iSpeak Blog

Be a Positive Force

Wendy T. Haines, PhD, DABT, CQA
Be a Positive Force

We are constantly being influenced and we ourselves are influencers. As children, we hear the quote that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” What people say and even what people do not say, can have a lasting impact. We are first influenced by our families and some people’s careers follow their parents, grandparents, siblings, and other relatives’ footsteps. I was blessed to have two supportive parents.

My mother, Pam Tisdale, was a force in this world. She, like other women in the STEM fields, had hurdles she had to overcome as an actuary in the late 1960s. My mom majored in math, minored in physics, was fluent in French from the University of Richmond and was a member of the PI MU Epsilon math honor society and Phi Beta Kappa. My mother never filled out a resume and had more than 15 job offers when she graduated and accepted a position as an actuary in the Actuarial Department with Life of Virginia Insurance Company. My mom decided not to return to work once she had me and I became her full-time job. I used to get very mad as a child when people commented on how much I looked like my mother or spoke like my mother. As an only child, I was fiercely independent and my first sentence was, “Let me do it.” It took me many years to admit that fact, that I am a lot like my mother. My mother recently passed of a sudden heart attack at 72 and her symptoms were that she was very tired and never felt so bad in her entire life. Due to not being from the state I reside in, my father is immunocompromised, and my husband is a first responder, we were unable to have a celebration of life for my mom. I know I am not the only person dealing with the loss of a loved one, but the pandemic has made the grieving process difficult. I have used this time for self-reflection and assess what progress am I making towards my dreams and aspirations.

My mother had 3 rules to live by according to Pam Tisdale and they were

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Life is not fair
  3. Read and follow directions

She said that in any situation at least one of these rules would apply. It is interesting to me that because of a global pandemic, we need to remind the world of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines on how to wash one’s hands properly and practice good hygiene. My mom was an Airforce brat and moved a lot growing up and had to learn how to make new friends and leave friends behind and understood at an early age that sometimes life is not fair. Even when we feel overwhelmed or that nothing is going our way, simply change one’s perspective to think positively and move forward. Coach Kay Yow, North Carolina State University’s Women’s Basketball coach fought valiantly and unfortunately lost her fight against breast cancer and once said, “When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.” Prepare for life’s unexpected twists and turns as best you can.

We are all dealing with social isolation, events being canceled, virtual learning, remote work environments, and who could have predicted the toilet paper shortage??? However, our industry is thriving. Unprecedented collaborations are occurring across pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies to deliver vaccines and therapies for COVID-19 in addition to all the other necessary products the world needs. Also, companies have a redirected focus to deliver diagnostic testing methods and both the laboratories and staff to provide COVID-19 testing results. I am honored to be a toxicologist and play a small part in getting safe products to the world and I am very proud of our industry and how we are all working to improve people’s quality of life. Lastly, my mother’s rule of reading and following directions is of particular importance to our industry. We follow standard operating procedures (SOPs), business practices, health authorities’ regulations, guidance documents, ISPE Baseline Guides, etc.

Our industry is all about troubleshooting, thinking outside of the box, and lean principles that lead to better practices and discoveries that ultimately benefits patients. Discoveries are not without failures. Do not be afraid of failure and do not view failure as negative. Growth arises out of our failures. Arian Huffington said, “We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” Do not be afraid of the unknown, work to learn and understand. Maria Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” How true a statement applied now during a global pandemic where there is a high level of global fear. Our industry, health authorities, along with clinicians and researchers are working tirelessly to provide the world updates and treatments/prevention of COVID-19.

My final thoughts are for us all to be a force for improvement – improved manufacturing processes, improved testing methods, better products with less side effects, cures for diseases, cures for rare diseases, better diagnostic tools, better medical devices, and the list goes on. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery…Today is a gift.” Make the most of this unprecedent time in the world and be a positive force.

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Women in Pharma® (WIP) at ISPE provides women in the pharmaceutical industry a forum for connecting and collaborating on technical and career advancement topics. Women in Pharma’s inclusive community leverages a network of mentors, role models, and resources across all levels to foster balanced professional success.

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