"You’ve Got to See It, to Be It.” Bristol-Myers Squibb Partners with W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute

Charlotte Jones-Burton, Cardiovascular Development Team Lead, works not only for the heart, but from the heart.
Feb 7, 2020 3:10 PM ET
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"You’ve got to see it, to be it.”

This quote by American activist Marian Wright Edelman embodies the personal and professional philosophy of Charlotte Jones-Burton , M.D., M.S, Cardiovascular Development Team Lead, Bristol-Myers Squibb. Each day, Charlotte makes it her mission to put these words into practice.

Charlotte, an accomplished researcher and leader who is working to address critical unmet need in the cardiovascular space, is also committed to addressing an additional unmet need – diverse representation within the pharmaceutical industry. Through her connections inside and outside of Bristol-Myers Squibb, she established a partnership with the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute – a five-week scholarship program based at Princeton University that aims to connect Black and Latino youth as they become leaders in society.

“Our relationship with Bristol-Myers Squibb has a long history, and we’re very proud of that,” said Sherle L. Boone, Ed.D., Founder & CEO, W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute. “The goal of the program is to create a critical mass of brilliant-minded individuals who are committed to making a difference in society. I'm very confident that we're going to see some fundamental changes, not just helping people of color, but helping all people in this country."

Looking back on her early years growing up in rural Arkansas, Charlotte knows first-hand how representation and exposure can shape a career. Early in her life, Charlotte was tasked with serving as the primary caregiver for her grandmother, a job that included administering various medications. It was from this experience that Charlotte realized a love for helping people – ultimately leading to her decision to pursue a career in medicine.  

To Charlotte, ensuring the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars are similarly able to visualize a career in drug discovery provides a mutually beneficial experience – developing a strong future talent pipeline for the company, while also sharing new career paths and resources for the Scholars at a critical moment in their lives.  

“I believe that the Bristol-Myers Squibb visit for the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute is very important in shaping these teens’ careers,” says Jones-Burton. “They spend a full day with us. We really want them to understand what we do so that they can see themselves here as they go off into their college careers, so they can aspire to come to Bristol-Myers Squibb having very concrete information about what it is that we do.”

However, the impacts of the program go far beyond a day learning about the pharmaceutical industry. 

“Some of the students that I've met figured they didn't have what it took to succeed just because of where they came or what they grew up with – they thought they had too many obstacles against them,” says Von Potter, M.D., Medical Lead, I-O Clinical Development, Bristol-Myers Squibb. “When they see me, they might say, 'I can be like him.' That's my hope, to inspire them to be able to go after whatever their dreams may be.”

Because of Charlotte and her team, these Scholars are “seeing it” so that they can “be it.” A commitment and a vision that comes straight from the heart.