Corlis Murray: 'As a Black Female Engineer, I'm a Rarity'
Abbott's Corlis Murray, Senior Vice President, Quality Assurance, Regulatory and Engineering Services, talks about her inspirations for getting into engineering and her work in encouraging young women and minorities to get involved in STEM.
Corlis Murray is Senior Vice President, Quality Assurance, Regulatory and Engineering Services at Abbott.
She was appointed to her current position in February 2012. Previously, she served as Vice President, Global Engineering Services. Murray joined Abbott in 1989 and has held a number of management positions in quality, operations and engineering in Abbott's diagnostics and nutrition businesses. In Abbott Nutrition, she served as divisional vice president, Quality Assurance; divisional vice president, Manufacturing; and divisional vice president, Operations Services.
She is a board member of The Clara Abbott Foundation. She earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
DiversityInc: During the '70s and '80s, the percentage of engineering bachelor's degrees conferred to women never reached 15 percent. What inspired you to major in engineering?
Murray: This doesn't surprise me at all. Even today, as a Black female engineer, I'm a rarity — more than 10 times as rare as a woman in Congress. My mother and grandfather instilled in me a love for learning, especially of math. I had a knack for math and science and was nominated by one of my teachers in high school for an internship with IBM. Quitting my $1.76-an-hour job at Jack in the Box to pursue that internship is one of the defining moments of my life. Because that high school engineering internship — and the African American man who mentored me, showing me how to troubleshoot issues with mainframe systems (essentially the brains of room-sized computers) — demonstrated to me that I, too, could be an engineer if I wanted to.
The percentage of women receiving engineering degrees today is better, but not significantly better. In 2014, only 19.8 percent of bachelor's degrees in engineering went to women, according to the National Science Foundation. That's why I've brought my experience full circle, founding the high school STEM internship at Abbott six years ago.
Corlis with her 7-year-old granddaughter, Arianna
DiversityInc: It's very important for young Blacks, Latinos and women to see people like them in the STEM field. Can you talk about the high school STEM program you initiated at Abbott? What are the long-term impacts of the program? What does that say about Abbott's commitment to diversity and inclusion?
Murray: A high school engineering internship changed the trajectory of my life. I very much believe in an "each one, reach one" philosophy — which means I have no choice other than to give back to young people, especially young women minorities, like myself. There are young people in school today who might have no idea what engineering is, no idea what fun math or science can be — young people who, through a single positive experience, could be impacted for a lifetime.
Our high school STEM internship program demystifies engineering and science for these young people and makes it a real, viable career option. These minds will invent the next breakthroughs in life-changing technologies.
The program is made up for almost 60 percent women and about half of them are minorities. Nearly all of them (97 percent) go on to pursue a STEM degree or career. Many of our students started at inner city schools and now, after our internship program, are attending the top engineering and science schools in the country: U of I, MIT, Purdue, USC, Rice. Many are the first in their family to go to college.
Corlis with former high school interns who were college interns in summer 2017
My sincere hope is that more companies do what Abbott is doing, investing in young people by providing robust high school STEM internship programs — as well as other STEM programs. Abbott has invested over $50 million over the last decade with the goal of helping to inspire and support tomorrow's inventors who will create the world's next life-changing technologies. It's such a benefit, both to these young people, and to our company, as we develop a top-notch pipeline of people who know the value Abbott brings to people's lives — and are excited to join a culture of innovation where they know their ideas could someday be on the shelf, in a doctor's hand — or in a patient's heart.
This extra support for young women and minorities in STEM can help start a positive cycle. It's amazing that still today less than 4 percent of engineering degrees go to African Americans, according to the National Science Foundation, and only 1 in every 7 engineers is a woman according to the Department of Commerce. These young people need to see others who look like them to signal that they, too, can be successful.
DiversityInc: You've held a number of management positions at Abbott. What advice would you give to others on how to navigate a successful career at the company they are currently at?
Murray: The reason I reach out to students as young as 15 for our high school internship program is because the more we can open their eyes to potential STEM dreams young, the more they can explore and pursue during formative years.
Regardless of our age, race or gender, we make our own odds. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses; study hard; make connections with people who can teach you and advocate for you; and ultimately, sell yourself by demonstrating your aptitude in a creative way and knowing the business or organization you're working in or pursuing inside and out.
