Most people don’t know this, but my father was an educator who spent most of his professional life as the principal of an inner-city public school in Chicago.
In the mid-1960s, my twin brother and I were part of the original Head Start program there. I spent a lot of our summers going with my father to his school and helping him with projects. I’d also play a lot of basketball with other students as well as others who worked at the school. I made friends with an enormous number of young people of diverse backgrounds. Along the way, my father instilled in us a sense of justice, a sense of mission, and an understanding that gross inequities exist in our society due to race and poverty, and all the other issues that stem as a consequence of these problems.
Because the truth of the matter is this: At the end of the day, my brother and I got to go back with my father to our home—a blue-collar neighborhood though it was—in a predominately white neighborhood, with all the comfort and safety that comes with that. Most of the other boys and men that I played with at his school had no such advantage. Even though, I didn’t walk in their shoes and was considered privileged, I believe this experience helped me develop more empathy and understanding for those who live with social injustice, and it has influenced how I lead my company.
My father, who was as committed to social-justice issues as anyone I’ve ever met, went out of his way to highlight the disparities at the root of racial tensions we saw in that time. Moving back and forth between these environments, it was hard to miss the unfair playing field caused by racial discrimination, poverty, and violence—including the violence inflicted on minority communities stemming from institutionalized racism in all its forms.
Sadly, such disparities haven’t gone away. Stoked by the stunning economic dislocation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the racial disparities in policing, health care, employment and opportunity can no longer be hidden.
As any company that has been around for twenty-two years, PTC has a long history with both highs and lows. We have made it through challenges that seemed insurmountable at the time. We persevered because we were focused on our mission to bring innovative therapies for patients living with rare diseases and their families who are often forgotten. We also work hard to ensure that our patients have access to our treatments. In the U.S. we put programs in place so that patients can have access to treatment regardless of insurance status – especially in these uncertain times.
Thus, the root of our mission is fairness. We believe in the power of inclusion, diversity, and opportunity, but I’m calling on all of us at our company to double our efforts to be champions of this. At PTC, we want to be part of the solution in ways that are in keeping with our core values. The events of the past two weeks remind us that, in ways big and small, we must rise to the societal challenges in the communities where we live, work, and serve. No one should be afraid to raise their voice in the face of injustice in a manner that facilitates community, constructive conversations, and results. And to this end, we have created forums for our employees to safely speak up and share their experiences and expectations for our company with senior leaders. Today, more than ever, it is important that leaders listen so we can weave this important feedback into the framework for our new Diversity & Inclusion Council.
Another step in that direction is a program we just instituted at PTC called the Talent Pipeline Program. Understanding the enormous economic challenges graduates face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be going to institutions—especially those in minority communities and other areas underserved by internship programs—offering paid, one-year internships in all of our departments and specialties. This includes areas such as research, finance, commercial operations, compliance, legal, and communications.
PTC’sTalent Pipeline Program will be real work, offering hands-on experience combined with educational aspects, coaching, mentorship, career counseling, and leadership training. Moreover, thanks to the advances in telecommuting accelerated by the current pandemic, our interns can work from anywhere.
I want the success of this program to be measured not just by the quality of the interns we get or even their success, but by the level of opportunity we bring to areas that are often forgotten because of race, economic injustice or other systemic disparities.
It is a small step to be sure, and we’re just one company, I know. But to quote Robert F. Kennedy, each time a person “stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
I’m asking everyone at our company to work with me to bring a ripple of hope in this difficult time.
About the Author:
Stuart W. Peltz, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, PTC Therapeutics, Inc.
Dr. Stuart Peltz founded PTC Therapeutics in 1998 and has served as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the board of directors since the company’s inception.
Under his leadership, PTC has grown from a research organization to a publicly traded, global commercial organization with multiple approved products and a foundation of strong technology platforms that continues to drive a robust discovery pipeline for patients with rare disorders.
Prior to founding PTC, Dr. Peltz was a Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University.
Dr. Peltz is a recognized scientific leader in RNA biology in the area of post-transcriptional control processes involving mRNA turnover and translation, with more than 30 years of research and over 100 publications in this area.
Dr. Peltz has received a number of business and scientific awards. Notably, he was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in 2010. He was recognized as PharmaVoice’s 100 Most Inspiring People in 2009 and received the Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision Innovation and Leadership in 2014.
Dr. Peltz earned a Ph.D. from the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin.