Meeting Summary of FOCM & GLSA Event

So, it finally happened, on that glorious day which shall long be remembered, these minutes will be heretofore submitted to the USA Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute and for reasons unknown, to the Sydney Opera House on the northside bulletin board for public postings.

On May the 20, in the year 2021 of the Gregorian calendar, it was noted that the GLSA (Global Life Sciences Alliance) and FOCM (Friends of Chris Matheus) Networking organization did hold an online (virtual) networking event. The meticulously planned event went terribly awry when but half of the positive RSVPs failed to show up.  That said, it was a resounding success for the initial such event.  A total of 22 attended.

The meeting started off with an acknowledgement that it was Global Clinical Trials Day and a toast was given to the clinical research industry for saving the world from Covid-19 and to James Lind, the Scottish doctor who initiated the first controlled randomized clinical trial on May 20, 1747 aboard a sailing ship. Dr. Lind divided twelve sailors sick with scurvy into six groups of two. They all received the same diet but, in addition, each group was given a different treatment. Only the two sailors who received citrus fruits improved and returned to work.

Chris then introduced the GLSA members to the FOCM community.  After a bit of general discussion, several polls were taken. About half of the group is reluctant to resume conference travel immediately, preferring to wait a few more months. Slightly more than half have been vaccinated or acquired immunity through catching the virus. An interesting opinion was voiced that perhaps as members of the clinical research industry, we should set the example by all being vaccinated.  I, for one and I believe I speak for many of the others have the utmost confidence that not a step was missed, not a shortcut taken in the development of the available vaccines.  Given the prioritization and urgency of vaccine development, we were able to speed up the data review process. The one thing that the sped up development lacked is longer term safety and side effect data.  However, vaccine side effects rarely (I can’t think of any) change the longer from the time of injection.

Then it was time for speed networking!  The assertion has been made by Chris that each of us in the clinical research industry are within 2 degrees of separation from each other. We had 4 different sessions.  Attendees were randomly put into different “rooms” with the assignment to each introduce themselves to the group, sharing where they’d worked the previous 10-20 years and what they’re doing now to see if they could identify who they knew in common.  Good information was exchanged and several new connections were made which can improve the management of clinical trials.

Join us next month – June 16.

Attendees:
David Holland, Cmed Research
Jon Matheus, Pancrazi Real Estate
Sheila Mahoney-Jewels, Life Science Hub
Eric Nier, Block Clinical
Lynne Becker, Power of Patients
Nadia Bracken, Medidata
Christine Ver Straate, GLSA
Mitchell Efros, Verified Clinical Trials
Cassandra Hui, HealMary
Denise McNerney, GLSA
Joe Buser, GLSA
Tom Ryan, GLSA
Kalyan Ghosh, Inference Inc
Marty Frazier, GLSA
Tanusree Bhattacharyya, Inference Inc
Zulma Varela, GLSA
Mike O’gorman, Life Science Marketplace
David Gibboni, DJGibboni Consulting
Eric Mayer, EDP Biotech
Craig Fernandes, EDP Biotech
Maria Frane, C3 Research

Wedding Toast from Father of the Bride

So 9 years ago when my first-born daughter became engaged, my signifcant other/spousal equivalent said, “you’ll have to give a toast at the reception, practice it now, just speak from your heart”.  I panicked, I pictured myself in front of everyone at the reception and couldn’t come up with anything.  Public speaking is listed as one of the top things people fear. I’ve done a lot of public presentations but I’ve prepared for them, scripted them, practiced them.  So when put on the spot, I froze.

