Meet Julia Cooper: Corporate Vice President, Head of Global Medical Writing Services
"We are a high-performing team with an inclusive culture, where ownership, customer focus, profitability, and first-time quality are second nature, and everyone feels able to say what they think respectfully and constructively."
Julia Cooper offers insights into being Head of Parexel's Global Medical Writing Services, why geese inspire her, being a woman in leadership, and more. Julia has now worked with Parexel for over 20 years, including three years in Shanghai. She is passionate about medical writing and maintaining an environment that allows her employees to feel inspired.
- Who are you and what you do at Parexel?
My name is Julia Cooper, and I am Vice President and Head of Global Medical Writing Services. My team provides medical writing and associated services from early-phase to post-marketing and is located across North America, Europe, South Africa, India, Asia-Pacific, and Australia. I am also the advocate for Medical Writing Solutions, Parexel’s cross-SBU network of around 700 staff delivering end-to-end scientific and medical writing services to clients.
- What are you most proud of professionally?
Over the past 30 years, Parexel’s Medical Writing group has evolved to become one of the top medical writing teams in the industry, with a range of service offerings and a global footprint that are unparalleled among the CROs. We are a high-performing team with an inclusive culture, where ownership, customer focus, profitability, and first-time quality are second nature, and everyone feels able to say what they think respectfully and constructively.
15% of our Medical Writing team have been with us for over 10 years—a strong testament to our working culture. Whether our deliverables are large or small, the team's focus to deliver high-quality documentation is exemplary.
Julia and part of her team at AMWA 2019
- What are you most proud of personally?
Personally, I am very proud to have contributed to the evolution of Medical Writing as a profession. I started my medical writing career in 1995, in the same year ICH E3 (the international guideline for clinical study reports) was released. During the past 25 years, appreciation and understanding of the benefits of the medical writer role have substantially increased, and today, project teams highly value the medical writer as the leader of the document preparation process. During my career, I have had the privilege to work as a medical writer in Germany, the UK, China, and Ireland, and to contribute to the development of the profession through different roles on committees of the European and American Medical Writers Associations (EMWA, AMWA) and the China Medical Writing Community.
- Who inspires you?
When I joined Parexel in 1998, one of my first projects was a large NDA/MAA submission for a global pharma company. At the kick-off workshop, every participant was presented with a flying goose statuette, labeled with the submission name and meeting date, to remind us of the teamwork that would be needed to make the submission a success. The goose was chosen for 3 reasons:
1. Geese share the load. The V-formation adopted by flying geese helps them reach their destination quicker and with less energy. Each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it.
2. Geese rotate leadership. The goose flying at the front of the formation uses the most energy because it is the first to break up the airflow. When the lead goose gets tired, it moves to the back, and another goose moves up to take its place.
3. Geese help each other. If one goose becomes sick, two other geese drop out and stay with the sick goose until it recovers or dies.
The goose on my desk reminds me of how the team supported each other over many months on that project. As a leader of the Medical Writing team, I try to ensure we follow the same approach as the geese on all our projects. By sharing the load, working as a team, and helping our colleagues no matter what our role, we work hard and smart to achieve successful outcomes.
- What was the best piece of advice you received in your career?
Seek until you find a job you are passionate about. Leaving research to become a medical writer was one of my best decisions. The opportunity to use my scientific training to contribute towards patient care improvements provided the motivation and job satisfaction that I had been seeking. Over time, medical writing has evolved to encompass a range of roles, such as clinical trial disclosure writers, document specialists, and dedicated QC staff, in addition to medical writers. One of my goals as a leader is to create and maintain an environment that allows our employees to feel inspired about medical writing and its associated roles, and to believe in the value our profession brings to clients and patients.
- How do you keep the patient at the heart of everything you do?
Almost everyone is a patient at some time in their lives. By helping our teams understand the importance of their individual contribution, no matter whether they are directly client-facing or supporting the work of others, we will succeed in providing quality services to our clients, and ultimately bringing new medicines to someone’s family member, significant other, or friend.
- As a woman in leadership, how do you work to forge a gender-equal world?
In Medical Writing, we make optimal use of our collective talents as a global team, following the same high standards and rigorous processes at all locations, and valuing opinions and recognizing accomplishments, irrespective of the individual’s culture, gender, ethnicity, or other factors. Building a strong culture of inclusion and respect at all levels is the guiding principle to everything we do.
I was fortunate to be able to spend just over 3 years working out of our Shanghai office from 2013-2016, and the experience I gained during that time really reinforced how the diversity of our team ultimately has a positive influence on our ability to do business effectively. We are all responsible for preserving principles of respect and inclusion, understanding that each of us has an equally important role in bringing new medicines to patients.
- Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
On a trip to the Galapagos last year, I fulfilled my long-standing dream to dive with a whale shark.
- What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
Looking after my garden, hiking, and scuba diving.
©Photos by Julia Cooper
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