Leveraging Collective Ethics and Innovation – ep.124

Restoring Community – ep.123
January 25, 2024
Being On Purpose  – ep.125
February 8, 2024

Founders of Divergent CRO, Abiel Obanjo and Shone Williams-Adeniyi discuss their company’s commitment to providing collective ethics in clinical research, and how the organization seeks to leverage innovation by bridging the community through impact, clinical trials, connectivity, and mentorship.

Melyssa Barrett:  Welcome to the Jali podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Each week, I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in the space. Let’s get started.

All right. I am so excited this week and I’m always excited, but I love when I get to meet new people and I had the pleasure of meeting Shone at an equity and entrepreneurship event, and I’m so glad that she told me about what you all were doing and the wonderful things you all are bringing to the world. So I’m just excited for this conversation on multiple levels, which you’ll learn about. But I’m so pleased to have Abiel Obanjo and Shone Williams here with me to talk about just all of the things that go along with clinical trials and research and all of those things. And I’m so glad to hear that Divergent CRO is on the move. So you all are going to hear all about them, but I want to just start by saying thank you for joining the Jali podcast. So this is exciting for me.

Abiel Obanjo:  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.

Melyssa Barrett:  Absolutely. So I wanted to see if you all could maybe talk a little bit about your backgrounds and your journey to get here.

Abiel Obanjo:  My name is Abiel. When we’re talking about the background, it’s for all three of us actually, myself and my partners, which you’ve met Shone, and Elizabeth is unable to be with us today. We found a common ground. It’s like we stumbled upon the industry. It wasn’t something that we were informed prior that existed. We all had different plans. As it relates to going to college, you had your major, someone wanted to become a medical doctor, someone wanted to become a psychiatrist, someone wanted to become a professor. And just the opportunity that came knocking when we learned. As for myself, I was introduced to this because my grandmother had Alzheimer’s and I wanted to know what was being done at that time for the condition because she totally changed from who she was to someone different. She no longer recognized me. She actually thought I was her mate.

So that captured my interest initially and I started volunteering at my alma mater into the research facility. Then, I learned from someone about the opportunity to actually work as a CTA, this is what we call Clinical Trial Assistant. And from there, that actually provided the opportunity to move up the ranks, working as a clinical research associate and working into the project management level. But this was not shared with me at all elsewhere. I had no idea. I know there’s something called clinical research. I always thought it was a no-go area. So with the experience that I’ve gained so far, that has birthed something in me to want to close the gap of racial disparity in clinical research. We thrive and try to educate more people within the African-American community and people of color as a whole that there’s something else that you could do besides running straight to medical school as everyone may feel, or running to go and get your master’s degree.

But once you already have that bachelor’s of science, any bachelor’s of science, we are trying to bridge the gap here giving opportunity for you to see what the research industry has to offer and see if something that interests you. And the idea has always been within me, but meeting my partners, Shone and Elizabeth, I believe they allowed us to give birth to Divergent CRO because we found that common ground, that we all wanted to bring in the people of color, people of African-Americans decent, and going to the HBCU doing outreach to educate them of the opportunities that are actually available to them if they are to look into the industry as well.

Melyssa Barrett:  I love it.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  Yeah, I would like to tag on a little bit about that. I’ll just give a little brief short little story about myself. I wanted to be a pediatrician and did all the things that are the steps to be a pediatrician. In high school, I was in the health science academy. Then I went into college, I majored as a biologist, and I was ready. I thought I was prepared and working for the MCAT. So I graduated from the college and then went to another university, which was is HBCU. And I’ll just say, it was Howard. I was preparing for the MCATs and they said, “Okay, part of preparing for the MCATs, we’re going to take you to the lab and everybody’s going to get a cadaver and we’ll work on understanding the human body.” So excited, so excited. I was like, “Finally, I’m ready to go.” So we get into the lab, they let’s escort us as students. I go into the lab and I looked and they unveiled the cadaver and I passed out.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh, no.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  When they woke me up, I said, “I can’t do this. This is not for me.” And I was a little bit distraught and just was like, I have worked so hard from high school to college with that focus. So I came back home from Howard, got a job at a biotech and was doing some… Putting up some medical records. And I saw a clinical research associate walk in and I just asked, “Hey, what do you do?” And she said, “This is what I do.” I said, “What degree do you have to have?” She said, “I have to have a science degree.” I said, “What?” I said, “I’ve never heard of a clinical research associate. I’ve never heard of clinical research.” And she said, “Yeah, that’s what we do.” So that’s how I stumbled into it. And part of this when working with Abiel and Elizabeth, we don’t want that surprise for our community. We want them to know you have options.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. That’s fantastic. Wow. Well, and that’s a lesson sometimes you learn, well maybe I need to take a little bit of a left instead of a right, right?

