairness, a level playing field whatever your demographics or background might be.
“BD is an incredible organization that’s dedicated to supporting its employees and furthering an inclusive culture that empowers everyone to have a voice and make decisions that aren’t hindered by their gender, ethnicity, sex or relationship status,” says Scott.
BD’s more than 65,000 people across six continents are a source of its strength, as they make up a workforce that mirrors those it serves.
“At BD we’re committed to fostering an inclusive culture that brings together diverse perspectives and capabilities,” she states.
“We know our employees are a reflection of the communities in which we live and work, as well as the patients and caregivers we serve every day.”
Recognizing its potential, BD leverages its diversity in different ways.
“To drive innovation and growth within our business and ensure BD is the best place for our employees to work, we continue to identify opportunities to invest further in our people and culture, including a variety of diversity initiatives,” Scott elaborates.
BD’s ARGs are one of its diversity initiatives. “BD offers our global workforce the opportunity to participate in associate resource groups (ARGs), which are company-recognized groups that celebrate differences and have a specific purpose that aligns with BD’s inclusion and diversity mission,” Scott points out.
“These groups range from the Out & Proud Employee Network (OPEN) for the LGBT community and their advocates to Veteran Employees and Troop Support (VETS) to African Americans at BD (AABD) and many others.”
The up-and-coming ARG is for BD associates with disabilities, Scott notes.
“New this year, BD will launch an associate resource group dedicated to those impacted by disabilities, or with loved ones impacted by disabilities. The new ‘Limitless’ ARG focuses on building awareness of the challenges faced by those impacted by disabilities and offering proactive support that provides integration into the workforce.”
BD is also actively seeking to hire pharm professionals with autism, underscores Scott.
“We’ve partnered with a third-party organization that helps to identify, recruit and retain qualified professionals on the autism spectrum,” she explains.
Tapping diversity keeps BD as one of the largest global medical technology companies in the world and keeps it advancing the world of health by improving medical discovery, diagnostics and the delivery of care.
Headquartered in Franklin Lakes, NJ, learn more about BD via LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Explore job openings at bd.com/en-us/company/careers.
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