Ep. 69: Both Can Be True

with Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH

April 6, 2022


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Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH
Senior Director, Precision Medicine, Franchise Lead, IMFINZI, AstraZeneca

Hisani Madison is the Precision Medicine and Diagnostic Franchise Lead for the ImmunoOncology Franchise in Oncology R&D at AstraZeneca. As a part of the Oncology Companion Diagnostics Unit, Dr. Madison leads a cross-functional team of Precision Medicine Leads, technical scientists, project managers and clinical operations specialists ensuring the delivery of innovative diagnostics across the ImmunoOncology franchise. Her passion: ensuring that patients receive the best and most effective treatment for their respective diseases, right patient with right therapy. Her prior roles at AstraZeneca included the Precision Medicine functional lead for the Imfinzi Lung and GI Global Product Teams. Prior to joining AstraZeneca, Dr. Madison was a Senior Scientific Reviewer in the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health (now OHT7) at the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While at FDA, Dr. Madison led the review of diagnostic submissions in the Division of Molecular Genetics and Pathology (DMGP) specializing in the review of devices intended to aid in selection of therapy for patients with solid tumors and helped shape the regulatory policy around next generation sequencing-based companion diagnostics. Dr. Madison completed her postdoctoral training in the Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute where she conducted molecular epidemiologic research focusing on breast cancer etiology and heterogeneity. She holds a Ph.D. in Pathology from Duke University, an M.P.H. from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a B.S. from Hampton University.


Finding ways to connect on similarities and honor differences makes for better, amazing teams.



[00:00:18] Kristi Ebong: Welcome, Hiasni. It’s great to see you and have you here today. I know that we have known each other for many years now and through many iterations of life, if you will. But for those listening today, my name is Kristi Ebong. I am an investor at Define Ventures, where we invest in digital health companies at the earliest stages. And I’m also an advisor for Her Story through Think Medium, and really excited to be here and host Hisani Madison today. Dr. Madison and I first met in grad school studying for our public health degrees. And she’s just done some incredible work. So Dr. Madison, Hisani, thank you so much for being here today.

[00:00:56] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Oh, thank you for having me. I just feel like we’re having a regular conversation. So I think this will be fun.

[00:01:01] Kristi Ebong: It will be fun and it’s not going to be interrupted by our young children, hopefully. So we’ll see how this goes.


[00:01:05] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: I sent them away. My husband has taken them away.

[00:01:08] Kristi Ebong: It’s

[00:01:09] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: So.

[00:01:10] Kristi Ebong: like a vacation. But I would love to pull on a few threads today. But maybe in terms of level setting for the audience, a little bit of context on what your role is right now, professionally, and then also some background and your story and kind of what got you to where you are.

[00:01:29] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Sure. So my name is Hisani Madison. I’m currently a senior director at AstraZeneca leading precision medicine and diagnostics within our immuno-oncology franchise. I’ve been there for a little over three years. I’m really enjoying it and transitioning from FDA, so I was in government before, has been a wonderful transition. But if you think back to kind of where I’m from, I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, so College Park, to be exact. So that’s the south side of Atlanta. Grew up with a ton of siblings. And so I was the middle child. So with those complexes, I was really all about mediating and making sure everything is well balanced, which probably aligns to my Zodiac sign. I’m a Libra, if you want to know that. And so for me, I’ve always loved science and I was actually just talking with a friend of mine and I was looking at a story about women who are like, I always dreamed of getting married and planning my wedding. And I was talking to my sister. I was like, what did I dream? What did I talk about when I was growing up? She’s like, well, you always just wanted to get smarter. So my dream was to be the smartest. And so just over my transition and my career changes and my life changes, it’s really been about, how do I secure opportunities, but also learn along the way? So, thinking about my transition. My Ph.D. is in cell and molecular biology. So laboratory based work back at Duke University. So it’s March Madness. I have to say, go Blue Devils. And then moving into a post-doc that includes molecular epidemiology. So transitioning from the lab to epidemiology studies, where I met you doing my MPH at Hopkins. It was about what can I learn? How can I apply what I know and learn more? And so I’ve really just been about learning and growth, and that’s really a part of `my framework and how I just kind of continue to stay agile and do new things and explore new opportunities.

