February 4, 2023
The reasons I do what I do have changed over the years, but my ultimate goal has remained constant: to find work that brings me satisfaction and to pursue a passion that I am deeply committed to.
I fell into the pharmaceutical industry by chance. I was working in publishing when my then fiancé worked for a large pharma company and they were looking to expand a new IRT group within the company. I had no experience in clinical trials.
So, I decided to completely change my career trajectory, accepted the position, and took off to get married, with a plan to start when I returned from my honeymoon. Thanks to Hurricane Jeanne, we had to leave a day early so I could start the new job on time, or risk being stranded in Florida. Seventeen years and three kids later, I haven’t worked outside the industry since. I love the science and innovation and the common drive of my colleagues to help people. I love reading a protocol and working with clinical teams to come up with creative ways to address some of their biggest challenges in launching a clinical trial. When my children were little, they used to tell people that their Mommy makes medicine. My daughter asked me to come into her class to show them how to make medicine. I had to try to explain that my part in the process was much more operational and technical, rather than scientific, but still a critical need to the overall goal. It’s easy to forget the piece we all play in the bigger picture. But when you are working on a clinical trial, and you see how something you are directly responsible for is impacting patients with few other options, it’s both fulfilling and humbling.
In early 2019, I was working with one of our clients at 4G on a breast cancer trial when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple Positive breast cancer at the age of 40. I suddenly became intimately acquainted with many of the treatments I had worked with for so long. Fortunately for me, while my cancer was very aggressive, it was also very receptive to treatment. After 20 weeks of chemo, a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, and 6 weeks of radiation, the cancer was gone, I was a complete responder.
During my treatment I continued to work, in general and on the breast cancer study. It made something I had done many times before seem different and very personal. We informed my coworkers and the clients I was working with of my diagnosis so that they would understand if I was sometimes unavailable. The support I received from all my colleagues in the industry was amazing. In contrast, I was very private about my cancer diagnosis in my personal life. I spent an excessive amount of time and money on a wig, eyelashes, and eyebrow microblading so that you couldn’t tell I was going through treatment. Out of our large network of friends and acquaintances, I only told a handful of people. I think that I didn’t want people to know because I didn’t want them to wonder what was going to happen to me, if I was going to make it. I was wondering that myself. But at work, I wasn’t worried about who knew. I even showed several of them my various wig options! I feel lucky to be a part of it, and to work with such a large concentration of smart, driven people. And I have a bigger drive than ever to do my part in bringing these trials to fruition.
My chances of long-term survival are very good and get better as I get closer to the sharp reduction of occurrence after 5 years. In the meantime, I try not to worry and keep doing what I’m doing. My goal is to help to expedite the discovery and delivery of new and better medications and treatments to those who need them. And hopefully someday, no one with a deadly disease has to worry about what their outcome will be.
Kelly Koziol, Senior Director, Client Services Leads at 4G Clinical, has over 13 years of experience in RTSM system implementations, integrations and support. Kelly has helped to lead RTSM standardization initiatives at a major pharmaceutical company and has seen the RTSM/IRT space from both the sponsor and vendor...