2022 SMDP Biotech Scholar, Gieira Jones, PhD, is an Associate Director of Outcomes Research in the Center for Observational and Real-World Evidence at Merck. Gieira leads research studies that use real-world data to support precision medicine strategy for the oncology products of the company.
I have a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I always loved research since I was in high school. I had been involved in research all throughout my academic career especially as an undergraduate at Elizabeth City State University. It was there that I realized the key to academic success outside of studying hard was finding mentors who will support you, and your career. As I progressed through my graduate studies, I made sure to identify mentors that were truly invested in my success.
I work in the pan-tumor oncology group in the Center for Observational and Real -World Evidence at Merck. Merck is a pharmaceutical company that produces life-saving drugs, vaccines and biologics to improve patient health.
I knew about Merck since I was a child. I decided when I was young that I wanted to be a scientist and find a cure for cancer. Because of that interest, I always paid more attention than most people did to the drug company commercials. Also, Merck has a strong presence in the Philadelphia area where I grew up, so it was always on my radar as a research institution.
My favorite part of the company is its commitment to health equity and understanding social determinants of health as it relates to patient care and outcomes. Before I joined the company a lot of my research involved cancer health disparities and I wanted to join a company that shared my values. It was apparent during my interview that the company had a strong commitment to health equity research. Since I have joined, I have been impressed and inspired by the work the company is doing in these spaces. They are one of the few institutions that I believe are actively ingraining health equity into the fabric of its operations.
The skills that make you successful in this role are divided into hard and soft skills. The hard skills that are needed are understanding study design, statistics, epidemiologic principles, biomarkers, and precision medicine. The soft skills that are essential to this role include time management, great communication skills, flexibility, and being able to work in diverse teams.
Success for me is when you are using your unique gifts and talents to walk in your purpose personally and professionally. Everyday people should work to be the best version of themselves, and if you consistently achieve that I don’t think there is any greater success.
Getting results of my study and disseminating the impact of my work. The beautiful thing about epidemiology is that your results translate to entire groups of people, and it can directly influence, policy, interventions, patient care etc.
Align job search/academic career with your personal interests. There is nothing better than to be immersed in a job that aligns with your personal passions. I would also say that networking is key. My network has introduced and encouraged me to apply for a lot of the programs that I have been fortunate to be involved in, including SMDP. They have been a great source of information, opportunity, and support.
The Shadow by James Patterson. I purchased this book while waiting at the airport on my last vacation. It was a good read because I enjoy crime fighting/superhero stories.