So I had several months to prepare and wrote a toast and re-wrote and re-wrote it with a focus on not too long, focused, concise and from the heart.  In the years since then when friends, strangers and new acquaintances tell me their daughter is getting married, I remind them they’ll have to give a toast.  I tell  them I have one which I can share with them as a template they can adjust. It will at least get them started.  The below has been shared with almost 10 people.  What prompted me to write this blog is I found an email I sent to a man I met in an airport bar and he said his daughter was getting married.  The man’s future son-in-law was a graduate of Texas A&M. The template is below:

First, we’ll have a quick toast and then I have a few things to say. Everyone please raise your glasses: To (state your daughter’s name) and Person (your daughter’s fiancee’s name), on behalf of everyone here, may you have a lifetime of happiness.  Cheers.

And now I’d like to say a few things:  Parents and brothers and sisters of person marrying my sweet precious angel, we’re glad to add you to our extended family and look forward to getting to know you better in the years ahead.  Person, without a doubt you are my favorite in-law, (say this if he/she is your only child-in-law: pause for laughter), you’re also my first sin-law and I couldn’t be happier, you’re an Aggie engineer, who could ask for anything more. (Maybe drop in an Aggie joke here: http://planetaggie.www.50megs.com/images/jokeimg.html) I do like the fact that you’re (choose one or more than one: a college graduate, have a job, have wealthy parents).  _______ (Daughter’s name or nickname), you are a beautiful bride, I remember when I first saw you __ years ago, it was a feeling of instant and complete adoration and love.  Oh and maybe a little fear that I might be buying you a car at age 16 and that maybe I’d spend money to send you on a European vacation every year you were in college and that somehow we’d end up with any pets that you “bought”.  I was certain that I’d be paying for a wedding someday.  I’ve been so proud of you every step of your life.

To you both, I have a few words of advice:
Don’t keep score
Don’t expect marriage to be 50:50 every day, because there will be days when one of you can only give 25% to the relationship, that’s when the other has to give 75%.

Use your words
If you don’t tell each other how you feel and what you’re thinking, they will not know.

Lastly “a little teasing goes a long way” – be sensitive to each other’s feelings when joking around because – “a little teasing goes a long way”.

Please join me in one more toast:  To Precious and her Person – here’s to the beginning of the happiest days of your lives together. Cheers!


Yikes, as I finish this I realize I have to do another toast to do – in August my last-born daughter is getting married and I have less than 3 months to come up with a completely new toast!

FOCM Chapter 2012 Summer Chapter Meetings

Once upon a time in a faraway place a long, long time ago, my brother and I volunteered to drive my eldest daughter’s car from Raleigh, NC to AZ. She and her husband would be moving to Tucson and rather than paying to ship it, we thought it would be a fun trip for Jon and I. We took the opportunity to visit friends along the way. Our second night stop was in Houston, TX and a visit with FOCM member and friend from high school, Kristen Meaders. Here are her notes from the Houston FOCM chapter meeting that night:

An impromptu FOCM meeting was held in Houston in July 2012. For security reasons, it was touted as the Annual Genu Varum Society Conference (AGVSC) to avoid the paparazzi, INS, and undesirable party crashers.  Large amounts of Mexican food were consumed due to Our Leader’s unwillingness to stray from a mandatory Mexican food theme. No arrests were made but Jon is now on a de-tox program.  Stock prices for Patron dropped precipitously since Chris’s discovery that he has “the sugar.”  Mimi was crowned Ms Genu Varum Houston 2012. Something happened to the photographic evidence such that I cannot include it.

Chris, Kris, Jon

The following evening we were in Tucson, AZ and had dinner with FOCM member and friend from college, Art Coppola. Art’s notes were in reply to those of Kristen’s.

That must have been a ‘home-cooked’ Mexican meal judging from the surroundings.  Here is a shot of the twins at the subsequent FOCM meeting held in Tucson and as you can see, it was held in a dark back room location at a participating Chicken and Waffle house where our leader had his with Jalapeños to continue his insistence on getting back to his roots. For this there was proof of the event:

Summer of 2012 Jon (l) and Chris (r)

FOCM Networking Meeting Minutes

Can you believe it? These are the meeting minutes from the November 5, 2018 event in Boston. Many of the attendees were in town for the Outsourcing in Clinical Trials New England meeting. My sparse notes indicate that this was held at the lobby bar in the Westin Boston Waterfront.