[00:03:12] Kristi Ebong: That’s amazing. I think what’s interesting is, when I think of you and I think of you wanting to be smarter, you probably achieved that many, many times already, and now it’s just, you’re just growing and building on top of it. But you’ve spent time in both the public and the private sector. And so I know one of the things that I was so excited to learn about was the really pioneering work you did around the BRCA breast cancer work when you were at the FDA. And I’d love to just hear a little bit more about that experience. It was, it obviously redefined the industry a little bit in terms of how we think about these new innovations and would love to, A, hear about it for the audience, but then, B, some of your takeaways from that and how it informs your work now.

[00:03:58] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Wow. There’s so many takeaways. So when I was at FDA, I led diagnostic review, largely focusing on companion diagnostics. So that diagnostics where you’re tying your drugs to a result from a test. And as a part of the opportunity there, I was there between 2014 and 2018, so right around that time, next generation sequencing, innovative devices were taking themselves from the laboratory into the clinic and trying to get FDA approval, some of them anyway. And one of those was focusing on an at home diagnostic test and, when you’re thinking about the review of diagnostics, you’re really trying to balance, okay, what are we saying from a technical standpoint? What would we be saying from a clinical standpoint and how can we make sure that this device is safe and effective? But one of the things that really landed home for me is I was reviewing this test that is an at-home test for people to understand their BRCA mutations and having people, not patients, know their risk and have these genetic results at their hands is that you have to really try and balance what the patient, the person, wants and needs. And so it really was this process of understanding the technical aspects of the test, understanding the clinical, but thinking about, how do these results land with real-world patients? Or real-world people, rather, because these are healthy people. So I would always think about, okay, well, if my mom was reading this test result, what would she want to know? If she’s landing on this website, what are the things that they’re going to want to navigate? But I just think this getting these tests, these diagnostics, to people’s homes, getting these opportunities to be tested and know your background at your fingertips is really important. I think through this COVID pandemic, what we’ve learned is that we can be really agile, is that people can understand what it means to test at home. They can understand what it means to interpret a result, and they can see the value of being able to do that in their own personal space. And so thinking of the next wave of a diagnostic, that personal, at home, at your fingertips, by your bedside testing is really where I’m looking and where the field is going.

[00:05:58] Kristi Ebong: It’s remarkable. I just, I had this moment when you were talking where I thought, when we were kids, what we’re doing now was not necessarily even something that was on our radar, right? It didn’t even actually exist back then, let alone in its current form. It probably didn’t even exist 10, 15 years ago in its current form. And so, as you reflect back on your professional journey, what has been one of the things that you think you’ve always done, right that’s kind of allowed you to stay in this innovative kind of discovery space other than just the wanting to always be smart ?

[00:06:38] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: I’ve had that question before, which is funny. And honestly it’s the soft skills. So I’m an extrovert and I love meeting people. And when I think about the opportunities that I’ve taken hold of, that have taken me to a new level where I’ve learned new things, where I’ve been able to make a change, it’s largely not exactly within my existing roles and responsibilities. So those personal connections of meeting people and saying, hey, want to have a coffee? Let’s talk about what you’re doing. It may not be what I’m doing. But there could be something really interesting going on. And leveraging those and thinking about, oh, well there’s an opportunity here. Or if you’re not, I think more importantly, probably if you’re not in the room, they’ve had a conversation with you, they know you. And they’re like, you know what? Talk to Hisani. She would be really good for this. It’s not quite her role or her responsibilities, but I think she’s the person I want to call. And I think we’ve leaned away from those soft skills a bit, and really the importance of utilizing those to build connections, to build relationships because even right now I can call anyone who I’ve worked with before. I’ve left organizations and I can pick up the phone and talk to them because I left understanding that there’s still a connection that I would like to maintain. So I guess that’s the other part of it too. Continue making connections, but maintaining those connections as you move forward.

[00:07:53] Kristi Ebong: Yeah, that’s an interesting theme in a lot of ways, but I think it’s resonant for me in that, so often, and I say this, but we’re both moms and we’re both working moms outside the home. And in thinking about how we create space and pave a path for people behind us, where there may not have been one for us, or may have been more limited, so often the conversation starts and stops around STEM or STEAM. Hey, go get a STEM degree and that’s the future and that’s where we need skills. What advice would you give to others who are thinking about, where do I start? Where do I build from here? Is it as simple as go get a STEM degree? Or how do I think strategically about a space and making myself up-skilled and relevant in a very dynamic industry?

