Monday Wisdom: On Clinical Research and Henrietta Lacks


I often entertain the idea of becoming a doctor.

After becoming a mother at age 20, I (and dare I say even my family) doubted that I would ever finish college and medical school for a single mother was totally out of the question. However, I have worked in the medical field for over 10 years – in mental health, outpatient surgery, and clinical research. My time as a Clinical Research Coordinator strongly resonated with me as I read Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Oh my goodness. I had planned to write this blog post months ago and the time has constantly dragged because I honestly could not pull myself together. Never, have I read a book that shook me and had me question everything I knew about myself and more importantly my career in healthcare. THAT IS INDEED THE MARK OF A GOOD BOOK!


A few years ago, I interviewed for a Clinical Research Coordinator position at a local hospital. When I was in front of the PI (Primary Investigator), I was told that I was brought in specifically to recruit African-Americans. For one reason or the other, they were having a hard time recruiting African-Americans and the money they would receive to continue to research was contingent upon recruiting more African-American (males specifically).

Now I knew the history of Tuskegee, read all of the issues regarding vulnerable populations research, and just knew of the distrust involved in clinical research. Working in medical trials, the adverse events (side effects) of the drugs could be unbearable and deadly. In one trial I worked on, most of our patients were already deadly and the study drug would, at best, buy the patients another month or two but the potential side effects would make those extra months of life 10,000 leagues past miserable.

So as I sat across from the interviewer who singled me out due to my blackness and ability to recruit blacks. I was flabbergasted! The money was nice and the hospital would bring a certain level of resume credentials but I hurt because I didn’t want to used to lure in black men. No!

As I read the book, I found myself going through all those emotions again and dredging up some new ones. For example, when I read how staff just NEGLECTED to tell Henrietta and her family, what they were doing with her cells, I felt ill. I have been in the icky situation with doctors pushing me to drive up subject numbers and to recruit at all costs and watching if I become to “overly explain-y” or made things sound too horrible when explaining the research project. We had numbers to meet and research to conduct. Reading Skloot’s work did not surprise me because I have worked with many doctors like the John Hopkins doctors. I am saddened that there are still many like them in 2015.

Earlier this year, after a 2 year break from Clinical Research where it literally felt like recovering from a bad breakup, I interviewed for another position. As I walked through the hospital and felt how familiar it would all be, a sadness washed over me. While I know that future generations would benefit from any research finds, I still find that there are some doctors and nurses and medical staff, that are still very much like Henrietta’s. How can I reconcile myself with that?

Skloot’s book changed me because it reenergized my passion for health. While I may not be treating patients, I can teach students how to properly conduct research; I can educate the public on what to look for when approached for a clinical trial or any type of research.

My writing has also been re-energized. I want to find the best ways to tell a good, honest story. Because in the end, the story is what matters.

October Inspiration

I have one of the most awesome writing partners ever (yep, let your jealously ensue).

Even when our work lives are crazy, we find a way to motivate each other and meet up for a “write date.” Panera Bread has been the site of many revised chapters, character monologues, and chapter deletions. It has also served as a possible distraction and writing inspiration due to the great people watching.

You know, you see a man studying in the dark glaring eerily into the distance – plotting how he who break up his best friend’s wedding. Or that time a wife went next door to the children’s store, leaving her husband to watch the kids. An hour later, she hasn’t returned. Did she walk around the complex, or catch the train to the airport.

It’s like this date night scene ON STEROIDS!

It’s little moments like this that solidify that a writing life is for me. The stories just come so easily in my head and I love creating them.

What in your everyday life inspire you to write? Share in the comments below.

This entry was posted on October 19, 2015. 3 Comments

Smarty Pants

I consider myself to be pretty smart – not in a Felicity Smoak or Ray Palmer next level robotics, super genius way but I have thirst for knowledge and usually pick up things quickly.

So yesterday, as I read all of the feeds of #IstandwithAhmed and of course read the background (because sometimes I am so incredibly late with my news), my heart sunk.

On social media, everyone talked about how smart this kid is (and HE IS SMART) and they encouraged him. It was heartwarming to see the amount of support but also sad that this had to happen.

It also struck me on a personal level due to my own experiences as a smarty pants kids who became a smarty pants adult.

Ahmed, don’t get too comfortable because this ignorance sadly is not going to stop.

I have worked in the medical field, IT, and now in the government and in all fields I have been belittled and badgered for being the smart kid.

For example, at one job where I was tasked as a project manager, to organize the chaos going on, I was made to feel that “I was being a show-off and trying to do too much” for making a spreadsheet with labeled worksheets. They found it “interesting” that there were “tabby things” because in the past they just listed everything on one sheet and just had to search for stuff.

Mind you my spreadsheet was nothing elaborate. I just trying to make a neat way to track documents and streamline our processes with Microsoft Excel. The comments and looks would have made you think that I created an alternate reality computer program that was going to send people back to the stone ages – because I used a little of my knowledge to try to help. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention this was an IT company.