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  Exactly.

Melyssa Barrett:  So then how did this magical connection actually happen so that you all were able to create this company, Divergent CRO? I mean, had you guys met before or where did you all meet?

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  Well, for me, I met Elizabeth. She is like the spearhead for the whole company with her energy and who she is. I met her, she was my manager at CRO and just the way that she handled the clinical trials, but most importantly, the way she handled people. And I said to her, I said, “You know what? I think we can go into business together.” And she said, “Maybe we can.”

Abiel Obanjo:  And so they had already been planning things. This is why I said I’m privileged to come in, though the idea has been there. It’s like how you conceive something and you need to birth it. And first I thought initially individually, this is just an idea. Then you have people that you have common ground with and you’re like, “Okay, this is something that needs to be birthed to reality.” So I worked with her. I actually managed her and she saw my style of working, my morals, my ethical standards. She was like, “Yeah, the way you work.” And I let the people I work with know that even though we’re working, I still care about your life outside of work. That means we need to have work life balance. Not all managers have that because she initially had a manager that didn’t practice the same. So she comes to me as an outlier manager, if I could say, and I will help her with whatever she need, guide her, give advice.

I’ll say, “Don’t do that. No, don’t do that. Representation in this industry for us is really slim and we want to keep as much of us that we have here right now, so please don’t do that.” So I would give her guidelines and things like that. And she just reached out and made the proposal and I was like, “Wow, I’ve been thinking about this all along.” And then after we came together, and honestly if I may say, I’ll say it’s by divine arrangement because the union is so in sync. I mean we don’t do anything without praying and there’s someone that beats it into us like, you need to pray before we start, you need to pray when we’re finished. So I just love all that. It’s just we are so at peace and in one. It’s so together.

Melyssa Barrett:  I love it. That’s fantastic. So tell us about Divergent CRO and what is it and what type of organizations or people are you targeting?

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  Basically we are targeting pharmas, biotechs, universities, device companies. Any company that has clinical trials, or are looking for a CRO to help manage their clinical trials. We have site monitoring, component, data management, regulatory. So we have come together and ensure that we have quality to provide to the industry that they are whom these companies are running clinical trials. Now, one thing that we do have together for our standards is that we do it by ethical leadership, transparency. And number one priority is patient safety. And which comes back to us ensuring that our community is getting those standards and helping to ensure that they are getting the correct information that’s needed for them to make a decision in clinical trials.

Abiel Obanjo:  We are also looking to work with HBCU and institutions that actually working on research as well. When you think of Divergent CRO, who are we? We are the team that dare to be different. We’ve all worked in different pharmas, CROs, or been involved in biotechs, and we’ve seen the operations. There are just some things that are… Besides representations of who we are in the industry, there are some things that we would like to change, things that we would love to do differently. And when you see the name of our company, it speaks for itself. Divergent means dare to be different. We dare to be different. We dare to be the pacesetters. We want to start something afresh and we want to be a force to be reckoned with because we want to change the narrative of our people, people of color in the research industry. We want to educate more people, not just people working in the research industry, more like patients missing out on a futuristic trial that could be beneficial to their health because of misinformation, misguided information, or lack of information thereof.

Melyssa Barrett:  And that’s so important. And I think I was telling you all earlier that both my husband and my father passed away from cancer and both of them were very pro-clinical trial. It was like whatever clinical trial is out there, what can I get into? Because not only did they feel like somebody may discover something, but they also felt like, “I want to participate and be part of the solution in some form or fashion. So if they need my cells or whatever it is they need, I want to participate.” But I know there’s a lot of people, especially African-Americans, that are weary of clinical trials. When you think about Henrietta Lacks or the Tuskegee experiment and those types of things, people get like their hairs on their back of their neck go up.