[00:08:43] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: It’s funny. I’ve been thinking a lot about the degrees and I have several of them. My husband does too, and we have children who are now growing up in a space where there’s so many opportunities that exist outside of that sort of traditional expectation. And honestly, I would, my advice would be to try something, try everything really. I have a STEM background. Science has been my thing for as long as I can remember, but I also have an art education nonprofit to honor my younger sister. And so I have never been in a nonprofit field. I always joke, I’m not an artist. But I guess I do break my kids’ hair, which is a form of art. But I was like, well, we’ll try it. You have the passion. And there’s so much at your fingertips and thinking about, back when we were younger and you had an Encyclopedia Britannica lining the wall, and you’re like, I need to learn about horses, where’s my h? You’re pulling that. Now we have so many things at our fingertips. So try something new. Explore thinking outside of this traditional framework that we expect to go from high school to your Bachelor’s to your Master’s to your Ph.D. or your M.D. and all those sort of sequential steps. Like there’s a network of things that branch out of that, or may not even include that. And so that’s the level of openness I’m trying to think about now. Even as I get older, I’m like, well, what do I want to do next? I said, I can’t get any more degrees. So I’ve taken that off. But what do I want to learn? There’s nothing outside of the realm of possibilities, I think.

[00:10:13] Kristi Ebong: I think that’s so interesting. One of the things that sticks with me when I think about your background is that you have a cross pollination, if you will, right? And so oftentimes, as you and I have discussed, you’re the only person who looks like you in the room and navigating that space with distinct experiences, access in different ways, exposure in different ways, and constraints as well. What is that experience like for you? What would you say to others who either may share that experience or not necessarily be accustomed to navigating a world where people don’t always look like themselves.

[00:10:52] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Yeah, no, that’s a complex and I have to honestly think about, what does that experience look like for me on this day, because it really does change. And then I think reflecting a bit on the credibility that comes with degrees and accreditations, et cetera, my undergraduate degree is from a historically black college and university, Hampton University. And I left high school with a four point something something, and I got a lot of pushback, interestingly, about choosing to go to Hampton versus Harvard or Yale, or any of the other schools that I was eligible to go to. But for me, having that experience at a black college and university, understanding the nurturing that comes from that gives me that cultural realm that I can then take to my other places. And I knew, and my parents told me, whatever degree you get, I’m sure you’ll be able to get into any school following that. So that’s Duke. That’s Johns Hopkins. That’s a postdoc at National Cancer Institute. And all those things, to your point, add credibility, but it doesn’t stop, for instance, when I was at, I think it was at FDA, somebody had been, we’d been emailing back and forth with Dr. Madison and oh, we’re going to have a meeting, back and forth, full emails. They walk into the door. I’m the only one sitting in the office. They walked into the door, walk back, look out the door, walk into the door again, walk back. “Well, I’m in the right. I’m looking for Dr. Hisani Madison”. I’m like, well, that’s me. Hi. So it’s those types of experiences that happen. But also on the other side, being who I am looking like, who I look like, is that, in a large company, I’m easy to find. So there’s people who I’ve met and they’re like, oh, I had this great conversation with you. And that really pulled some really important profound things. And I can not remember them at all. So there are really pluses and minuses too, but I try to think beyond what I look like, think beyond that only. I try and consider, okay, well, what are the pieces that connect me to people that might not look like me? Do I have similar book interests? Do I have a background that reflects a level of clothing? You know who, one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, who I met when I was doing my postdoc at NCI. We basically connected because we were one of the few people who were like very, very fashionable. It’s like, so you guys are like, post-doc researchers and you’re walking in here in three inch heels?. Yes. Because when I look good, I feel good. When I feel good, I do good. So having those connections, and she’s from Brazil and I’ve learned so much from her, so having those connections and thinking, what makes us alike versus what makes me different has really helped me feel more comfortable in spaces where, on paper, I am the only.

[00:13:32] Kristi Ebong: What you’re saying is powerful for many reasons, not just in terms of, as a playbook for everyone else to follow, myself included. As cheesy and cliche as it sounds, seeking those connection points is everything. It’s all the difference. I think about how I personally use that in my career every day. And it’s, that’s goal number one. It’s ground setting and it’s connection out of the gates because that connection builds trust, which ultimately opens the door to create business opportunities, which it sounds like you’re doing all the time.