We had great attendance with my hastily written down names on a piece of paper indicating the following individuals were in attendance:

Roy Ovel (we worked at ICON Clinical and have known each other 13 years)
Scott Keddy (known each other for 6 years)
Mike (last name not written down, so its clearly a good friend who I should remember or predict)
Matt (going to guess this is Matt Comstock – known each other 5 years and attended the same high school in Yuma, AZ)
Vicky Martin (known each other 16 years; also worked together at ICON)
Kate Mullis (known each other for 4 years)
Bonnie Phillips (known each other for 3 years, met via networking in NC)
Daniel Frederick (known each other for 3 years, met via networking in NC)
Bryan Clayton (known each other for 7 years, worked at YPrime together)
Katherine Cloninger (known each other 20+ years, worked at Quintiles together)
Ted Gastineau (known each other 20+ years, worked at Quintiles together)
Bill Taaffe (known each other 18 years, worked at ICON together)
Brian Langin (known each other 20+ years, worked at Quintiles together)
Chris Utterback (known each other 4 years and we the same birthday)
Susan Cook (known each other 2 years, I think we met that night, Brian Langin invited her, I believe)
Adam Blackburn (known each other 7 years, worked at YPrime together)
Cory Winters (known each other for 3 years, Vicky Martin brought him into FOCM)
Dave Rosa (known each other 11 years)
Paul Eisenmann (known each other 20+ years, worked at Quintiles together)
Jennifer Carpe (looks like an n, then….; could be Carpenter from BioTel; colleague of Cory?)
Lianne Kloppenburg (known each other 9 years)
Kristina Wolfe (although my notes indicate Figueroa was the last name at the time; known each other 3 years, we both live in Wilmington, NC)
Nicole Powell (known each other 5 years)

For those of you in this industry, this list reads like a list of all-stars, right? Unfortunately, photographic evidence of the gathering was not collected that evening.

FOCM Friendsgiving Wine Tasting Event

FOCM is all about connecting with each other for fun, mutual benefit and to be helpful to others.  On December 9, 2020 we held a virtual fundraiser, wine tasting and networking event.

FOCM values connections be they new or old. This event certainly crossed that spectrum. The idea for the event – wine, charity and networking – came about from a LinkedIn post that I saw from Amy Berwick. I first met Amy in 1998 when we both worked at Quintiles (nka IQVIA). Amy’s post had to do with the role she had taken on with OneHope Wines and I wanted to find out more and catch up with her. I knew I wanted to do a year end virtual FOCM networking event and thought this might be a fun option.

I met (virtually, of course) with Amy and her OneHope colleague, Shelby Wildgust and learned that in addition to 10% of the wine purchased supports the charity of my choosing, each individual bottle purchased supports a non-profit cause (e.g.; pet adoption, military veterans, reforestation…). I decided this is the event I wanted to have.

When they asked me what charity I’d like to support, I said the Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation. http://www.jeffcoombsfund.org/blog/ This foundation was started by Christie Schmitt Coombs in memory of her husband who died in the 9/11 terrorist attack on America. The Jeff Coombs Foundation was formed to assist Massachusetts families who are in financial need because of a death, illness or other situation that challenges the family budget. I’ve known Christie for 45 years. We both grew up in Yuma, AZ, went to Kofa High School and the University of Arizona.

A screen shot from early in the event. Photography credit to Amy Matheus.

