Women's History Month Stories

Wendy L. Clemens, PhD, MS

Vice President, Medical Evidence Generation, Heme and Cell Therapy
Bristol Myers Squibb

Why did you pursue a career in science? 

I knew I was passionate about science as early as grade school, but I didn’t realize it was going to be a career until I was an undergraduate at Penn State. It was there that I discovered a passion for immunology during a work-study program that studied the role of cytokines during infection. That was the beginning of a career that I always say, “revolved around the T cell”, since my entire graduate education and professional career involved various aspects of immunology including inflammation, infectious disease, autoimmunity, and immuno-oncology. 

What are you most proud of in your career? 

I would say that having the opportunity to work on Opdivo and Yervoy is the proudest part of my career. It was a privilege to be part of a passionate group of scientists at Bristol Myers Squibb (and other pharmaceutical companies) that created the “IO revolution” and created these medicines that help cancer patients live longer – and in some cases, cure them from their disease. There were several examples where I had the honor of meeting patients that “thanked me” for helping them live a normal life. However, I would be remiss without mentioning that there were many other families and friends that could not be saved, which fuels the sense of urgency to continue our pursuit of new cancer medicines. 

Who is a woman/mentor you admire? 

My undergraduate boss and graduate advisor, Dr. Sordillo, had a strong influence on me due to her fearless personality, her determination to further women in science and her unapologetic competitive spirit. Before there were STEM initiatives at universities, Dr. Sordillo was the “commander-in-chief” of her predominantly female lab and over the years inspired an army of scientists that have gone on to lead ground breaking research in the pharmaceutical industry in the areas of IO, COVID vaccine research, and CAR T cell therapy, just to name a few. At that time, I didn’t realize just how much influence she would have on my life. To summarize, she would be responsible for fueling my passion for immunology, pharmaceutical sciences, veterinary medicine, higher education, women’s equality in the sciences, and even introducing me to the sport of fly fishing.

What advice do you have for women who are entering the field of science?  

Follow a purpose driven career, where your job has a deeper meaning and sense of value attached to it. Whether it is working on a cure for cancer, diabetes, or educating the next generation of scientists….figure out your passion and use that to fuel your ambitions and define your definition of success.

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