Fueling the Next Generation of Diverse STEM Talent
Rukiya Umoja, Pharm.D., RPh
Eric Olson

An expanded fellowship program chips away at the lack of diversity in pockets of the healthcare workforce.

Vice President Eric Olson is a model of how to challenge the status quo and consistently build up momentum.

In 2020, Olson, Vice President, Product Development Regulatory Policy, established a fellowship program for graduate students to increase the scarce numbers of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx talent working in healthcare regulation. Known as the Howard Fellowship, the program was established through a partnership between Genentech, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Howard University College of Pharmacy.

The bottom line, says Olson, is this: "There are many underrepresented people with graduate degrees who don't have access to the industry. We're doing something about it."

The goal of the Howard Fellowship is to introduce fellows to careers in the biotechnology and pharma industries, and the program started within the regulatory space and at the FDA. "The need for improved racial and ethnic diversity at Genentech, and throughout these industries, is mirrored in our health authorities," notes Olson. "I, along with Dr. Earl Ettienne, Director of Graduate Programs and Industry Partnerships in the Howard University College of Pharmacy, decided to try to put a dent in that, one fellow at a time."

The program has grown from one fellow at launch focused on regulatory policy, to four fellows in 2022 across several specialization tracks, to what will be nine fellows in 2023. This highlights the need to establish pipelines for students of color to access the industry. With the growth has come expansion beyond Howard University. Dr. Ettienne is now recruiting from other Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and graduate programs at other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

We have also expanded beyond the original regulatory track with placements in other Genentech functions like Clinical Operations, Personalized Healthcare, Medical Affairs and the Chief Diversity Office.

The FDA does a very good job of keeping all U.S. patients in mind, but it's like the industry itself, a fairly homogeneous group of people making decisions for an increasingly diverse population. Says Olson, "Ultimately, we're developing medicines to treat patients who are suffering from unmet medical needs. Greater diversity throughout all aspects of the drug development and approval process - including sponsors and regulators - increases the odds that we're creating solutions for all patients."

I joined the fellowship because I want to be part of creating a pipeline from HBCUs to the pharmaceutical industry. The regulatory space needs diverse voices, different perspectives, and should reflect the patients we serve. I've experienced incredible acceptance at Genentech: I'm used to environments where I have to be professionally perfect - wear full suits, have my hair just so, and sound a certain way. But the fellowship and Genentech are different - I'm celebrated for who I am.
Our people data
As part of our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion, we are sharing enterprise-wide data related to our gender representation, race/ethnicity representation, and pay practices.
Genentech Logo
Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms & Conditions
© 2023 Genentech USA, Inc. All rights reserved. This site is intended for US residents only.