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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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 Profound Purpose

The pharma and biomed sectors improve quality and quantity of countless lives.
The pharmaceutical and biomedical sectors profoundly affect both the quality and quantity of life.
Their advances allow grandparents to witness and revel in their grandchildren’s childhoods. Their discoveries mitigate pain and obliterate some diseases, and allow hundreds of millions to continue their vocations and enjoy their avocations.
You’ll surely live a life of essential purpose if you choose to enter one of these sectors. Just ask the professionals who have found not only a thriving career, but also a profound purpose. Listen to what these featured pharma/biomed pros have to say.
Rising to the Challenge, Dresen’s Calculated Risks Pay Off at Lilly
Mark Dresen is senior specialist, alliance management for Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly).
Lilly is a Fortune 100 company with about 41,000 employees, but it still partners with other pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs. Dresen facilitates those partnerships.
“We serve as a mediator in the partnership. We sit in the middle of the various committees that are created to do the work in the most efficient way possible,” elaborates Dresen.
“When conflicts arise, we help them to be handled in the most productive way. We want it to be beneficial for all, even if the drug doesn’t make it to market. We want them to walk away saying that it was a fantastic partnership and something they’d love to do again.”
Based in Indianapolis, IN, Dresen loves being part of a powerful, healing organization.
“I love being a little cog in a machine that’s making a difference in the world, as pharmaceuticals are creative ways to cure many of the world’s healthcare problems,” he shares. 
“I also love how Lilly is pushing the environment of diversity and owning the benefits that come from it. They’re not afraid to admit it’s an on-going process.”
And what are those benefits?
“We have to have people approaching problems from a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints to be the best we can be. We need those different perspectives. Differences shape how we view things,” he answers.
Lilly goes the extra mile to acquire such valuable perspectives.
“I have a rare eye disease. It’s genetic. As cells break down in my eyes, I can’t repair them. I’m night blind, and losing my depth and color perception. I’m down to a small hole in each of my eyes that see different things,” explains Dresen.
“Lilly has been so good to me. They were quick to help me navigate the building. They recruited people to show me the way, and as soon as I requested software to have my computer talk to me, they were all over that and it was here on day one. They created new policy for my guide dog, [Francie]. They paid my salary when I went away to get my dog. I was gone for four weeks.”
Going the extra mile has paid big dividends for Dresen.
“It’s my belief that as individuals without or with a disability, you have to take calculated risks. Sometimes the opportunity comes before you’re ready for it. Are you going to take advantage, or hope it comes again? That happened to me when I got involved with an ERG (employee resource group), our disability group. I enjoyed being on that committee,” relates Dresen.
“Shortly afterward, the chair was ready to step down and they approached me about taking that chair. As a new fish in a pond, it was overwhelming, and it required connections and knowledge I didn’t possess. I felt it would be better down the line when I had the skills to leverage it better. I was afraid it could hurt my career if I fell on my face,” he recalls.
“I took my own advice and charged up the hill. You don’t know until you try. Until then, it’s just hope and supposition. You have to simply do it to know. It’s exposed me to leadership I never would’ve had access to, and to opportunities, too. It’s expanded my belief in myself,” Dresen continues.
“I no longer know what I thought I was capable of. I know it now. When you’re dealing with a Fortune 100 company, and they offer you a chair, it’s a little daunting. I meet with our CEO and have a couple meals with him each year.”
Dresen’s rising responsibilities aren’t limited to the ERG.
“When I began, I was just doing support work, and now I oversee four of our alliances with another alliance manager, and oversee various other essential things.”
Examine careers.lilly.com for Eli Lilly jobs. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
Bio Check: Lilly
Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) is a global healthcare firm that employees 42,000, with more than 9,000 engaged in research and development. Lilly’s clinical research is conducted in more than 55 countries. It has R&D facilities in six countries, manufacturing plants in 13 countries and products marketed in 120 countries.
Mitchelson Is an Inclusion Leader & Advocate at GSK
As senior director, clinical quality and risk management, R&D at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Tracy Lee Mitchelson does more in a day than many do in a week. However, she still managed to squeeze out enough time to form an essential support group.
“I have a physical disability that’s not particularly noticeable, and, at times, it was challenging to access the tools and support I needed,” shares Mitchelson.
