Celebrating Black History Month
Interview with Moya Hawkins, Senior Director of Biometrics Strategy at PharPoint Research

As a Black woman in leadership in the clinical research industry, PharPoint’s Senior Director of Biometrics Strategy Moya Hawkins discussed her career path in clinical research, career advice, and the importance of representation in the industry.

Moya has over 27 years of industry experience with expertise in data management and biometrics strategy. She has served on EDC steering committees within several companies, helping organizations decide on and implement new data capture technologies. In addition to her work at PharPoint, she has served on a committee for the Society of Clinical Data Management, a global non-profit dedicated to the advancement of clinical data management.


What has your career path looked like so far?

My first job in the industry was as a temp working on data management QC audit. Within three months of working on the audit and other data management and regulatory tasks, I was hired as a permanent employee, primarily performing data entry.

Since then, I’ve gone from performing first entry and moving on to second entry, to reviewing manual edit checks and listings and issuing queries to managing studies, people and a department. And now, I’m in Biometrics Strategy using the skills I have gained in the different roles over my career.


Who or what has been the biggest inspiration in your career?

That’s a hard question. It’s a culmination of different people and several things.

One of the biggest things I would say is working on HIV trials back in the 1990s and early 2000s and seeing how far we’ve come since the 80s to now. HIV went from a death sentence to a chronic disease.

Knowing that what we do really makes a difference to people and to communities has inspired me my entire career.


What personal or professional accomplishments are you most proud of?

I am a product of my community. Throughout this journey, I have had people to cheer me on, correct me, encourage me, teach me and guide me.

When I started in this industry, I was a year out of college and had no clue what this industry was. It quickly went from just being a paycheck to something that genuinely interested me, and I wanted to learn more and more. I found my niche. I like looking for needles in a haystack and figuring out how they got there in the first place.

So long story short, I am most proud of my growth both personally and professionally.


Why is representation important in the clinical research industry?

From researching pain sensitivity and performing gynecological surgeries on female slaves in unsanitary conditions and without the use of anesthetics to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the ‘HeLa’ cells taken without consent from Mrs. Henrietta Lacks, the US has a well-documented history of the abuse, mistreatment, and the misleading of Blacks in medical research.

There is a lot of mistrust of the medical and research community, and rightly so; however, there are now safeguards in place to protect all research participants.

We need to figure out a way to instill trust so that more minorities, especially Black Americans, participate in clinical trials for indications that disproportionately impact us. That starts with transparency as well as having more Blacks involved in patient-facing and behind-the-scenes positions in research.

It would be great if we could get beyond this fear to make sure that, at some point, these diseases and conditions that disproportionately impact my community are eradicated.


What is one lesson you’ve learned as you’ve grown into the leader you are today?

Observe more and talk less.


What advice do you have for people looking to start their careers or become leaders?

Don’t let someone else define what leadership looks like for you, because every person is unique, and your style may be different. Being different doesn’t always mean that it is wrong or right. But you do need to make sure that it is effective and willing to change and adapt when needed. You need to figure out who you are and what leadership looks like to you. Make your own path.

Also, have a mentor that you can go to and from whom you can seek guidance.

You are not always going to hear what you want to hear, but this is someone who should be able to tell you what you need to hear. As a leader, you must be open to receiving it and figuring out what to do with the gem they just placed in your hands. Some gems need to be polished; others are ready for use and others, you may just put on the shelf for display or decide later what to do with it. Every good leader is a follower of a good leader. If you are not willing to follow, then you are not ready to lead.