Prompt: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
By: Nicole Alvarez
“Sixty minutes!” I announce as eager manufacturers scramble to put the finishing touches on their products. The countdown had begun, inching towards the release of our latest product line. In the month leading up to this point, I had mulled over the cravings of our target demographic, assisted in crafting satisfying pieces, and ensured that the cultivated items were without blemish. Now, as I squint at each piece one final time, I render the collection complete! Instantaneously, the clock strikes 4 PM, marking publication hour’s swift arrival. The entire club holds its breath as our seven articles are uploaded to the online school newspaper.
While not technically an enterprise in itself, my simultaneous DECA involvement meant that I couldn’t help but make the relevant connections to the school newspaper, Into the Jungle. The school community was my target market, the articles my products, and my role as Head Editor equivalent to that of a product manager. Similarly, the qualities I’ve developed from my position have translated into an entrepreneurial mindset. For after four years of newspaper involvement, I have been made a constant editor; my eyes trained to detect the red squiggly line that denotes defect and signifies an opportunity for correction. But this line cannot only be found on Microsoft Word or Google Documents — it is present all around us! I search for the red squiggly lines that highlight holes in the market or errors in our society, and I strive to help correct them.
I’ve found the red squiggly line to exist within the pharmaceutical industry. During my summer program with the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, our mentor Dr. Katusiime fervently encouraged us to explore potential career pathways within bioscience and beyond. This sentiment of proactivity transversed my computer screen, and as encouraged, I searched. Eureka! Landing upon the pharmaceutical industry, I idealistically concluded that a potential future within this sector perfectly entwined my social science and biology interests.
Yet following further investigation, my eyes were promptly opened to the unethical business practices that too frequently prevail within Big Pharma. From misleading advertising to burdening pricing, I was shocked to find that an industry that holds such an immense degree of social responsibility seems to commonly prioritize profits over people. Are bioethical regulations not strictly in place? How should these corporations balance their innate necessity for profit in a way that prioritizes the patient? And if only a portion of pharmaceutical corporations engage in unethical practices, are underlying issues contributing to the majority’s excessively high prices? Yet rather than allow these red squiggly lines to deter me, a simultaneous recognition of the good achieved by pharmaceutical corporations rendered me all the more determined. I began to view social science education from a new light — a pathway that will one day allow me to effect positive change. No longer solely a career path, social science education seemed like a calling to revise and re-visualize.
I’ve since brought this topical discussion to the Fred Hutch Journal Club and furthered my investigation with a mentor who works within the health tech startup Truveta, which partners with pharmaceutical companies on ethical medical research. After all, our interests are much like a living cell – prone to shifting into entropy should we not regularly input energy! As I look to the future, I hope that an understanding of the nuanced factors that play into such business decisions will allow me to better understand the pharmaceutical industry’s present culture and identify the places where I could help initiate a shift. I’ve come to realize that unlike in article drafts, there is no Grammarly to correct the red squiggly lines of our world. We must do the work ourselves, and I hope to do just that.