Meet Roopa Basrur: Vice President, Medical Writing-Safety
"All our core values are really important, but if I had to pick one it is respect – everyone respected, valued and supported – regardless of gender, race, physical ability, language, sexual orientation or region."
Roopa Basrur, Vice President Medical Writing-Safety, offers us an insight into her role and progression within Parexel. Roopa is an Ally of the LGBTQIA+ community and a DEI champion. Roopa uses the pronouns she/her/hers.
- Please introduce yourself and your role with Parexel Global Safety Services.
Hello there! My name is Roopa Basrur and I have the privilege of working with the medical writing team within Global Safety Services. I re-joined Parexel in May 2022 after having served as the India Country Head for Calyx (formerly Parexel Informatics, which spun off from Parexel in Jan 2021). I joined Parexel for the first time in 2010 in Medical Writing Services and knew that I would be part of a team of highly experienced and wonderful colleagues. Over the years, this became the reason I stayed – as well as the way we keep innovating and reinventing ourselves with the changing times.
- Tell us a little bit about what you do every day. What are your core responsibilities?
Everyday I come in to work and am blown away by the amazing work that my colleagues do for patients around the world – interacting up close and personal with the data from patients and volunteers. My team includes medical writers, safety scientists, literature reviewers, team leads, etc. We are a highly experienced team with expertise in managing safety data including signal management, aggregate and safety report writing and literature reviews, for our customers.
My main responsibility is to serve the teams and make sure they have what is needed to do a great job, advance skills and careers by articulating a clear vision. This in turn ensures that our customers and their patients and products are well looked after. I also work with the India leadership team on various initiatives and with the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (D&I) teams. I’m also encouraged to work with industry associations/bodies, to share and gain knowledge and ensure we are future ready.
- What is it about your position that challenges you and excites you most?
I continuously need to adapt to the changing world that we live in – whether that is technology, regulations, customers or our patient’s needs. Knowing that we are tasked with carefully handling patient data makes it real for me.
- What traits and/or skills are needed to be successful in your role?
A good understanding of the clinical trial industry and processes. The ability to collaborate across teams. Networking within the company and outside.
Empathy, patience, resilience, flexibility, adaptability especially to change, big picture understanding…
- Have you had any other roles at Parexel?
Yes, I used to head the Medical Writing Services team in India and the Data Management teams in India and South Africa. I also held the General Manager role for a few of the offices in India.
- How has Parexel supported your career development?
I joined Parexel as an Associate Director and while I have progressed into successive roles over the years, I think it is the experiences and opportunities that I have had that are most important. I was nominated for the Women in Leadership program a few years ago and spent a year with women from across the world in a mentoring and leadership development program. My move into data management and subsequently to Calyx was a conscious move to enhance my skills. The work that I am fortunate to be able to do outside of my core functional responsibilities, enhances my engagement, widens my network and helps me learn new skills. It keeps it interesting.
- How would you describe what it’s like to work at Parexel and what’s it like working with your colleagues?
It is exhilarating – every day is different. The best part is the people I work with – they make the place what it is.
Working with colleagues across the globe and learning about different cultures and ways of life is a fascinating aspect of working at Parexel.
- Can you share with us an example of some of the work that you do, where you have gained a real sense of job satisfaction?
I’ve been involved with the company’s DEI program for several years now. Just before the Covid-19 pandemic broke, we had called for colleagues in India to send in art or creative work in any form describing what diversity and inclusion meant to them. Our visiting executive leadership was really impressed with the number of entries and sharing of thoughts and ideas on the importance of DEI in our lives and at the company. It was heart-warming and so satisfying to hear from our colleagues in their own words.
I was bursting with pride when Parexel won the Catalyst Award for inclusive companies. Knowing I had been a tiny part of that journey was humbling and inspiring.
Image: Roopa with her colleagues celebrating Pride month.
- What does “Patients First” and “We Care” mean to you?
As a physician, it makes me really proud to work for a company that places the patient at the center of our work. This is not merely in words. We are engaging with patients to understand their needs and challenges, to make our clinical trials better. It’s a win-win! All our core values are really important, but if I had to pick one it is respect – everyone respected, valued and supported – regardless of gender, race, physical ability, language, sexual orientation or region.
The work that we do– bringing new treatments to patients – cannot be done unless we really care about our work. Whether it is the quality of work, whether we get it done on time, or whether we followed the right process – we care. We care about our colleagues; we ask about their health and well-being and we believe in treating each other well. The pandemic became less burdensome, because Parexel had our back.
- How do you achieve a positive work life balance?
When I joined Parexel, I took advantage of the hoteling arrangement – i.e., I used to come into the office 3 days a week and work from home on the other two. In the last few years, though I do work from home once a week or so, I start my day early and leave the office early. I then work in the late evening from home for a few hours, which also helps to collaborate with my US colleagues and avoid peak traffic hours. Since March 2020, we have all been working from home and have now recently started to go in - mostly just to be with people.
- How has Parexel supported you? Is there anything Parexel could have done, or do better?
My opinion has mattered - I've felt I could speak up and be heard, regardless of my beliefs - and many times, because of them. When people join Parexel in niche roles, where the local teams are small, we need to find a way to support these new colleagues better. We need to find new ways to navigate the virtual world and help colleagues connect and bond meaningfully- it’s a tough one.
- Do you feel you can be your true self at Parexel?
Resoundingly - Yes!
- What advice would you give to anybody who identifies as LGBTQ+ thinking of applying to work for Parexel?
If you see a job that you want, and have the passion and what it takes, this is the place to be. You will be valued for your whole self, and the Parexel Pride team is here for you. Whether you are out or not, you will find that there are people you can reach out to for help and support.
- If you are any Ally, what do you do / or how do you support your LGBTQ+ colleagues?
I show up. I wear my colors and display my preferred pronouns and make it clear I am an ally. Where possible, I voice my opinion and try and bring in policies that make a difference to the LGBTQ+ community. For example, I was an advocate for making our local policy on anti-sexual harassment gender neutral and inclusive of LGBTQIA+ and encouraging gender-neutral restrooms. I also recently participated as a guest panelist at myGwork's WorkPride event, speaking about Parexel's Pride and Diversity Equity and Inclusion committees. You can watch the panel discussion for free by clicking the image below!
- What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
I love meeting with friends and colleagues and having fun (I do that at work, too – so I guess I am really lucky!). My husband and I love to travel (he does all the planning and I pack my bags). We have two adult children (our son is a scientist and daughter a wildlife conservationist), two adorable dogs and a turtle. I belong to a group that works with our resident’s association to support waste management and a few years ago we set up a composting unit and process, so that 90% of our waste does not go to landfills. In recent years, I’ve taken up yoga and feel that it has really helped me in many ways.
Image: Roopa with her two dogs. Image: Roopa with her husband and children, at her son's PhD defense in New York 2021.
- What is your untrainable superpower?
When I engage in conversation, it automatically stimulates new ideas on how we could change or improve or just do things differently. This has always helped me to troubleshoot and find ways to solve problems.
- Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I love going on wildlife safaris in the depths of our gorgeous and biodiverse jungles in India. Sighting the tiger is always energizing, but just soaking in raw nature is just divine.
- If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?
I find that I need to get as much context as possible, so that I can understand you or the situation. Relax and be yourself - genuine and authentic.
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