Attendees and in parentheses, how long I’ve known them were:
Deb Jendrasek (15 years), Shelby Wildgust (1 month), Jeff Gould (4 months), Michael D’Amico (3 months), Jon Matheus (his whole life), Zulma Varela (2 months) Christie Schmitt (45 years), Denise McNerney (6 months), Mike Strand (~15 years), Jenny Neurath (my whole life), Greg Cohee (~15 years), Susan Cook (2 years), Amy Berwick (22 years), Wayne and Kay (1 hour), Lauren Sherwood (3 years), Sean (1 hour) and Robin Whitsell (3 years), Amy Matheus (her whole life), Jamison Lloyd (2 years), Lindsay Goldman (her whole life), Nathan Goldman (9 years), Thomas Goldman (3 years), James Goldman (48 hours less than his whole life).

Amy and Shelby made it easy to manage. They drafted the email and messaging content for me to review, they set up the OneHope website specifically to track our fundraising progress and we used their zoom account. We tasted 3 different wines:
1. The Vintner Collection Sauvignon Blanc – this bottle helps reforestation, so far, ONEHOPE has been able to plant over 100,000 trees through the sale of this wine.   
2. The Vintner Collection Red Blend – this is a 96 point Award Winning wine that funds Team Rubicon, an organization aimed to reunite Veterans with a sense of purpose in civilian life.   
3. The Vintner Collection Pinot Noir – this is a 90 point Award Winning wine that has funded over 96,000 pet adoptions! 
Purchases made up until January 8 contribute toward the fundraising goal we’d set. Here is the event link to make purchases:   https://www.onehopewine.com/event/a366bd14-e43d-446e-94d9-6c44efeae9d9

What’s the future of Networking & Sales

Imagine if you will, that the social distancing required in this era of Covid-19 were to continue for 5 more years. How would that affect the type of businesses and individuals who depend on the meeting of new people in order to promote and introduce their products or services?

This scenario came up while having a discussion with a new connection, Joyce Blatt. As you know, I love connecting to others and remembering people’s backgrounds so I can connect them with people who need their services. One of my business partners, Tom Ryan was on a virtual biotech networking meeting and met Joyce and recommended we connect. Well Joyce and I hit it off and quickly realized, we’re both connectors. It was Joyce who was questioning how can we work in this environment. How do we keep our ears to the wall and be helpful? Without in person meetings, we have to learn other ways to connect – face to face at someone’s office allows you to look at the pictures in their office to pick up on their interests, etc. We need to utilize other methods – use LinkedIn during the meeting to see where someone lives, went to college, hobbies and interests, etc.

When you meet someone new in person, you usually get a quick read on the person’s energy, helpfulness, personality and can identify who will be good to connect and follow up with. Yes, in virtual meetings where they allow for “networking” time, you can and I have enjoyed making new connections in a few such meetings. But it’s different in both good and less good ways. In the less good way, you can’t meet or reconnect with as many people as when you work a room. In the good way, you really focus on the conversation because you’re not distracted. When in a one-to-one zoom, you’re not “working the room”, which often means you’re looking over the person’s shoulder scanning to see who else you know and might be more important.

While talking with Joyce, I had an aha moment. I was complaining how some of these virtual meetings have no dedicated networking time, so it feels unproductive to attend them only to be able to say “hi” in a chat window to someone you know or want to meet. The “aha” moment is this: I would routinely attend a small, industry meeting of around 30 people with three presentations about issues they face routinely or new regulations to address. There would be a morning and afternoon break and lunch. I had a co-worker attend one when I wasn’t able to. His reply was “what a waste of time, why do you go?”

I go, acknowledging that I am getting no other work done while being there (other than checking email on my phone), because I believe to sell in this industry requires a relationship of trust, understanding and dependability. By attending this meeting, I’m seen as a member of their community, I know the issues they’re facing AND at the breaks and lunch, I’m networking. It might be just one or two people I talk with, but its worth it in the long run. One example of the value of attending – to be helpful – an attendee asked the group for help providing items for pharmacy school graduates. I was able to get pens, notepads, flash drives, wireless mice, (promotional items from several vendors including my employer), etc. At that point and from then on I am seen by her as a friend, no longer just a salesperson looking to sell her.

