Spotlight on Leadership – Danielle Mitchell, CEO and Founder of Black Women in Clinical Research

August 21, 2023
Danielle Mitchell, CEO and Founder of Black Women in Clinical Research (BWICR), took her own route into clinical research; and has continued to take her own route having established a career in the field. Shocked by the lack of diversity within the Industry, Danielle has chosen to use her observations and experience to drive change and supports black women entering and building careers in the Clinical Research Industry because it matters! Learn more about Danielle’s journey and why she finds it so fulfilling. 

  1. How did you get into the clinical research and industry and what career path did you take?

I entered the clinical research field through a less traditional route. I started by cold calling clinical research sites and utilizing clinicaltrials.gov, trying to find my doorway into the Industry. During this time, I was living in Smyrna, Georgia. Through my searches, I was able to locate sites that were close to me and it just so happened that one of the clinical research sites was Black owned. This clinic allowed me to intern and I used this experience and opportunity as the foundation to secure a position as clinical research coordinator, and so my career began.

  1. Why did you establish Black Women in Clinical Research? What is your main objective?

After I attended an investigator meeting, in a room of hundreds of people, I realized there were only two black women, including myself. This really made me question whether there was a lack of diversity in the room or whether it is a broader issue and there was in fact a lack of diversity in the industry. This is how Black Women in Clinical Research started, following that meeting I set up a Facebook group to directly address this but I never imagined it this would turn into a company.  At the time I created the group, I thought maybe 100 people would join. Currently we have over 10,000 people in the Black Women in Clinical Research community.  My main objective is to educate, empower and support black women to thrive in the clinical research industry and to reduce barriers that would prevent them from entering this field.

  1. What do you think the top three challenges are for our industry in the next few years? 

The top three challenges we face are layoffs, increasing diversity in the clinical research industry and educating people about careers in this field. When it comes to layoffs, I believe that we have to keep people informed about what is happening. Layoffs are terrible for everyone and I would like to better prepare and help people navigate during these events. If companies have openings and there is room to grow, we have to hire people. We have to look outside of the norm and allow those with transferable skills to assist in the mission of clinical research.

  1. What do you see as the first step in addressing these challenges?

We need to be intentional in this mission to address the recruitment, retention and diversity challenges. We need to tell middle school, high school, and college students about careers in clinical research. Currently, many of the stem programs do not touch on clinical research. I really, truly believe that in order for us to make a shift in this industry, we have to start with the youth. This will prevent people from merely stumbling upon a clinical research career but instead prepare and study for a career in this field.

To increase diversity we have to be intentional. We have to reach out to organizations like Black Women in Clinical Research to help increase the diversity in the clinical research industry. We need to accomplish this challenge, it cannot be ignored. We cannot continue to use the same methods and expect diversity percentages to change. We have to step outside of the box using new recruiting methods and talking to other organizations to directly address how we evolve. One way to accomplish this is by bringing in people without previous clinical research experience but those who have transferable skills who have a passion for the industry to help identify and inform change.

  1. What company/organization within Clinical Research inspires you and why? How do you think you can learn from it?

I’m inspired by Black Women in Clinical Research everyday. I’m inspired by my members and their success stories. I’m inspired by the true, genuine people that pour their hearts out with their personal experience of how Black Women in Clinical Research changed their lives. I’m inspired by the organization that I created. Not everyday can you say I helped over 500 people receive jobs in the industry. It is because of these members that I keep on going.

  1. What other industry do you think Clinical Research could take inspiration from?

We could take inspiration from the tech industry. The technology industry, known for its focus on innovation and user-centered design, could provide inspiration for clinical research. Adopting digital solutions, such as electronic data capture systems, remote monitoring tools, and telemedicine platforms, can streamline processes, increase efficiency, and improve patient engagement.

  1. What is your vision for the future of Clinical Research and why do you have this vision?

As the CEO of Black Women in Clinical Research, my vision is to promote inclusivity, diversity and equitable representation in the field. I aim to ensure that clinical research actively involves and benefits underrepresented groups, particularly Black women by focusing on inclusivity, equitable access, empowerment, and data analysis.  I’m seeking to address health disparities and advance healthcare outcomes for all individuals by ensuring that there is diversity in the field.

  1. What do you think the patient population would say about the Clinical Research Industry?

Many patients understand and appreciate the significance of clinical research. They recognize that it plays a crucial role in advancing medical knowledge, developing new treatments, and improving healthcare outcomes. Patients facing challenging medical conditions may view clinical research as a beacon of hope. Patients value transparency, honesty, and trust in the clinical research industry. They expect clear and comprehensive information about the purpose, risks, and potential benefits of participating in a trial.

Some patients may express concerns about the accessibility and inclusivity of clinical trials. They may raise issues related to geographic availability, financial burdens, language barriers, or the representation of diverse patient populations. Some patients may feel that clinical trials could be more accessible and inclusive to ensure equitable opportunities for participation.

Editors note: For more on this topic of diversity, please read: “Disease and Illness Do Not Discriminate: Diversity in Clinical Trials

  1. What advice would you give to someone starting out in their clinical research career? What would you like your lasting legacy to the Clinical Research Industry to be?

My advice would be to be determined and persistent. Even if you are rejected at a certain point, never give up. Push through challenges that you experience and in the end it will all come together. Use every opportunity as a stepping stone. Don’t wait for opportunities to approach you, take the initiative to find, chase and accomplish your dreams. You have control over your career and your destiny. With hard work and determination, networking, putting yourself out in the industry, attending conferences, you can enter the clinical research industry as well. It’s only a matter of time. Obtaining the first role is the most difficult but once you land that role, you will be highly desirable in the industry. Opportunities are endless.

I want people to remember me as a person that saw the misrepresentation in the clinical research industry and wanted to make a change and did something about it. I want people to know that I was willing to create a pathway for people who probably never thought they would be a part of the clinical research industry or to help people who received challenges entering this field. My legacy is creating a movement to foster change in the clinical research industry. I want people to know that we didn’t just talk about these changes but actually worked to implement them by working with people of all different backgrounds. My legacy is to leave behind a change in clinical research.

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