“Through my experiences, I realized others may also be dealing with similar issues, and they may not have the courage to make their needs known. I decided I had to speak up so I could help make a lasting impact. With that in mind, and with the help of others, I launched the Disability Confidence Network (DCN) as a GSK employee resource group (ERG).”
DCN is a potential enabler, according to the pharmaceutical director.
“DCN is a trusted internal resource that partners with our business teams to focus on the ability in disability and enable all GSK employees to reach their true potential at work. We’re advocates for those with disabilities, and we’ve helped individuals navigate their own particular challenges,” explains Mitchelson.
“In the last year alone, we’ve held inclusion week and disability awareness sessions, supported fundraising efforts and much more, resulting in a steady increase in membership.”
As a senior director, Mitchelson is accountable for developing and maintaining GSK’s quality and risk management program for global clinical trials across the R&D dermatology unit, but she also burns the midnight oil on two councils.
“I’m also a member of both the GSK global disability council and the R&D inclusion council. I see first-hand how GSK is aiming to be a more disability-confident organization, in the U.S. and U.K., and globally. It’s been really important that people at the top have bought into the idea of a disability-confident culture, and are supportive on our journey,” she outlines.
Of GSK’s 100,000 employees, 15,000 work in the U.S., researching, developing and manufacturing innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products. Mitchelson loves more than the mission of GSK, which has U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia, PA and Research Triangle Park, NC.
“I love GSK’s values - transparency, respect, integrity and patient focus - and employee expectations - courage, accountability, development, and teamwork. They’re all in alignment with my personal value system,” she notes.
“I also believe these values and expectations highlight the importance of having a diverse workforce while supporting employees in an inclusive manner.”
Mitchelson speaks from personal experience regarding inclusion.
“My physical disability gives me issues with mobility and significant pain. I pride myself on being self-sufficient, but have had to request accommodations to enable me to bring my best self to work. I now have a work-from-home accommodation as getting around the buildings can be difficult for me,” she describes.
“The technology provided through GSK, like video calling and instant messaging, enables me to feel directly connected to those that can be in the office or those who are also working remotely. I’m flourishing in this remote working environment so I can continue to not only do my day job, but also contribute to the inclusion and diversity efforts.”
Get to us.gsk.com/en-us/careers/search-jobs-and-apply for GSK job possibilities. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr.
Bio Check: GSK
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a science-led, global healthcare company with commercial operations in 150-plus countries, a network of 89 manufacturing sites and large R&D centers in the U.K., U.S., Belgium and China that research and develop a broad range of products in pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare.
Amgen’s Muha Helps Fellow Employees Reach Their Potential
If you want to work in the pharma or biomed sectors, Denny Muha is a perfect consultant, as he’s a human resources senior manager at Thousand Oaks, CA-based Amgen.
“I’m an advocate for people as we make business decisions. We’re always looking for ways to develop and stretch people into a rewarding career here at Amgen,” notes Muha.
So who gets hired? “A big piece is a passion around our mission, which is to serve patients. We want people who have that patient-centric attitude. We serve a bigger purpose. Everyone is a piece of that puzzle,” he answers.
Amgen views workers with disabilities as key puzzle pieces, Muha points out.
“Amgen views diversity as a strength. As an innovative company, we need different perspectives and ideas. The more diverse an organization, the more groundbreaking the solutions you can achieve. The people we have at Amgen are our greatest asset,” he elaborates.
Muha not only works from the wheelchair he uses, he also plays from it - basketball, that is. It’s a sport he’s been playing since age 10, and one that earned him a college scholarship. At work, he’s not the only one wheeling around the Amgen campus.
“Everyone is able to get around easily, without physical barriers. I see other people in wheelchairs. From an accessibility standpoint, it’s very good, and I can lower the desks to make it ergonomically friendly for me,” Muha points out.
The company is friendly in other ways, too. “Amgen is a big company, but we do still operate as a smaller company. It’s really important to just build your network. Everyone here is eager to help and support colleagues, but we can’t do that if you don’t reach out. Meet as many people as you can, and they’ll help you be successful,” he advises.
If you’re hired, then the corporate culture will care for you, maintains Muha.