[00:14:03] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: And I think you can find places to find connections and similarities, but also honor your differences. So I’ve had meetings with people. Every summer, I get my hair braided because it’s a protective hairstyle. It helps when I go swimming and go out and travel. And when I first started, people like literally did not recognize me. And we have conversations about race. I had people touch my hair. We had these conversations, but it’s about, how can I take, this is me, this is something different. It’s unique to my culture. How can I then bring that difference, bring all that experience that it brings, and bring people more familiar with that. So finding ways to connect on your similarities and honor your differences, I think is how we can balance that. And everyone learns and it just makes for better amazing teams, as well.

[00:14:50] Kristi Ebong: I love that. It’s resonant because, as you and I share in common, my kids are biracial. My husband’s black. And navigating the journey as a mom who hasn’t experienced a lot of those things firsthand and is having to catch up, quite candidly, I’ve appreciated your leadership too, even in things like social media, where you recount conversations. You recount situations and experiences that help give those of us who might not have experienced certain things firsthand context, and a playbook in how to approach differences and how to appreciate them in different ways and in respectful ways.

[00:15:27] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Yeah. It’s like I dealt with, like, can I get, “let’s talk science, not hair” on a t-shirt because, anytime I change my hair, which I do quite often, I go into a meeting and the first thing we talk about is hair. The first thing, like, oh, Hisani, your hair is different. It was longer. It’s shorter. It’s color. And I don’t see that, but interestingly enough, the men are just like, oh, Hisani, I like your hair. That’s it. I’m like, thank you. Thank you for that. Having that conversation just makes it easier. But I will say, on the wake of George Floyd and the racial reckoning, and some of the conversations that were happening, I had a lot of candid conversations with some of my team members that were driven from them, and they say, hey, let’s have this conversation, how did it make you feel when someone said X? And I’m able to have those conversations and thinking about how we’re changing and we’re moving as a culture. And I work in a global organization, so this is not always conversations with people from America. This is Europe, this is Asia. We’re having these conversations. And I think it has been really helpful and people to connect and empathize with what others are going through in recognizing there’s a whole person that’s coming to work. And one of my members joked with me, we our team meeting, like, oh Hisani, how are you doing? And my first response was like, I’m stressed. And then one of my team members. messaged me and said, thank you. No one ever says that. But just being candid, being clear, coming like I don’t have it all together. Today, right now, I’m really struggling. And being able to say that and have an open environment just builds a level of trust, a level of camaraderie that I think goes well beyond pretending that everything’s okay when, in some instances, it’s a world where your world is on fire.

[00:17:07] Kristi Ebong: You make it sound easy because you’re so self confident in that, but it’s not easy. And I want to acknowledge that. That confidence in being able to be vulnerable is a practice in the same way that it’s a practice to interact. What sustains you as a leader from the inside to have that confidence? Is it just seasoning and experience, because I’m guessing some of the people listening are younger of all genders and listening to you thinking, I wish I could feel that way intrinsically, but like, how did you get there?

[00:17:45] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Oh, gosh personal progress, right? I think all of us have like a lot of difficult things that we go through. I would probably say I have a lot that I have gone through. And one of those things that it has taught me is resilience and just this aspect that both can be true at the same time. So understanding that at this moment right now, I can feel put together, feel confident. And then in another arena or another area I can feel like, oh my gosh, I can’t handle this. I have no idea what’s going on. And I think we often feel like, to feel confident, to feel ready, to feel prepared, it has to be all around, everything, in all areas of your life. And for me, it has just been recognizing that both can be true. I can be confident and I can be cowardly in some instances at the same time and feel comfortable in those spaces. So understanding that, at this moment, what I’m going to do is channel my confidence. At this moment, what I’m going to do is channel, sometimes, my arrogance .And then at other times, just like, well, excellent. I’m just going to sit in the corner and be really quiet right now. And I think that has allowed me to pick up some things when I feel like I need to and I want to. And this comes with grief. This comes with baggage, financial stuff. Pick it up and then put it down when I’m ready and that relieves some of the load. And so just the idea, especially as like mothers and wives and partners, whatever, there’s so much that we have to carry and just being conscious and aware that you don’t have to carry all of the time. So you put it down and just be like, oh my God, this is the best, I’m so happy. And then maybe later you’re like, oh, well, I remember that my sister passed away on, well, my sister on March 30th, seven years ago. And so I know that’s coming up and I pick that up when I’m ready. I understand it. I embrace it. And then I put it down and carry on and both can be true. So that’s really just how I’ve operated and there has been a progression because sometimes it’s like, no nothing else is true. It was a horrible day. I have, this is the worst. And so I do pressure even my kids, they’re like, oh my God, I hate school. I’m like, what else is true?