DiversityInc: What are some attributes you look for in high potential women?
Murray: The attributes I look for in high potential people — women and men — are the same. The organization that I have responsibility for is diverse, functionally and organizationally. I look for someone who is:
- A quick-study
- Knowledgeable about finance and business
- Highly committed, focused and with leadership qualities
- Well-spoken and a good writer/communicator
- Passionate, with a proven track record of developing others
- Detailed-oriented with an ability to see the big picture
- A change agent
- A global thinker
- Actively engaged in a team environment
- Knowledgeable technically in her area of expertise
Coleman, talks with DiversityInc about his journey transitioning from life in the U.S. Navy to working for Kaiser Permanente as an Assistant Hospital Administrator.
Anthony B. Coleman, DHA, is the Assistant Hospital Administrator (Operations Support) for Kaiser Permanente, Fontana and Ontario Medical Centers.
He was born at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy serving aboard the USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and USS Ardent (MCM 12). After completing a full sea tour he was transferred to shore duty, and earned a Bachelor's degree in Workforce, Education and Development, as well as a Master of Health Administration. He later earned a commissioned as a Naval Officer serving in various roles overseas and afloat, including Chief Financial Officer at U.S. Naval Hospital Beaufort SC, Human Resources Director at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan and Medical Operations Officer onboard the USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) nuclear powered aircraft carrier.
Anthony retired in 2016 with 20 years of honorable service and holds a Doctor of Health Administration Degree and currently serves as the Assistant Administrator (Operations Support) for Kaiser Permanente Fontana and Ontario Medical Centers.
DI: What was the initial transition like going from the armed services to a civilian career?
My initial thoughts on transition brought unnecessary anxiety. However, when I learned that my preceptor was a retired Air Force Colonel, it helped put me at ease about the transition. On my first day at Kaiser Permanente, the staff and physicians welcomed me and ensured that I had the support I needed to make a successful transition.
DI: What are some skills or habits you developed while serving in the military that have helped you in your current role?
Two things stick out in my mind as important.
The first is transitioning mindset from duty to desire. I joined the navy at 17, and during the first 3-5 years of my military career I didn't realize I was part of something bigger than myself so I competed tasks out of obligation (duty). After completing my first full sea tour, I realized how my efforts contributed to the overall mission of the U.S. Navy and the duties I carried out started to come from a desire to do so. This realization helped shape my leadership style and how I groomed young sailors early on in their enlistments. I wanted them to realize their very important part in the overall U.S. Navy mission and motivate them to bring their "A" game every day.
This has helped in my current role overseeing nine non-clinical departments (Housekeeping, Food and Nutrition, Engineering, Construction, Parking, Safety, Property Management, Telecommunications, Security and Supply Chain Management) where the majority of the employees I oversee are entry-level and can feel disconnected to health care because they are not physicians or nurses. However, I stress to them as often as possible that whether their job is to nourish the patient, clean and disinfect a patient room, make sure life-saving equipment is in working order, or any other of the hundreds of non-clinical functions they perform day in and day out, they too are vital to a patient's health and healing.
The second is attention to detail. Most times, my staff are the first and/or last interaction our members have with Kaiser Permanente. It is crucial for them to pay attention to every detail about the patient they encounter because each and every detail about the patient, large or small can help us do a better job in serving them. Sometimes, it may be as simple as a smile or word of encouragement that could make all the difference in the patient experience.
DI: What career advice can you offer to veterans or current military folks who are looking to pivot, and what types of jobs should they be looking for?
Stay current in world health affairs, as well as the political climate in the US. Now more than ever, politics are shaping our approach to health care and vice versa. Veterans and current military members should make sure they have an idea of where civilian health care is, as well as where it's going in the future, so they can demonstrate their value to potential health care employers.
Devote time to discovering their passion and allow it to lead them to a profession. So often, when military members plan to transition to civilian life, they tend to focus on their ability to continue providing for their families beyond military service. This can cause us to accept positions for the sake of securing post military employment, or accept positions that are not aligned with our core beliefs, or passion.
DI: Did you always have an idea of the type of career you wanted to pursue after the military?