“There’s a lot to love, but if I had to pick one thing, then it would be the way we care about our employees,” he adds.
“We understand people need time away from work. You need that work-life balance. We offer volunteer days to let people serves charities they’re passionate about, and we match charitable donations. We really care about our employees. We want people to work hard when they’re here, but to have a personal life, too, for balance.”
Of course, there will be challenges, but you won’t have to meet them alone.
“My first role at Amgen was working with the part of the organization that has an international focus. All of my experiences prior to that had been U.S.-based. I wanted to be part of a global organization and see what’s beyond our borders. It was tough because every country has different norms, employment laws, cultures and expectations,” recalls Muha.
“My group was diverse, from Canada to Latin America to the Middle East to Africa. I got through that through relationships. I really relied on the people I worked with. I set up meetings to ask them questions and determine how we operate as a company and how those countries operated,” he continues.
“Amgen is a place where as long as you put yourself out there, you will be supported. I didn’t know everything, and I didn’t have to. I just needed to know the experts and to rely on them to support me,” he concludes.
If you want to persuade Amgen’s experts, then remember that science pilots the ship.
“We’re science-based. We use science to help drive decision-making,” Muha underscores.
“If you have logic and data behind your decisions, then you’ll get the support you need. If you’re not doing that, then it’ll be tough for you.”
Access careers.amgen.com for Amgen job opportunities. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Glassdoor.
Bio Check: Amgen
Amgen is a global biotechnology company, deeply rooted in science and innovation to transform new ideas and discoveries into medicines for patients with serious illnesses.
Matessa ‘Fuses’ Innovation & Management in His Role at Cardinal Health
Cardinal Health has more than 50,000 employees, which was a little daunting for Tony Matessa, director, innovation solutions at Fuse by Cardinal Health, when he came aboard.
“Every job transition comes with challenges. When I left the small/mid-sized company to join a Fortune 20 - at the time; now Fortune 15 - company like Cardinal Health, I was uncertain whether I’d fit into the culture, execute at the level they expected and make the progress I thought I could,” remembers Matessa.
“This perception quickly went away as I surrounded myself with my new team, immersed myself into the culture and how my new team quickly made me feel welcome. Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen this happen to people all of the time, and it’s what makes Cardinal Health a special place to work.”
Fuse is an particularly special place to work, according to Matessa.
“Fuse is the innovation center of Cardinal Health, made up of a nimble, diverse team that merges technology and science with human-centered design. It brings deep expertise and industry foresight to solve complex healthcare challenges while leveraging the reach and resources of a large, global corporation. You can learn more about Fuse at cardinalhealth.com/fuse.”
As director, Matessa oversees innovation - and everything else.
“I’m responsible for innovation, new product development and strategy, currently working on bringing to market a new in-home adherence and medication management solution connecting patients, pharmacists and providers.”
And, today, Matessa appreciates Dublin, OH-headquartered Cardinal Health’s breadth and depth.
“Because of the size and scope of Cardinal Health across healthcare, I love that Cardinal Health offers me the opportunity to experience many aspects of the healthcare system and, over the last 10 years, build upon my career in several expanding leadership roles,” he expounds.
Matessa loves how Cardinal Health prizes a diverse workforce, too: “Cardinal Health has a robust culture that respects and values all employees and customers, and embraces their unique talents. From providing a place where veterans can transition to numerous employee resource groups that ensure each employee feels welcomed in the workplace to fostering a culture whereby women and other diverse groups have an opportunity to develop their career, Cardinal Health takes diversity in the workforce very seriously.”
Matessa is part of that diverse workforce. “Interestingly enough, I never thought of my hearing challenges as a disability, but unfortunately that’s just how it was. Growing up I always had ‘swimmers ear’ [and] ‘tubes,’ and inherited poor hearing from my mom’s side of the family. Acknowledging I had a serious hearing problem only happened about five years ago after my wife and kids finally had enough of loud TVs, repeating themselves and feeling like I was ignoring them when, in reality, I just couldn’t hear them,” shares Matessa.
“In the office I just dealt with it, made accommodations by positioning myself where I could hear best at meetings or conferences, and became really good at reading lips, yet I was frustrated,” he continues.