Abiel Obanjo:  Right. And again, it’s very important for us to change the narrative because we understand that, as you mentioned the Tuskegee, the syphilis study, that is part of what we are, is to change that narrative, standing on ethical standards and transparency. Trust and mistrust is something that we need to get behind through more exposure. The more we see more of our people within the industry actually sharing the information, like let me give you an example. When COVID-19 happened, this is when I realized a lot of people within my family that don’t believe in vaccine. And I was actually on that trial, I was working, I have the information, I cannot just show you the data, but I see that it’s promising and I’m sharing to people like, “Hey, don’t neglect this. People are really dying. Get vaccinated.” I was part of the trial. I monitored the trial, like a CRA, a clinical research associate.

I was a clinical trial manager. I received promotion on the trial. So I saw the data, I saw everything. Nothing is perfect, but the solution at the point that the world was facing something they didn’t understand was better than nothing. This is what I was trying to bring to some of my family. So this is so close to home that a lot of our family members, also the time of realization, you realize, “No, I cannot do clinical trial,” but you see how you want them to live longer. But they’re like, “No, I’m not joining that trial.” But it’s a lot of things that have to do with lack of awareness. They’re not aware of the importance of clinical trial anyway, that there are so many stages. Some people are misguided to think when you are in clinical trial that you are the first level of tests.

No, that is wrong. There are different phases. When it gets to the human that FDA is part of it, FDA has already been involved in that study to know that you have to present it to them for them to approve you to even start the trial. So they’re seen the safety. We have something called suspected adverse reaction. Most of the time there is never something that’s said on there that, “Oh, the person is going to die.” No, it’s not there. They may have rash, they may have bumps. Those are the only suspected adverse reaction that they have at the different phases before it goes to trial. So we need to do more outreach to educate the people so that they can have more awareness of clinical trials.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  I just wanted to say that there are several factors that affect our community and of course when you talk about lack of awareness, mistrust, but then we also want to talk about the language barriers. Now it’s not only when it has to do with the native language, let’s say Spanish, or it’s not even that. It is language barriers when it comes to understanding what is the clinical trial, what is it saying to you, how when you read an informed consent, what does those things really mean? And when it comes to understanding that language barrier, how can we as a company, make that a easier process for the community?

And then we also wanted to look at when you’re factoring into that, the access of information of the health for the patient. Also, the health disparities that comes up with… Now we do have oncology, so oncology affects everyone. We understand that. But there are some specific health disparities in each of the people of color’s communities that we would like to also be a viable part of that and help the community understand what kind of clinical trials will specifically address their issues that they mostly deal with in their communities.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah, because you do hear a lot about oncology, but you don’t hear about a lot of other clinical trials, nor how to even participate if there is an opportunity there.

Abiel Obanjo:  So because oncology I think receives a lot of attention because there’s so much movement designated to oncology, like you have the pink ribbon all about that, right? Yeah. So you have that movement that brings a lot of attention. And I also believe a lot of resources are poor there, too, because of the rate that it affects so many people. But first we have to understand, some are caused by maybe hereditary, right? Some as a result of what people are putting in their body. So we also need to educate ourself that we need to make corrections as to what we are eating, which also leads to cultural competencies when they’re creating these trials. Because what a person of color has may be different from someone else that’s not someone of color. So cultural competencies will affect the way the trials are designed because it needs to be sensitive to other people’s culture.

And when we’re talking about why more people of color may not be involved in research, we need to look at their social economic status. Because if you have to work full time, if you don’t have your own car and there are burdens, you don’t have insurance, as I mentioned earlier, maybe you cannot make it to the location where they’re having the trial. You cannot drive there to keep the appointment, thereby cannot be part of the trial. So some people, they are well-educated on the trial, but the social economic factor is a limiting thing that stands as an interest for their participation.

Melyssa Barrett:  Well, and it’s so interesting to me because when you all are talking about just bridging the gap, and I think Divergent CRO, I love the way you described it. It’s like you dare to be different. And I’m sure there are lot… You talked about lots of things you’d like to see changed, but are there specific things that you think you all will be able to bring that will impact the community in a way that… Because it sounds like you all have, you want all of these connections with universities and organizations, not only to connect the trials and educate people, but also to maybe even mentor folks and recruit them into the-

Abiel Obanjo:  The training.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  That we have.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. So tell me a little bit about that and how when you talk about training, what does that look like?