[00:19:51] Kristi Ebong: Yes.

[00:19:51] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: They’re like, oh, well, I get to wear a pair of brand new Jordans to school. Yes. There you go. That’s the positive. And I got that from a women’s leadership summit that I went to. I was like, what else is true and how can we deliver that think in that way?

[00:20:06] Kristi Ebong: There is something in that. I love that you’re almost in a way training your kids, right, because repetition is a great way to learn. When you have those negative thoughts and those really, what I call, big feelings and you’re sitting in your big feelings, to have that little voice in your mind that says, well, what else is true, because it helps to balance that out. I would not say that resilience is always something people are seeking for their kids, but yet I’ve seen you with your kids. We’ve talked about these things and it’s something we share is wanting our kids to be resilient. How do you approach that in preparing them to navigate the world successfully, because it’s been such a critical part of your own personal and professional journey?

[00:20:51] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Yeah. So I have a range of children. I have a 2-year-old, I have an almost 9-year-old, and I have an almost 14-year-old. And so the lessons are a little bit different in terms of resilience and you want to balance giving your kids opportunities, but not sort of raising brats, right? And so for the younger ones, it’s simply saying no. It’s, I can, but actually no. Why not? Well, just because, no. And so they have to process the fact that mommy could give me that, I could get it, but what she’s saying is no. So that honestly builds a level of resilience as a younger child. For my teenager, for all of those with teenagers, wow. It is a consistent lesson, honestly. It is really pushing her to be able to fail, to acknowledge that failing is a part of learning, and to pressure test her like, okay, well, I want you to do this every day. One example. So she was a gymnast. She’s fine. If she sees this, she’s going to hate me for saying this. But she did gymnastics for a very long time and she was like, I’m done with it. I want to quit. I don’t want to do it anymore. She’s 13, their interests change. She has some injuries. And I said, well, the season is starting. You’re going to finish it. You’re going to finish it, period. It’s going to be hard. It’ll suck. You’re going to finish it. I’m like, yes, boom, teach resilience. I have also taught my children to speak up and advocate for what they want. So she goes into gymnastics and she says, so, I’m not going to be here practicing. I don’t want to do this. You can let my mother know that she’s wasting her time and money. So, yeah. So because, at that point, I was like, I’m not going to waste my money. I’m going to pull you. But what I did was like, well, she was in gymnastics practicing 20 hours a week. So now you have me for 20 hours. So we’re going to read together. We’re going to do our homework. We’re going to, actually, you’re going to give me an essay every week. So she’s read through a lot of books. Her latest one is Henrietta lacks, that book. And it’s

[00:23:04] Kristi Ebong: The Immortal life of Henrietta She’s that at age 13.

[00:23:09] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: because it teaches empathy. And so it’s just trying to understand that you… at times, like once she starts reading it, I make her read it out loud because I’m a mom. and that’s the type of resilience. We’ve had tears and it’s not the type of resilience that I had to go through where there were people calling me names or things like that, but, and I tell her, I said, one, you have to be kind to yourself because there are a lot of people out there who will be unkind to you. So say something positive, be kind to yourself, but also understand that the opportunities you have, the circles, there are a lot of times where they may not want you in it. So you’re going to have to push. But getting past that area where it’s uncomfortable or it’s hard is really where the growth happens. And so that’s kind of how I’m trying to instill it in her because it’s rough and, especially when both my husband and I have done really well for ourselves, and we want our children to travel and experience the world, but we also want them to understand that there’s a lot of hard things out there. And honestly, the way my parents taught it to me was, one life experiences, and two, volunteering. And so going to soup clinics, going to help and consider the homeless, and packaging up some of your stuff that you didn’t want to give away, but we’re going to give away. That also sort of taught resilience and empathy as well. So, and then more so seeing it than feeling it.

[00:24:30] Kristi Ebong: There’s a theme of proximity in your parenting that is also really relevant in your work. It’s that, when you get proximal to people and when your kids get proximal to the problems, all of a sudden it starts to become much more clear the way forward, right? And I think that’s fascinating. We’ve chosen to raise our kids here in the middle of San Francisco and they see a lot of things and it invokes a lot of questions, but that element of compassion and conversation that comes out of that proximity is powerful. And so it’s a good reminder to all of us to stay proximal, both in our parenting and our personal and professional conversations.

