in the industry just as lucrative. In the last few years, many companies such as Glaxo Inc. and Burroughs Wellcome have merged (now Glaxo Wellcome), and now want individuals with science-related backgrounds to work in the areas of drug discovery and research. These are areas where African Americans have typically been absent, says Williams. “Technology is the basis of all new pharmaceutical jobs. Most of the down-sizing and reengineering that companies did over the years was, in fact, done to make room for more technologically based jobs.” African Americans with advanced degrees in science-related fields, she says, can command starting salaries of $45,000-$75,000.
No one knows that better than Monique Carver-Clark. Before graduating from California State University in Hayward with a degree in biology, she had considered becoming a doctor or physical therapist. But a junior- year science research project piqued her interest in biological research.
After graduating in 1982, she joined Genentech, a San Francisco-based biotechnology firm, as a research assistant. Now residing in Durham, North Carolina, Carver-Clark is a regional clinical research associate for the biotechnology firm. “I had been on the developmental side for years, and wanted to work more with the patient and see what happened to drugs on the clinical end,” she says. Her job: to work with health care providers as they test new drugs on patients.
Spending at least 30% of her time traveling to various health care facilities throughout the U.S., Carver-Clark acts as a liaison between the pharmaceutical company and physicians. The bulk of her responsibilities include ensuring that clinical drug trials are conducted according to drug company procedures and FDA regulations. Carver-Clark must make sure the data is accurately documented; that information is later assessed to determine if the drug is safe for general release.
“It’s a challenging career, and part of the reward is knowing that my work has impacted someone’s life,” she says. With few African Americans in research and drug discovery, companies are scrambling for blacks with research backgrounds. In fact, Carver-Clark says she receives about five calls a month from recruiters.
Williams points out that health care professionals such as nurses, physician assistants and medical technicians can easily cross over into clinical research. She encourages African Americans to pursue advanced degrees, specifically doctorates in the biological sciences, organic chemistry or pharmacology, in order to move into managerial positions, such as principal scientists in drug discovery or directors of research. In fact, many pharmaceutical companies sponsor doctoral programs with universities across the country and offer scholarships and fellowships for minority students and employees.
Regulatory affairs specialist: Collects and compiles data from clinical trials for new drug applications that must be approved by the FDA. Salaries start at $50,000 with five years’ experience in either clinical research or marketing.
Medical writer: Collects clinical data and writes proposals for FDA new drug applications. A B.S. in biology or chemistry and a clinical research background is required. Salaries start at $35,000-$40,000.
Project manager: Supervises the process from clinical drug trials to FDA approval. Individuals with an