Abiel Obanjo:  There are two parts to the training. Shone would go over the second, which is the on oncology CRA. I would describe to you the We Bridge the Gap training. The We Bridge the Gap specifically is designed for African residents, people of color. Our targeted audience are HBCUs specifically, which we already are in communication with many. We have practically listed all of them. We have our marketing team working with different HBCUs. Maybe we are planning on setting up how you have events. They have maybe the time that they are doing their… What do you call the events that they do at college these days? So I’ve been away for some time, but where you can get a-

Melyssa Barrett:  Job awareness.

Abiel Obanjo:  Right, right. Yeah. Job awareness. We can work with the career area of the school, but we wanted to have a table set up where we can have presentations to the students and bring them opportunities. We even want to partner with the HBCU so that when their students are coming out, they can come and take a job with us within our company, it can be IT. It’s going to be expanded beyond just working as a clinical research person. Even if you’re not interested in that and you’re still looking for a job and we have availability in the area of your study, we are able to plug you in. But the We Bridge the Gap is specifically interested in bringing those students that are in the fields of sciences, or even if you are going to medical field and you have your MD, you could still work as a medical director within research industry.

There’s a lot of things that people are not aware of, that they think they only have to work in the hospitals. No, you can work as a medical director, medical writer, you can work as a pharmaco vigilance. There are so many different roles based on what you have studied in the sciences that we can afford to bring to the table with the HBCU in order to bridge the gap and have a strong impact of representation of people of color in the industry.

Melyssa Barrett:  Fantastic. Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back.

Did you want to talk about the second part?

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  Abiel did such a good job, I was mesmerized with the whole concept of it. So yeah, so there’s ONCO CRA and specifically training clinical research associates that are, they’re second, they have two years experience in the industry. Then we can specifically train them to understand the nuances of oncology and how it specifically is catered to clinical trials, oncology clinical trials. So we have the two programs and the one when you want to really have that niche because once I got into the industry, oncology, because like you said your father and your husband was affected by cancer, I’ve had family members who’ve been affected by it, friends.

I mean, I don’t know what we’re drinking or eating, but something is happening out there. So that took me where I said I really wanted to have a hand in understanding and being a part of the clinical trials. So I’ve been in that expertise about two decades now, for a very long time. And I think that I would love to bring other people who are interested in cancer and give them a more specific training in it so we can really do a good job and help.

Abiel Obanjo:  I would like to make a pitch to those that are just hearing CRA, CRA. You may hear us say CRA a lot and that’s part of what we want to do in educated people. We have so many terminologies, but in the industry there are acronyms like CRA, CTN, LTN, that’s Local Trial Manager. If you come into the industry, you have to understand the lingo because that’s how we communicate. So we are doing a video on YouTube that will be specific to the terms so that people can familiarize them. But since we’re pitching to CROs Clinical Research Organization… Let me tell you something. If you love to travel, this is a job for you. Okay, so travel that you are not paying for it, the flight is paid, the hotel is paid, you have per diem for your meal, you get the rental car to go with it, and you just work at that location.

You may have the privilege to visit all the states in the US if they are studied there and you’ll co monitor, or you can just be regionalized to a specific location. You can also travel internationally. I’ve been on trial that took me to Brazil, Dominican Republic, sometime Hawaii. You can go anywhere that the study’s available and there’s no one to cover it. So if you love traveling, you definitely will love this. And if you understand your work, it’ll become something that is passionate for you and you would not really feel like you’re working. Because for me, I’ve always looked at it as being behind the scene, not being seen, but you are accomplishing a lot of things. For what we all did that went and work on the COVID trial, it gave me so much joy, even though we have to put in so much late hours to get the biological licensing to make sure that FDA could just put it out there.

But being able to see that my whole family, the old world was dependent on something that we were doing, it definitely gave some joy in my heart. And to be a part of that, just to be the 0.1%, a real tiny fraction, it still made me happy to be behind the scene, working for something that the whole world was waiting for. And that’s how you would feel when you become a CRA. So we encourage you to come through Divergent CRO and make an impact to the world.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  And for me in oncology, that’s how I felt. So oncology, the main concept is patient safety and patient extending their life quality. So to see that patients, they’re told a certain amount of time, but then they go over that, well amount, and it’s healthy as they’re doing that, that brings pleasure and happiness to my heart that we are able to do the work, see the clinical trials working, the drug that they’re using, and it is helping. It’s really helping people with cancer and that makes me feel good at the end of the day when I lay my head down on my pillow.