Yes. As a matter of fact, I began planning my exit from the military in 2005 when I discovered my passion for eliminating health disparities however, because I was a single father of a 5 year old girl, my mom convinced me to complete a full career first.
In 2004, the Navy sent me to graduate school to learn how to be a health administrator. During the summer of 2005, I interned at Wallace Thomson Hospital in rural Union County, South Carolina. While there I met a kitchen worker who impressed me with her skill in preparing meals for all of the sick patients at the hospital, specific to their individual needs. Her name was Pee Wee and even though she never finished high school, and worked a second job to make ends meet she somehow found a way to show compassion for each patient while contributing to the healing environment.
After the rotation was complete, I went back to finish graduate school and learned that Pee Wee died of a stroke. She was 52. Her death really affected me and a began to look at how a person in America could die so young of a preventable health issue. That's when I learned about health disparities and discovered my passion for eliminating them. I understand that I may not be able to complete this task in my lifetime however, I am completely comfortable with making it my life's work at Kaiser Permanente.
Interns have spoken: Abbott is the top college internship program for healthcare and tech & engineering.
The results are in: Abbott's a top 20 workplace for scientists.
Originally Published by Abbott.
What do scientists at Abbott do?
They create tiny, life-saving devices for baby's hearts, seek out neurons that cause Parkinson's and develop tests for Zika. They invent wearable sensors that eliminate the need for painful fingerpricks for people with diabetes. They drive breakthroughs in infant formula and make it possible to test half the world's blood supply.
They are our superheroes. And today, they've named us one of theirs.
After Science Magazine surveyed scientists at biotech companies around the world – ranking each on 23 characteristics from financial strength to having a research-driven environment – Abbott has landed for the 15th year on its Top Employers list.
The Brighton Consulting Group independently evaluated each company's employer reputation score, considering factors such as whether it treats its employees with respect and whether its work-culture values align with employees' personal values.
One of the coolest things about being a scientist at Abbott is we have tracks for both management – and science. You can continue to climb while never giving up the research you love, or you can choose to take a management track and lead a team. There are paths for advancement for both.
Last year alone, we launched more than 20 life-changing technologies around the globe. We do work that matters.
Abbott supports the First Ladies of Africa in the fight to end AIDS in children and keep mothers healthy.
Originally Published by Abbott.
In countries around the world, Abbott is working across its businesses and in partnerships with others to create healthier futures for families. One example: since 2014, Abbott's diagnostics business has supported the work of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA – pictured above) to fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa, particularly among pregnant women and children – who are among the most vulnerable populations impacted by the disease.
At an OAFLA meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City, Abbott and several other organizations are being recognized by OAFLA for longstanding partnership and support, including public-private partnerships that bring together technical, financial and other resources to focus on a global health challenge such as HIV/AIDS.
General Motors sponsored the "Wakanda Design Challenge" at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual conference.
Approximately 100 Baltimore high school students took a conceptual journey to Wakanda during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 48th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.
Company achieves more than double the overall average industry score and maintains top industry scores in economic and social performance.
For the sixth consecutive year, Abbott (NYSE: ABT) has been named the leading company in its industry by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), one of the most prestigious global benchmarks for corporate sustainability and responsibility. As the industry leader in Health Care Equipment & Supplies, Abbott is one of the 60 companies recognized for leading their respective global industries.
NEW COVERAGE DECISION EXTENDS ABBOTT'S INNOVATIVE PAIN THERAPY OPTION TO 22 MILLION AMERICANS LIVING WITH CHRONIC PAIN
Abbott is the only company in the world with FDA and CE Mark approval to offer dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurostimulation therapy to treat complex nerve pain conditions.
Originally Published by Abbott.
Abbott announced a new national coverage determination for the company's dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurostimulation pain therapy through Aetna®, a leading health benefits company in the United States. With this coverage decision, Aetna will provide more than 22 million medical plan members with access to Abbott's DRG therapy for people with chronic pain.
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The new technological DRG therapy may be the key to easing daily tasks for those with chronic pain.
Originally Published by Abbott.
Living with chronic pain affects not just your body but also your mind. It can make getting around and getting along equally difficult.
But with innovation in health technology comes hope. Abbott has developed a new device found to be more effective than traditional therapy at relieving chronic pain.