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Talent Case Study: Dr. Julie Meade: Writing Her Own Story

Learn about the career path of a scientific writer with multiple disabilities.   

Portrait of Doctor Julie Meade

Alma Mater:  Vassar College, Virginia Commonwealth University (Ph.D.)

Major: Pharmacology and Toxicology

Graduation Year: 2020

Employer: Bristol-Myers Squibb

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Dr. Julie Meade is an exceptional example of a person with multiple disabilities who is thriving in her career. Julie has several disabilities, including learning disabilities, ADHD, a speech impediment, autoimmune thyroiditis, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and narcolepsy. Through hard work, individualized education plans, medication and many years of occupational therapy, she developed skills for academic and career success.

After graduating with honors from Vassar College, she completed two years of post-baccalaureate training at the National Institutes of Health. She then won a predoctoral fellowship award to fund her Ph.D. studies at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), successfully defending her Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology in the spring of 2020 at the age of 30.

While a graduate student, Julie served as the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics’ Regional Coordinator for Communications and Outreach to VCU. During this time, she also managed a pharmacology blog and a podcast, and worked as an editor of a medical textbook after graduation.  

Julie participated in numerous career development workshops offered by her university and scientific organizations. She applied for more than a hundred positions in various industries, but to no avail. However, Julie’s participation in Disability:IN’s NextGen Leaders Initiatives was a pivotal turning point in her career journey. Disability:IN matched Julie with a mentor in the pharmaceutical industry who provided her with guidance on potential career paths, resume preparation, networking and interviewing.  

Pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) found Julie’s resume through Disability:IN and was impressed with her experience and skills. The company invited her to interview for a position as a scientific writer on clinical trials, and she was hired as a full-time employee soon after. Within six months, she was promoted to Scientific Writer 2, a leadership role in which she coordinates teams of health care professionals and scientists to create clinical trial documents.

Julie manages her disability on the job in various ways, including writing down questions as they arise, creating to-do lists, setting follow-up reminders and communicating when more clarification is needed. For employers seeking to attract employees with disabilities, Julie suggests emphasizing that the company is making efforts to hire more people with disabilities. An environment of openness around disability status can inspire more employees to self-identify and request accommodations, boosting their career success and company performance.

Julie also recommends that employers provide information to job candidates about all available workplace accommodations and benefits. For example, BMS provides workplace accommodations for all employees, not just those with disabilities, as well as benefits such as remote work options, flexible hours, ergonomic equipment and unlimited sick days. BMS also has a disability-focused employee resource group, the Differently-Abled Workplace Network (DAWN), which hosts events to educate employees about disabilities. Julie volunteers as a Workforce Pillar in DAWN, developing programs to recruit applicants with disabilities.

Through participation in Disability:IN initiatives, hard work, self-advocacy and many sticky note reminders, Julie has been able to excel in her career. She has contributed not only to her department, but also to BMS’ overall corporate culture.