Melyssa Barrett:  So with all of this knowledge that you all are bringing, because I have to say, and I’m just going to diverge for a moment because I tell you, if I have to get one more COVID shot, like oh my gosh, what is going on? So give me some background on this. Now that we have this thing, I mean, I know people are like, get your COVID shot with your flu shot and all of that.

Abiel Obanjo:  Right. So what I could say in that area is to be honest and clear, transparent, is that if initially people were to listen and did what they were supposed to do, I believe it wouldn’t have become something that is normalized like the flu. A lot of people that didn’t get vaccinated were enjoying the people that were vaccinated because some people were vaccinated and they wore their masks, and with that they weren’t spreading anything. Meanwhile, there are people that were not vaccinated, they were walking around. Those were the main ones not wearing their mask because they didn’t care. They didn’t care about jeopardizing the life of other people. This could have really been dealt with. Now, I know the picture is still out there that COVID-19 is there, but what are you hearing about other countries that actually did the right thing? Are we hearing that numbers increase?

No. There’s a lot of narrative. No, they just want to make you wear masks and everybody look like they are just robots doing the same thing. No, it was for your safety. Have you ever heard the coronavirus? It’s not new, but the strain that attacked us is something that just developed. When you don’t understand something that is new, you have to attack it in a strange way. They just say, “Wear a mask so you don’t get it.” But people are like, “No, I don’t need to wear mask. I’m not listening to these people. I’m just going to do whatever it is that I want.” But how many people lost their lives? A lot of those that got on the TV saying bad stuff, they die. “Oh no, that stuff is not real.” Where are they now? It’s just as simple as follow instructions. I used to have a professor, he would give you the easiest work and he will write in bold, “Whatever you do, follow my instruction.” That’s it. He can tell you type one page of nonsense, but if you don’t follow the instruction, you will still fail.

It’s this paper, it’s just one page, but it would give specific… Come and see how many people get fifties, twenties, all because they are not follow anywhere are in college. They can’t follow simple instruction. There’s a reason why we are meant to honor or listen to the elders or the leaders that are set over us. We are supposed to listen to them. If they already made it there, whether you like it or not, that’s what we have at the moment, and we have to, in order for the safety, sometimes you have to be selfless not to be selfish to consider other people. Mask, I was not wearing it for myself. I was also wearing it because I have family. Even when I traveled. You would laugh at me. I was traveling where COVID started. I was still a CRA, so I would mask, I wore the outer glass. I was wearing something that looked like a hood and everybody was looking at me weird.

I was like, “I got a 2-year-old in the house, but I also have to work.” I’m doing this so this drug could come out so we could all have it so we can have a solution. So I was traveling to the different clinics, making sure patients’ safety was being observed and the data is accurate and things like that. So we were still doing that, but I was covering myself. I was making sure I was okay. They even gave you the old suit if you wanted to wear it, but I was like, I’m not going anywhere where they have contagious diseases or something. So I would just do my mask and I’ll be okay.

Melyssa Barrett:  Wow. It’s amazing that we don’t share a lot of these stories because to have you be right there on the front line doing this stuff during the clinical trial, it’s like, “Wow, this is amazing.” You learn so much from people when you are able to just meet and talk to them. I think there is a benefit when you look like the people that don’t trust what’s happening.

Abiel Obanjo:  Exactly. Representation.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Abiel Obanjo:  Representation is key. We must have representation, and one thing that made us to be in sync, all three of us, even the representation that we have, true, is that you are sometimes afraid to go and reach out to people that looks like you even in the industry because you are skeptical. So this is how Elizabeth and Shone was able to connect because again, it is rare to really find people that are able to give you information, even if they’re of color. So this is how we have common ground. I’m willing to help to better the next person first, especially if you’re my brother or my sister. I’m like that for everybody, but I go greater length if you’re my brother and my sister, I go extra for you and I’ll try to make sure you are not going to be left behind. And this is what was evidenced in dealing with Elizabeth. And then she was like, “Yeah, he gave me advice and all of these things.”

