Last year, Bristol Myers Squibb partnered with historically Black colleges and universities to help groom Black college students for future jobs in the pharma industry. Now, it’s expanding that effort to catch potential hires even earlier by engaging younger students and their parents.
The company announced this week that it is working with African American family organization Jack and Jill of America to develop programs to introduce more Black families to career opportunities in pharma.
The collaboration is part of BMS’ larger “Tomorrow’s Innovator” initiative with five HBCUs, which also aims to attract Black students to pharma across a variety of roles—from sales to scientific research.
“We want to plant those seeds earlier so they can be intentional about their career direction as they are going into college,” said Shamika Williams, BMS’ senior director of HBCU initiatives, in an interview. Knowing about the potential career path could inspire young people to major in a science program for R&D roles or hone their business acumen for work on the commercial side, she added.
Although specifics are still being mapped out, BMS will work with Jack and Jill to create workshops and sessions for students and their parents, said Williams. She said one program in the works would involve leaders within various departments of the BMS organization giving talks about their roles and how they got there.
BMS kicked off the collaboration at Jack and Jill’s 45th National Convention “The Power of the Dream” in Orlando, Florida, which runs through Sunday. The organization represents 40,000 families with children ages 2 to 19, so the partnership taps into a potentially wide audience that has previously not engaged with pharma, Williams said.
The company will have a booth at the convention, participate in a virtual career fair and be involved in events including the “Closing the Gap: Health, Wealth and Wellness Forums and Expo,” which focuses on addressing health inequities and improving healthcare support for communities of color.
More representation in the industry helps drive innovation, Kornisha McGill Brown, national president of Jack and Jill America, said in a statement, which she said is “critical now more than ever to fight inequality in our current health system and to help people and communities achieve better health equity.”
The “Tomorrow’s Innovator” program is part of a larger effort by BMS and pharma to address health inequities after the murder of George Floyd in 2020 sparked a national conversation about racism and inequality.
BMS and the BMS foundation in 2020 jointly pledged to commit $300 million over five years toward that goal, with a focus on hiring more people of color, increasing clinical trial diversity and improving healthcare access and disease awareness in underserved populations.
And BMS is not the only Big Pharma working to recruit and build a pipeline of talent from underrepresented communities. Sanofi this week announced it was partnering with the Howard University College of Pharmacy to hire full-time employees straight from the historically black college.
Meanwhile, Novartis launched an ambitious diversity and inclusion program a year ago that includes scholarships, mentoring for HBCU students and internships and research grants for projects aimed at actionable solutions for health equity issues.
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