Meharry SACS student Gina Robinson is spending the summer of 2023 helping Novartis assess strategies to recruit clinical trial candidates from diverse backgrounds.
She is one of nine students, four from Meharry, who are spending 10 weeks at the Novartis US headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., as part of the Beacon of Hope Summer Fellowship at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.
The Beacon of Hope Summer Fellowship is a 10-week, paid summer program for Historically Black Medical School students to learn drug discovery, data analytics and clinical research practices. Dr. Qingguo Wang, professor of computer science and data science, nominated Robinson for the fellowship.
“I was looking for an opportunity to apply what I have learned in the classroom to a real-world situation,” says Robinson. “This fellowship is allowing me to do that, as it is a planned project at Novartis.”
Recruiting people of color to participate in clinical trials is a challenge that became even more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. Novartis turned to social media ads as a new strategy.
“My actual project is to use data science to examine the efficacy of those digital recruitment strategies for clinical trials,” says Robinson.
Robinson works closely with two Novartis mentors. One mentor helps guide her through her project and another provides professional development support. That advice will prove helpful as she was able to get her fellowship project approved to serve as her capstone. That means she will complete her M.S. Data Science coursework this summer.
“My professional background is in government budgeting and operations,” says Robinson. “This fellowship has exposed me to biomedical science and the pharmaceutical industry. It has been great to get a first-hand experience in a new area as I look to the future.”