And I think that’s just natural. It should be the natural thing for a human to do, to share information, like information that you don’t share will rock with you. It’s going to die. And I believe by sharing something with you, I could also receive something from you, information, and information is the only thing that makes the successful person thrive. My father always says, “There is a man, they asked him, ‘When do you know you will be successful?’ He said, ‘When I was on that park bench, homeless, I knew what I wanted to do and I knew how I would get there.’ And that is the definition of success. Knowing where you are going and knowing exactly how you would get there. That is success.”

Melyssa Barrett:  I love it. Wow, this is awesome. So then, and the other thing I love about you guys as a team is even though you come together and you have this unity going on, you also have diverse backgrounds in terms of what you’ve done and what your focuses are. And I know Shone, you’ve done a lot in terms of just driving some clinical excellence and best practices. Do you want to highlight anything in specific? Because I think when you talked about just the language, there’s so much significance in… Like when I was with my husband and they’re telling me all this stuff, and he literally decided to go out of state to do a trial, and we were struggling with the fact that his doctors hadn’t actually told him everything that was wrong with him in his file. And so the people at this next place were like, “Okay, we need to let all of the things going on with you, that you don’t know.”

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  Yeah. Yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  So it’s kind of weird to me that you’d have a doctor that wouldn’t actually tell you, it’s in your file, but you can’t see that part.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  I’m glad you brought that up because I had experienced that, December ’22. I met a friend somewhere for the holidays and unfortunately her sister was passing. They just found out that she had cancer and she was at stage four. Now, apparently the sister did not know this. She just found out. They said, “Well, she was so healthy, she was running around two weeks ago and then bam, now she’s here in the hospital.” I said, “No, no, no, no.” I said, “You can’t just be a stage four and you didn’t know there wasn’t anything going on. There has to be some steps that happened and it led to this.” But she was going to the doctor, they did detect it, but for whatever reason, they couldn’t find it. And then now she’s at stage four. So they were distraught, they couldn’t understand.

And so I said, “Okay, so I’ll tell you from my perspective, don’t get mad, I’m just letting…” I said, “First of all, you ask for all her medical records and second, family, call her son. Do whatever you need to do, get together with her and give her the best experience she can have now because she’s at a stage four, you don’t know where she’s at, and they’re telling you to prolong bills. They’re not telling you the truth. You see what I’m saying? They want to extend it out to they get that last bill on you.” And the family and her both have disappointment, she passes and they’ve never had a chance to really tell her how much they loved her because they’re worried talking to the doctor, “What’s going on, what’s going on?” And they’re just prolonging the information. I hear that all the time in our communities. And then they get this bill, the person has passed away, and everybody is just shaken.

Melyssa Barrett:  Distraught.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:

Shaken, distraught. They’re… Time and time again from oncology to other diseases that have been caught eventually at the end, but they always have been there and the doctors know this, but they choose not to give some of that information out. And then the question is why?

Melyssa Barrett:  That is the question, well why.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  The question is why.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  So like I said, I’m not the guru and I don’t have a medical degree. However, from just going through clinical trials and understanding when people talk to me, I said, “Well, based on these clinical trials and what I have seen, spend all the time you can with that person, love them, tell them how much you love them and let them go at peace.”

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. Yeah, it is… I mean my husband was diagnosed at stage four and when we went back and we were trying to figure out, because it was like, “How did this happen?” He was for the most part in pretty good health, but there was a time where we thought he had the flu and then they ended up finding it because his hemoglobin was like at eight, and the doctor called and was like, “You need to get to the hospital.” Because it went down to like 5.6, and they were like, “Take him to the hospital right now.” And I was like, “Okay.” But what’s weird, it’s just weird to me how you could continue to go to the doctor and unfortunately it’s a practice. They don’t necessarily always know what they’re looking for. And so are there best practices and perspectives you all can provide just in terms of, if people want to be part of a clinical trial, how do they even start? What does that even look like? Do doctors know about the clinical trials or do you have to find them somewhere else?

