Embracing A Better Future
I’ve been fascinated by mathematics and science for as long as I can remember. When I was just 8 years old, I recall having a conversation with an elementary school classmate who said he wanted to invent a way for people to live forever. My reply, “well if that is the case, I will need to invent a way to expand the world!”
I happen to be a very fortunate woman. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I had a fantastic family that nurtured my interest in learning and taught me to always respect others. I developed a love for mathematics, geometry and calculus in school and when I started college at 16 years old, I had every intention to become a math major. However, when my grandmother died suddenly during my second year, I couldn’t stop thinking that “I could have saved her if I were a doctor.” My future started to make sense. I switched to biology as a major, finished my undergraduate degree and then started medical school.
Fast forward to February 1995, when I joined Mayo Clinic. At that early stage in my career, I was unsure what opportunities would be open to me. So that first week, I wrote proposals for two clinical studies: one in lung cancer another in breast cancer. I was very fortunate that I eventually ended up doing both trials. At the time, there was a lot of new science that we could apply to clinical trials in breast cancer and there was a great patient need. Things were beginning to change. The more work I did to make small progressive steps, the more I was driven to expand the scope to develop and execute additional clinical trials. These early developments fueled my desire to be part of the solution to the dilemma facing people with cancer.
During my last 20 years at Mayo Clinic, I gained much of the expertise that I can now leverage in my new role at Genentech. I learned about patients’ needs, the evolution of science for the development of medicines, and the importance of teamwork with other healthcare providers in the United States and abroad. I also learned the importance of interacting with biotech and pharmaceutical companies in terms of their role in drug development and clinical trials to benefit patients.
It has been just a few months now since I joined Genentech and I am so happy to be here. Not only do we have multiple medicines that help people right now, but also a very deep pipeline of molecules that are being evaluated in numerous ways to help find the right treatments for the right patients. In addition to Genentech’s strong ethical behavior and deep scientific roots, there are a lot of amazingly smart and dedicated people here. My goal is to put together all of these core pieces so we can continue to do amazing work that will not only lead to scientific progress, but further help improve the lives of people with cancer.
One of the things I like most about Genentech is the so-called “casual intensity” here. People look very casual. Even I wear jeans on most days—it is part of the culture. But do not mistake that for us having a casual attitude. There is a great deal of intensity relayed in every step of our work from the scientific experiments, to how the experimental data is analyzed, to how it is reviewed, so that the best possible decisions can be made related to our clinical trials.
People ask me how working at Genentech is different from working in academia. While my day-to-day activities may not be the same, the guiding principles are—everyone wants to do the right thing for the patients.
I am a person who enjoys many aspects of life—I love to run, play golf, listen to music, attend Broadway musicals and to read. To see the happiness in people’s faces when a medication helps them is almost heartbreaking. And on the other hand, it is tough that we do not have medicines for everyone. Every individual needs our help and I want to have better medicines and better predictors of benefit because I want people to be able to enjoy life.
I want to help create an environment that will help people succeed. This is a fun place to work and there is a spirit of happiness and optimism that I have embraced with open arms. For me, leading is not about empire building—it is about each person contributing so the end product is the best it can be. I want to be a role model for the people on my team. To me, that means leading with integrity while doing the right thing for science and our patients.
I am very honored to have had a great career, but truly believe tomorrow will be even better. There is much more we can do and I am so excited that we have the tools and people here at Genentech to pave a better future for the lives of so many. `QED Mark`