Okay, so back to the aha moment, so I would go to those meetings all day just for a couple of conversations. I need to continue attending the virtual meetings, for the opportunity to make new contacts and maintain existing ones. While it feels a waste of time, I can be productive during the sessions and can interact during Q&A or in the chat window and I need to continue to attend these for the very same reasons: be a part of their community, understand their issues, and be helpful.

Help Each Other

This year has found all of us adjusting to differences in the way we go about our daily lives. One business industry that I’ve come to realize must be really struggling is the dry cleaning industry.

When was the last time you wore an item of clothing that you typically take to the dry cleaner?  So I had this idea of how we can help them hold on during this time of remote work and virtual conferences. 

For all of us employed and working from home – let’s pick a day to wear an item of clothing that you take to the dry cleaner to wash.  How about Wednesdays?

Shirt for the dry cleaner

#supportyourlocaldrycleaner #FOCM #powerofnetworking #Helpful #helpeachotherb

FOCM Brainstorming Assignment

Help in naming a beach condo is today’s crowd-sourcing brainstorming name creation assignment.

In a condominium complex called The Breakers are 4 buildings with 18 units in each building. The four buildings are A, B, C and D. The unit needing a name is unit C-4. I, because I know that C4 is a name of a plastic explosive, always add the tag line “it’s explosive” when I say C4. So when people ask me which unit is ours, I say “C4, its explosive”. Some people don’t get it and look confused, but I don’t care.

So FOCM Team Mission Impossible Branding/Name Generation: your mission if you choose to accept it is to post in the comments section, name ideas for a beach condo in Carolina Beach, in The Breakers complex, the unit C-4. Rules: any name is a good idea, no judging or responding negatively to other’s suggested names.

BEGIN!

Observations on a Virtual Conference in 2020

2020, the year of the COVID-19/Protests/Riots/Presidential Election and the year the clinical research industry’s annual convention went virtual.

The noteworthiness of this made me think to jot down my observations.

I have been attending DIA since 1997. That year it was held in Montreal. Last year was in San Diego, which is probably the best place to have it in terms of weather.  The conference is always in the 3rd or 4th week of June.  The heat and humidity in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston has often been close to unbearable.

The biggest differences for me were:

  • I didn’t get to co-host the FOCM Networking event with my friends from Zymewire
  • I missed seeing everyone! Not seeing friends in person (this event is very much an industry reunion) and not getting to socialize with them makes it more difficult to maintain relationships
  • Seeing so few friends in the virtual exhibit hall (Thanks Adriana Grado, Cory Winters and Amy Zastawney for taking time to meet with me). Every year I make a point to walk the entire exhibit hall to make sure I see and catch up with as many people as I can and to see what new and innovative products and services are available
  • I didn’t stay out too late (there was no virtual Transperfect party or vendor parties of any kind)
  • I didn’t drink too much.
  • I didn’t have a Fireball shot at the Barrington James exhibit.
  • I didn’t welcome any new FOCM members and hold any card ceremonies (I’ll have to re-write the card ceremony SOPs – the handshake may have to be eliminated)
  • Here it is the last day and I’m not exhausted.

As I have often told people younger and/or with less conference experience than me, at DIA – you will stay out too late and drink too much.  I point out that you HAVE to do this (it might even be in the SOP binder), because if you don’t, it wouldn’t be the tradition that it is.

A couple months ago I held a virtual FOCM Networking event with about 10 industry friends. I asked them if DIA were to be held in person, who would travel to DC for it.  The answer was no one.  Comments made were: it’s too risky, I don’t want to get on a plane, stay in a hotel, take a cab or Uber and go to a conference with 5000+ people. 

We in this industry are proud of the role we’re playing and demonstrating to the world the value, the need and the method for discovering treatments for COVID-19. The need to utilize recent innovations in big data, AI, high throughput screening, lighten cumbersome regulatory hurdles will serve the world well for developing new treatments for all diseases.