Abiel Obanjo:  The first approach is any primary care physician that person have, that particular patient. And also, that’s the easiest way to bridge the trust initially because if that’s your family doctor, you are looking for remedy to whatever the case is. Usually when they suggest clinical trials is when they have said, “There is no medicine that is promising for this right now. My colleague or this company have a clinical trial going on for this specific therapeutic area of your condition. Do you want me to reach out?” That is a trust bridge because they know that physician and they can trust that the suggestion may be accurate for them or the patient themself can go to clinical trial. Clinicaltrials.gov, that is the government website to seek clinical trials that are coming up or that for the future or anything that’s happening right now.

They’re able to check there, and there’s always advertised for clinical trials that you can see probably sometime when they go to regular hospitals. I remember when I used to go as a CRA to the VA, you would see, “Oh, do you have chronic pain? Join this clinical trial. Do you have this? Join this.” You have to pay attention to some of the signs that you see at your medical doctor’s office, they’re offering a clinical trial, they’re just helping them to post flyers on the wall. If you read it to the bottom, you will see some of them is saying, “Join this trial.”

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah, interesting. And I know that some trials are paid and some aren’t and all of that kind of stuff. I mean, you talked a lot about ethics and values and all of that kind of stuff. Are there things that come into play where maybe you should get paid versus you’re just in the trial to make sure that you’re getting the information, or how does that work?

Shone Williams-Adeniyi: Well, some of the clinical trials that I’ve been aware of that they pay the patients to help offset some of their transportation, meals or something that prepped them for the trial, that they give them a stipend, that’s what we call it, a stipend, to help offset some of the costs for them to get there and participate in the clinical trial. Abiel, is there anything else?

Abiel Obanjo:  No. Yeah, they offer stipends. They’re just regulation that guides… That you may offer the patient stipend just to come in.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. Okay. So then in terms of, this seems like such an opportunity for young folks that are maybe early career or even mid or, heck even late, in terms of what kind of advice would you give to people that want to move into this area for their career?

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  For me, I just like to say that Abiel had touched on it. Think of the biotech, the device companies, the pharmas, they are the same type of structure as a hospital. So when I will give talks to the kids in elementary schools and whatnot, I say that I represent the nurse of biotech. I’m a clinical research associate, and if I were to give it a name in the hospital, it would be a nurse. That’s how I would say that analogy with it. So if you want to be a doctor, you can be a medical monitor. If you want to be a pharmacist, you can be the-

Abiel Obanjo:  Pharmaco vigilance.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  Pharmaco vigilance. So it parallels from the hospital, transfers into biotech. So there’s anything that a person is looking as a career in the hospital and they may want to look at going into clinical research, I bet you, you can find a position for you with that same type of degree or knowledge that you have.

Melyssa Barrett:  Fantastic. So tell us a little bit about how do people get in contact with Divergent CRO? Where are you located? What’s your website? Are there things that you all can tell us about?

Abiel Obanjo:  Yeah. Well in terms of location, we are based out of Atlanta, Georgia for that. And then we have several social media links. We have, of course, you can go to divergentcro.com in order to contact us. You’ll be able to see our contact information or there’s a contact card that you can use. We have a LinkedIn page you can go to. If you need the whole link, https/www.linkedin.com/company/divergentcro, or you can just search Divergent CRO, you should be able to see it. Divergent CRO is also on Instagram and TikTok and YouTube as well. So any one of those, it’s a good way to see what we are currently doing.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  And our 800 number, if you have a pen with you, is (888) 342-1447. That’s our number to be reached.

Melyssa Barrett:  Fantastic. Well, I love it. I hope you guys will come back one day and have another conversation. We’re going to get Elizabeth to come on as well.

Abiel Obanjo:  Yes, yes. We would love the opportunity to come back, especially, I know maybe some people may reach out even to you with questions and we would love to come and address any questions that may come up as a follow-up, because I believe that’s a lot of information and that is still just scratching the surface when it comes to clinical research.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah, absolutely. More to come, more to come. I’m just excited about what you all are doing. I’m glad that we can be part of educating people about not only the field, but even as a… So I just really thank you so much for joining me for the conversation. I look forward to keeping connected with you all and having you back. And do feel free to let me know how I can help. So thank you so much, and I definitely feel more educated.

Abiel Obanjo:  Thank you. Thank you. We’re glad we’re able to do that.

Melyssa Barrett:  Absolutely.

Shone Williams-Adeniyi:  Yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  Thank you so much.

Abiel Obanjo:  Thank you.

Melyssa Barrett:  Thanks for joining me on the Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.