Diversity and Inclusion the Focus of NISS/Merck Meet-up

Adrian Coles (Bristol Myers Squibb) presents at NISS/Merck Meet-up on Diversity and Inclusion in the Pharmaceutical Industries.

Beginning in 2017, the NISS/Merck meet-ups have focused on a wide variety of important topics of interest to the statistics community in the pharmaceutical industry.  The main person behind the organization and implementation of these events has been Dan Holder (Merck).  While this session did not involve any specific technical statistical approaches or unique research methodologies, the speakers demonstrated how this topic is just as important to the overall innovativeness and performance in the industry.  It is generally agreed that diversity and inclusion in the workplace is highly desirable, however, putting this into place in the workplace can be challenging, especially for statistics departments in the pharmaceutical industry. 

The speakers for this session were Dr. Adrian Coles, Associate Director of Biostatistics at Bristol Myers Squibb, Dr. Brian A. Millen, Senior Director of Real World and Access Analytics within Lilly’s Global Statistical Sciences (GSS) organization and Dr. Paulette Ceesay, Principal Scientist in the neuroscience and ophthalmology therapeutic areas at Merck.  The session was moderated by Junshui Ma, Senior Director at Merck.

Adrian Coles began his presentation by first presenting the business case for why diversity, equity and inclusion make good business sense and add to the value proposition of a company.  He then proceeded to provide advice and suggestions regarding how to attract and select talent using an approach that encourages and supports the development of a healthy culture within the workplace.  He then proceeded to demonstrate how this approach is embodied within Bristol Myers Squibb.

Brian Millen's presentation provided an compelling analogy of implementing diversity in the workplace having similarities to the approaches that are taken in clinical trials.  Brian proposed that both incur similar issues, for example, reaching the target population, pre-screening/recruitment of applicants, failure to hire as a type 2 error, etc.  Brian concluded that to be successful you have to reject common excuses, act to drive change and remain committed to the outcomes of diversity and inclusion.

It is not about just numbers.  It is about how do you create an environment where your company or organization will reach its potential in terms of impact.
Brian Millen (Eli Lilly)

The final speaker of the session was Paulette Ceesay.  She began by pointing out the unique challenges of fortifying diversity and inclusion as an integral part of an organization’s culture, especially given the current turbulent social environment along with the added layer of complexity due to the pandemic. But on the other hand, she provided a compelling argument for why this challenge is important to tackle and how it affects a company’s bottom line.  Paulette pointed out specific internal and external challenges but also demonstrated how these could be channeled into opportunities providing advice that was specific and based on her experience.

Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 36% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” (McKinsey & Co.)
Paulette Ceesay, (Merck)

A few questions brought about discussion among the presenters.  This part of the session was moderated by Junshui Ma and was started out by an important question:  “What can people who aren't in a recruiting position do to help ensure diversity in their departments?” to which the presenters provided their responses.

All three speakers shared their valuable experience and insights. Many suggestions and practical advice was given.  Everyone will benefit from a review of the recording of this session and the slides used by the speakers below. 

Recording of the Session

Slides Used by the Speakers

Adrian Coles, (Bristol Myers Squibb)

"Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Talent Acquisition: An Overview of Key Considerations"

Brian Millen,  (Eli Lilly)

Diversity in our profession: parallels to clinical trials

Paulette Ceesay, (Merck)

"Promoting a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace –Challenges and Opportunities"

Saturday, November 6, 2021 by Glenn Johnson