Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
LaQuinta Jernigan, the newly minted chief operating officer of mdgroup, a global patient services and technology company, is focused on changing how clinical research services reach all patients to move beyond it being “just reserved for certain demographics.”
One of her nominators notes that Jernigan is a “genuine source of inspiration in championing diversity and collaboration within the clinical trials industry, motivating other organizations to try harder and do better — rather than just paying lip service to the concept of diversity.”
Jernigan is considered the “face of mdgroup in North America,” and now the voice — she recently launched a podcast series, mdtalk, designed to illuminate where the industry continues to fall short, as well as share best practices to drive change and build back trust within communities.
“[Jernigan] discusses solutions to the biggest challenges affecting clinical trials today with other influential industry experts, patients and advocates; the first episode considers how to achieve true representation in clinical trials. [This is] another example of how [Jernigan] is using her position to motivate others and seek change for the better,” one of her nominators says.
"We can can create a world where health, life expectancy, access to healthcare is not determined by race, gender or socio-economic background."
Chief operating officer, mdgroup
Since joining mdgroup in 2005 as director of business development, Jernigan has steadily moved up in the organization while assuming greater areas of responsibility around all commercial operations.
“As a Black mother of two, she is rightly proud that her role as a successful executive serves as an inspiration for young people of color, especially women, who can see that it is acceptable to use your voice unapologetically and fight for issues you are passionate about without fear of professional backlash,” her nominator says.
Her passion to ensure that patients get the very best clinical experience extends far beyond her role at mdgroup. Through her volunteer service to community groups, she “serves as a beacon of hope … as a diversity, equity and inclusion influencer.”
Colleagues say her work with the North Carolina Biosciences Organization is helping elevate conversations around diversity and inclusion. Jernigan also lends her talents through her role with MedTech Color (MTC), which is helping to build a community of leaders of color in the medical device industry.
“[Her] MTC subcommittee is tackling the issue of why cardiovascular health is not being addressed in a meaningful way within communities of color; in short, her efforts are making an extremely valuable contribution to highlight issues which some within the industry may find it uncomfortable to acknowledge and to address,” one of her nominators notes.
Here, Jernigan shares her insights on the trends impacting clinical research and what her leadership style is all about.
PharmaVoice: What is the biggest trend you are tracking?
LaQuinta Jernigan: Diversity in clinical research and the overall awareness of disparities in healthcare. These are issues that have always existed, and they are finally getting the attention that they need. It has allowed businesses like mine to provide solutions to pharmaceutical and biotech organizations that will make their clinical trials more accessible and therefore allow for more diversity.
How are you paying your success forward?
Through mentorship — to everyone. Anyone who comes to me that needs guidance or support in career growth, I fully engage with them to help. I do the same within the organization I work for. Always looking to develop our team to meet their own professional growth goals and to promote from within. As a woman of color, I especially look for avenues to support other women of color in navigating career growth.
What is your key piece of leadership advice?
Understand the work that everyone does. Only then can you lead them through the good times and the bad. Make it a habit to listen to your team and establish trust.
What is the most memorable item you have in your office?
I have a framed Dumbledore quote from Harry Potter. It reads: ‘Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.’ I love having this on my office wall because it's a constant reminder that where there's a will, there's a way. We just have to keep looking for it.