Tag Archives: New York Times

IT ISN’T ROCKET SCIENCE – Creating a Big Tent for Clinical Trials

I just celebrated three years working in the pharmaceutical space. The simplest explanation of what I do is to market strategy and communications that drive product awareness and, ultimately, customer purchase of a suite of clinical trial solutions.


In layman’s terms, I advertise solutions that help get medicine to the market faster.  In my role, I have no contact with patients or involvement with the implementation and/or execution of clinical trials.  However, this access that I am granted does give me a special perspective.


I had a conversation with an individual whose job is to lead clinical trial diversity for a large pharmaceutical organization.  This individual was sympathetic and resolute in how they face the challenges associated with achieving the application of diversity in the trials that their company implements.  However, they pointed out that the necessary allocation of resources and commitment was the greatest and most daunting challenge they face on an ongoing basis.

“I am able to make compelling arguments (to my superiors) in favor of diversity in clinical trials. But without a model that shows an immediate return on investment, the need is nothing more than a conversation without a resolution.”


In another example of industry complacency, I reflect on the global and domestic industry conferences, seminars and meetings I have attended.  As part of their programming, they offer what is billed as the “patient perspective.”  This is typically a panel or round-table discussion that includes patients who are trial participants. Without exception, the patient representation did not include people of color.  When I questioned this lack of diversity, the responses were a mix of bewilderment as to “why” I would ask the question and an often-repeated refrain of we could not find any minority patients.


How do we understand the impact of drugs on race when the minority participation in trials is underrepresented?


According to the U.S. Census, Black or African-Americans represent 13.4% of the U.S. population.  The FDA has reported only 5% participation in clinical trials by the same population.  This under-representation suggests not only a systemic industry problem, but (it) begs a larger and more important question — Are new medications effective and viable for all populations?  The racial composition and make-up of individuals enrolled in trials that lead to approval of drugs must be comparable to the overall population.  This is especially true if the medication is going to be effective once approved.


New York Times opinion columnist Charles Blow was the first to raise the issue of racial disparity in his April 1st column, The Racial Time Bomb in the COVID 19 Crisis.  My conclusion was that, under normal circumstances, it was vitally important to address the challenge of finding ways to increase minority participation in clinical trials.  Given the onset of the pandemic and its affects on African-Americans, it is absolutely critical.  Diversity and inclusion is not a nice thing to do. It is a bridge to building trust with what has historically been, with good reason, a skeptical and resistant audience.


Change starts at the top.  I experienced this first-hand while working on the McDonald’s brand.  While the company is best known for selling hamburgers and soft drinks, it has also been the benefactor of unprecedented powerful consumer connections.  McDonald’s understood that there is never one simple solution to building a trusting relationship.  But by demonstrating community commitment, engagement and investment, McDonald’s was able to effectively tap into what its brand stands for in the hearts and minds of African-American consumers.


Dr. Althea Maybank, the American Medical Association’s Chief Equity Officer and Group Vice-President sums it perfectly in the NBC News article, “A COVID-19 Vaccine Will Work Only If Trials Include Black Participants.”


“With any relationship, you build it,” she said. “Folks doing work from leading institutions have asked, ‘How do we build trust?’ Well, it’s not rocket science. It’s about building relationships. Are you getting to know me beforehand? Are you speaking in a language I understand? Are the concepts broken down so that they are digestible? Are you present? Are you giving resources to our neighborhoods beforehand? That’s not rocket science. It’s building a relationship. That’s how you build trust. And trust is a fundamental value in humans. There’s no rocket science behind it.”


Mad Men, Advertising and the absence of African-Americans…at the top

I am very selective with regard to the television that I watch on a regular basis.

The AMC Series Mad Men falls into the category of what I do watch.
It is intelligent television – well written and well acted.

The season four finale aired last Sunday, prompting an onslaught of media coverage including a candid New York Times interview with the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner.

One of the questions focused on the show’s lack of any major African-American (or other minority) characters.

Weiner explained, given the 1965 timeline and within the storyline:

“…this is going to change. By the way, it changes socially. It does not change in advertising. It still has not changed. And I will go to the mat on this thing.”

As a 25 year veteran of the ad industry, I agree with Weiner.

Strides have been made as evidenced by the presence of African-Americans in all facets of the business today.

However, I would not go as far as to suggest that racism does not exist in advertising.

It does.

While the journey is far from over, the fictional arc of where the industry was as portrayed in the show represents the steps taken forward.

To the original points I made, Mad Men is good and entertaining television.

Like the African-American ad executives that Weiner referenced in the interview, I believe that there should not be more African-American characters in the show.

Simply put, it just wouldn’t ring true.

I stand on the shoulders of pioneers like Tom Burrell, Caroline Jones, Frank Mango, Vince Cullers and Madam CJ Walker.

Their efforts may not make it to the Mad Men storyline, but their importance and trailblazing efforts changed the trajectory of the advertising industry.

click here _ for the full New York Times article.


I was not surprised by the content of this article.