Ahmed, I hope that you take the incident that happened to you and grow stronger, smarter, and shine brighter because of it. Let is fuel your fire to learn even more and be the next big thing in science. I also hope you have learned a valuable lesson in dealing with haters because no matter how old you get or what setting you are in – you will always have them.

This entry was posted on September 17, 2015. 2 Comments

A Life Defining Break

Gee, has it really been since February!

All I can do is apologize and promise to try to do better (fingers crossed) with posting in the future.

I have been through many transitions since February. 9 to 5 job changes, side hustle changes, and just overall craziness with my life. In the midst of this I just honestly lost my mojo to write.

I think this time off was actually good for me. It forced me to take a break and reevaluate my own life. My life had actually gotten a little routine and frankly a little stale.

I am a young, married mother and have found that I had become more defined by my family (hubby and kids) and kind of lost touch with myself. Thus, when the opportunity arose to put back on my side hustle consulting hat, positivity resulted.

These past few weeks have seen me dress a little cuter, walk a little bit more confidently, and maybe kind of determine a direction for where I want to see my life go.

Have you ever had an eye-opening (and much-needed) break? Discuss it in the comments below.


In 2009 I lost my hair.
Due to a beautiful combination of stress and medical issues, my hair (what the old folks called my crowning glory) began to fall out of my head.

I tried to hang on to it. I cut it short and even shaved half in the back. Then one night, I looked at myself in the mirror and realized how ridiculous it was to hold on to hair – and I cut it off.

From that point on, my hair has grown in its puffy, natural state. I have grown to love my hair but others have never fully been on this journey with me. I have had people ask, “Why don’t you just wear a wig?” Or, “Was your husband okay with you cutting all your hair off and wearing it like that?”

People can be kind of rude.

Case in point, recently I decided to get my hair pressed. Quick back-story: My long time stylist died last year and I haven’t had a good trim since then (man oh man the split ends!!!). So I found a nice stylist who straightened my hair and my world imploded.

Comments at work and from family included:
*You need to keep your hair like that.
*I’m glad you finally combed your hair.

I’m not really good with compliments in general – I’m really not an attention type person (if that makes sense). Also, I’m terrible with the compliments that served to build me up then beat me down – you know the double-edged compliment. This really had me in a bad place. The reaction was like “my gosh, it pained us to have to look at you but now – who knew you could actually look good!”

Image can shatter our self-worth and wrongly overshadows (in my opinion) a person’s work. This past week, I have busted my butt on several projects, saving the day like a superhero but instead of kudos for the excellent work, I received continuous “compliments” about this shocking hair transformation.

People get a grip!

My prime comment for people this week was that I love my natural hair, in all its states. Please do not subject me and other natural women to your bias. I actually love myself and I hope you love yourself too. This is the message I hammered in to my kids this week as they straightened their hair. I told them to expect overreacting from jerks but to take it in stride because when it really matters, their mom and dad tell them they are beautiful everyday.

Writing Question:
How does your main character (or your secondary character’s image) shape their outlook on life. Does society view them in a certain way? How do you shape this in the narrative?


Have you become complacent?

So many times in life, we get stuck in a continuous loop. This loop may consist of continuously repeating the same mistakes, same habits, same dreariness.

What has to happen to shake your complacency?

For myself, I find myself willing to take risks when I have been made ANGRY. It’s basically coming into a job and not getting the promotion for the thousandth time, coming home and kids are not being kind, or volunteering my time and ultimately feeling taken advantage of. You remain complacent in these situations for a while – like these are normal expected events. However, maybe it’s a bad day where you got soaked on the way to work, you left your lunch, and then you got a horrible phone call. In this instance, the situation in which you remained complacent rubs you the wrong way and BAM, you are ready for a change.

As writing often time mirrors our life, it is understandable that your writing can become complacent. Maybe all your stories are starting to sound the same, or you’ve settled on a certain routine (that maybe has never really worked for you). The question to ask yourself is what has to happen that will allow you to step outside of the box.

How can we shake things up and become a little non-complacent in 2015?


In life, we are bound to face obstacles.

We may face naysayers in our personal life, crazy coworkers, or even family members that do not have our best interest at heart. What I believe is a true sign of your personal character is how you deal with the giants in your life.

As a child who was relentlessly bullied, I admit to shriveling and allowing myself to constantly get kicked. Around my junior year of high school, I met a new set of friends who showed me that it was time to stand up for myself and allow mean words to roll off my back. And there were a lot of mean words!

However, I took the mean words and used it to infuse myself with anger and strength. I would tell myself that “you will overcome this and show them all by being more fabulous than they could ever imagine.”

When writing your characters, think about how they deal with the giants in their life. How do the obstacles your characters face, shape their identity and their outlook on life? Once you map this out, it is sure to enhance your character development.