Renee Willmon

Director, Data Science


(Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style)

What degree(s) do you have and in what discipline(s)?

Bachelor of science in Anthropology and Forensic science and MSc in Anthropology. My anthropology PhD is in progress.

What is your current salary or salary range?

Low six-figures.

What can someone with a BA/MA/PhD expect to earn in this job?

There is a wide range of opportunities for graduates with all levels of anthropology degrees within the broad field of clinical research. Includes project management, data management, patient insights/research, etc.

What type of benefits are typically provided in your job field?

Comprehensive health benefits, parental leave (depending on the size of the company you work for), and attractive extended benefits such as gym membership reimbursement.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

My days vary quite a bit day-to-day, from working sessions with my team of data analysts (includes biostatisticians and social scientists) to plan project execution for client research projects, reviewing analyses completed by my team, preparing updates and reports for customers, authoring content for multiple audiences such as newsletters for patient organizations we partner with, white papers for our sales team to use in business development, scientific protocols and research proposals for both internal and client research projects, conference papers and scientific publications to disseminate our research. Pre-COVID my job involved a lot of travel to conferences and client meetings, however that has shifted entirely to virtual interaction.

What do you like the most about your job?

I would say it’s a 3-way tie between 1) the variety of people I get to engage with, 2) the extent to which I am constantly applying skills I learned through my anthropological education, and 3) knowing that my work is having a real impact improving the lives of patients with chronic and rare diseases and the quality of treatment programs and medications available to them. My training is still uncommon in this industry, however the theory and methods from paleopathology and forensic science are very applicable to the growing “real world evidence” movement.

What do you like the least about your job?

There is still a bias against social sciences as “soft”, which results in the use of patient-reported data being viewed as “anecdotal” at best. I find it rewarding to work towards shifting this perception, however the industry is deeply entrenched in their view of the randomized control trial as “the” Gold Standard of evidence.

How has your anthropology degree(s) influenced your present career? 

My degrees have trained me to think holistically about the multitude of variables that influence the behavior and clinical outcomes observed in the context of healthcare. My training in paleopathology and forensic science provided familiarity with medical terminology and statistics, comfort with designing research around available resources, and the ability to triangulate multiple data sources. I was also well prepared to communicate my work and influence the resulting decisions among a wide range of stakeholders.