These adjectives more accurately describe what I felt.

Unlike Messers. Ash, Haithon and the Honorable UW Clemon, the former Federal judge, I did not grow up in the South.

This, in no way, minimizes the sting and blatant disrespect associated with the word boy…especially in the context that is outlined.

Which makes the recent reversal (and reprimand of the plaintiff’s attorney) by the Eleventh Circuit Court all the more appalling.

Denying one’s right to be treated with respect and dignity only serves as another tool of racism.

While in this instance the conversation focuses on race, the underlying issue is broader and suggests that while countless strides have been made in the fight for equality, we have a great deal of work yet to complete.

Photo by Gordon Parks, Black Muslim Rally, New York, circa 1963

Goin Up Yonder

I grew up in a household where music was not only foundational, but like electricity, food and water, it was ever-present and essential.

The musical palette that I developed is a result of the eclectic genres I was exposed to in my youth.

The sounds that I grew up listening to broadened my horizons allowing for new and unexpected delights.

For example, it took me many years to appreciate the raw emotion and vulnerability of Billie Holiday or to understand what a 16 year old Billy Strayhorn was saying in his haunting ballad “Lush Life.”

Like many of my contemporaries, I “got” Stevie right away and became devoted to him and his female disciples of songs, notably Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams and Syreeta.

But somehow the music of Walter Hawkins was different.

Walter Hawkins changed the way I heard gospel music.

Despite the fact that gospel was a staple in my childhood, I don’t think I really listened, paid attention or truly comprehended it until I heard the word from Walter Hawkins and the Hawkins family.

I did not realize until very recently that Hawkins was a prolific songwriter and composer. He authored the songs that have left an indelible impression on me -– “Changed,” “I Won’t Be Satisfied, “He’s That Kind of Friend” and “I’m Not the Same.”

To the uninitiated these are merely song titles, but in actuality they are much more than that.

Throughout his career, Hawkins recorded hundreds of songs that charted on Billboard and received numerous accolades, including Grammy, Stellar and Dove Awards.

Walter Hawkins crafted songs that combined simple chord structure, rich gospel gravy and contemporary verve — all infused with love, joy, deep spirituality and optimism.

He did not rely on studio gimmickry. In fact, his most vital and compelling work was recorded live, using vocals, piano, bass, organ, drums, and guitar.

I did not learn that Walter Hawkins had passed away until a week ago. A friend, Bishop Dawn Brown, told me.

Although we never discussed it before, Bishop Brown and I discovered that we shared an appreciation and admiration for Walter Hawkins’ music.

What has since struck me is that while from different backgrounds, upbringings and religious affiliations, many of my friends, peers and colleagues share the same love and respect for the man and his music.

To this day when I hear the infectious opening chords of “Goin Up Yonder,” I get goose bumps. I can’t help but tap my foot, sway me head and sing along with Tramaine.

“Goin Up Yonder” is a nine minute master class in praise and fellowship. It is one of nine songs from arguably one of his best works, “Love Alive,” circa 1975.

The recording captures the essence of Hawkins’ gifts and devotion.

The music sounds as fresh and vital today as it did when it was initially released over thirty years ago.

In his opening remarks for the “Love Alive” recording, Walter Hawkins said,

“I think we should be able to tell everybody, like Paul said, follow me as I follow Christ…that is the kind of life we want to live.”

I took this to mean that we should live a life that is filled with love – love of our fellow man, love of ourselves, love and appreciation of all that we have and should be grateful for.

What a blessing Walter Hawkins was. His gift of song and those he touched will be a lasting testament to love and devotion.

New York Times Obituary, click here

The Evolution of Black Women

My co-workers and I are in the throes of what we call “planning.”

To the uninitiated, this “annual ritual” is when we “plan” a marketing calendar on behalf of a specific client for the upcoming year.

In anticipation of this, I typically read as much as I can get my hands on relating to the African-American Consumer.

There was an article in The New York Times today, “Black Women See Fewer Black Men at the Altar,” that caught my attention.

While intrigued and fascinated by the content of this article, I couldn’t help but feel that it didn’t tell the whole story.

The Evolution of Black Women in America shows a shift and “re-org” of her priorities…her needs, desires and ultimately, what is motivating to her.

Fact – Younger Black women are delaying and/or forgoing childbearing.

Only 13% age 18 – 24 are living with related children compared to 37.9%,
age 25-34

…and this makes sense, because delayed childbearing has, in my opinion, a direct correlation to increased levels of college enrollment and graduation rates.

One could go further and say that this translates to higher paying jobs and the ability to pursue and commit to career growth and development.

Fact – 40% of Black adults, 18 years of age and older are married compared to 57% of all adults.
Conversely, 42% of Black adults have never married versus 26% of all adults.

There is a Bill Cosby quote that may be the best articulation of the evolution of Black women in America:

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Perhaps it is “harder for Black women to find a husband.”
But could it be that it is not at the top of her new priority list?

Click here -to read the full article from the Times.