“Once I visited my ENT provider and had an extensive hearing exam, it opened my eyes and ears to what I was actually missing in life. I’ve been wearing hearing aids now for the last four years, and after the initial and, at times constant, struggles with the stigma and perception of wearing hearing aids combined with the cost associated with them, I’ve grown to just ‘own it,’” he concludes.
A co-worker and former doctor in audiology recently said to him, “Think of all the other devices (horrible-looking ones) people wear all day from headphones, ear buds, Bluetooth devices, etc. Just own it.”
Matessa says she was one of the first people that put it in that sort of context for him. “Now, the number of friends who ask me about my hearing aids because they have similar problems continues to increase.”
Head to cardinalhealth.com/en/careers.html for Cardinal Health career opportunities. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Bio Check: Cardinal Health
Cardinal Health is a healthcare services and products company that provides customized solutions for hospitals, health systems, pharmacies, ambulatory surgery centers, clinical laboratories and physician offices worldwide.
Please treat as a sidebar, with her photo and Bio Check box, since she’s the only HR person in this feature, and place at the end of the feature:
Law: Alexion Supports Its Employees
With approximately 3,000 employees, Alexion isn’t the biggest pharma/biomed sector company, but it’s one of the most innovative companies in any sector, having made Forbes’ World’s Most Innovative Companies list consecutively from 2012 to 2017.
However, Alexion doesn’t just differentiate itself via innovation. It also differentiates itself in the care it tenders to its employees.
Anne-Marie Law, chief human resources officer, explains: “We aim to maximize all employees’ performance, independent of a disability, gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other differentiators. With this in mind, we’ve developed meaningful programs that support a wide variety of needs.”
As an example, Law cites employer health plans, which typically don’t cover hearing aids for adults.
“As a result of several employees with hearing loss reaching out to human resources, Alexion expanded hearing aid coverage for healthcare plan members of all ages. We also redesigned our speech, physical and occupational therapy benefits to help employees and family members get the maximum number of therapy visits based on their individual needs,” she points out.
“Instead of offering lower visit caps by type of therapy, health plan members are covered for up to 60 visits of any combination of speech, physical and occupational therapy visits per year.”
Alexion even makes the calls, allowing its workers with disabilities to remain focused on innovation.
Says Law: “Our 24-7 concierge service can research and even schedule appointments with special-needs services, such as evaluation programs, therapeutic services, advocacy, home healthcare agencies and supportive services.”
Alexion goes the extra mile because it understands that diversity drives innovation, according to Law.
“Our focus at Alexion includes creating a culture where diversity and inclusion is not just a commitment, but also a reality of how we work together to serve patients. We unlock value through diversity of people and ideas, cross-functional collaboration and continuous learning.”
The innovation, in turn, aligns with one of Alexion’s core values: serve patients.
“Alexion has such passion for patients - they serve as our ‘guiding star’ and inspire us daily,” states Law.
“I’m proud to say Alexion uses the same innovative and tenacious mindset with which we serve patients to support our own employees. We’re constantly looking for ways to reach employees and their families who may be facing a time of need so they’re aware of the generous programs we have to support them.”
If serving patients is also your purpose, then consider applying to Alexion.
“We’re a company aligned by a core set of values: serve patients, act with integrity, empower people and innovate for solutions. We hire talented people who align with our values and with our mission to bring hope to patients and families affected by rare diseases through delivering innovative, life-changing therapies.”
As New Haven, CT-based Alexion delivers life-changing therapies, it’s also there for life-changing events in its employees’ lives.
“When you care for a family member with a special need, finding a care provider that your loved one is comfortable with and that’s equipped to support them can be especially challenging,” acknowledges Law.
“In addition to offering typical back-up daycare services, Alexion employees who need to travel overnight for work can pick their own care provider and be reimbursed, up to $100 per day.”
She continues: “We also offer generous paid leaves for employees and their loved ones faced with a disability. This includes caregiver leave, which provides four weeks of paid time off to care for a terminally ill family member. Starting October 1, 2017, this benefit will expand to provide four weeks of paid time off whenever an employee needs to care for a loved one.”
See alexion.com/careers for Alexion career paths. Connect on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Bio Check: Alexion
Established in the U.S. in 1992, Alexion is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and delivering life-changing therapies for patients with devastating and rare diseases.
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