[00:25:08] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: It’s a consistent and conscious effort, kind of like being married successfully. It’s consistent and conscious effort, and choosing to be active and do these things every day. And then also sort of tapping in for a, how I’m doing and that wasn’t ever something my parents did. There wasn’t a, hey, how am I feeling about this? What are you thinking about my work-life balance? But I have those conversations with my kids because, when I was like, what do you mean by work life? But I have those conversations because I want to succeed in my professional career. There’s so many things I want to do, but I also want to be present and active in my children’s lives. So I have to check in, do a temperature check, even with them.

[00:25:50] Kristi Ebong: I’m going to go back a bit to this theme around leadership and there is a concept of being an accidental leader or an intentional leader. And I’m curious, do you consider yourself to be an accidental leader or an intentional one? And why?

[00:26:03] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Oh I consider myself to be, I think, both. I think when you are in a place where you do something really well, you do it really well at one point. And you’re like, and everyone’s like, oh my gosh, we got to get Hisani to do that. That’s that level of intentional leadership. And I find myself connecting with people and being able to find experiences and opportunities outside my sort of day to day. And that has been my sort of accidental leadership. And they’re like, oh, well, look, we’ll pull you over here. We’ll definitely do that. And even thinking about my activities with my sisters and my brothers and starting our nonprofit, ArtWorks 4 INA, that was really an accidental leadership. They’re like, Hisani, you’re ready. Take it. You got it. You’re leading. We’re gonna drive this. We know, with you in the front, this will succeed. And I think being flexible and open to either has really been what has given me so many opportunities and just being able to succeed. But I think also being able to say no to some of those leadership opportunities that people want to pull you in because you’ve done things well, you’ve shown that you can be an inspirational leader, and trying to balance. For me, what I think about is like, okay, well, where will I have the most impact? And those are the things that I pick up and it’s sort of that accidental leadership and pick like, oh, well they want me to do this, want me to do that. It’s like, where will I have the most impact? And that’s kind of how I navigate my life. It’s not really like, okay, who can I be connected to most, but it’s really about impact. And ultimately leads me to the place where I’m destined to be.


[00:27:39] Kristi Ebong: Said another way, you’re really aligning your own personal value chain, right? It’s a business concept, but you’re saying, where’s the most value here? And you do the same thing in your work, same thing in your personal life. And it’s a good skill to practice.

[00:27:55] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Yeah, no. And because I am a working mom, I sometimes have to do that with my kids’ activities.

[00:28:01] Kristi Ebong: Yeah.

[00:28:02] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: It was like, where will my presence give the most impact? I have two kids who both do sports and activities, different things. And I have to really think about, okay, well they want me here and they want, and I know that this is a time where they’ve had a challenge or they know they’re going to get like a 9.5 on fall to floor or something for gymnastics. I want to be there because I know them being able to look up and say, oh, I saw my mom, there will be important. So it’s that value, that impact. And I think those are the things that they remember. But also, and from a business perspective of the things that really help drive you to that next level because doing, my mentor, we didn’t really talk about mentorship, but she was, like do fewer things, but do them well. And that has really sat with me. It’s like, I don’t have to do everything that people want to loop me into, but what can I do well and what can be impactful?

[00:28:51] Kristi Ebong: The concept of being able to say no is an interesting one. Again, at this intersection of professional and personal, I think so often, there’s differences generationally in how we raise kids, right? And now there’s this concept of, well, earlier you teach them how to set boundaries, said another way, how to walk into the gymnastics studio and say, no, I’m actually not doing this and you can tell my mother. It’s actually incredible, and the younger that you can learn that, the more run time you have in flexing it, the more effective we can be in building and doing the work that we’re now doing today.

[00:29:26] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Yeah. And I’ve realized with my children, that is a balance that you can instill pretty young and even my middle child, she likes ballet. She likes gymnastics and she says, well, I don’t mind doing both, but I just don’t want to do it on Saturday. That’s my relaxation time.

[00:29:44] Kristi Ebong: I love that. So how old is she?

[00:29:47] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: She’ll be nine in June.

[00:29:48] Kristi Ebong: At nine years old, she’s able to say like, my Sabbath is on Saturday and I’m taking space.

[00:29:54] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Yeah she says, this is my relaxation time and she’ll sit there and play Roblox or any other activity, but she likes an extended time of chill. So I have to respect that when I’m booking activities for her.

[00:30:07] Kristi Ebong: Yeah, no, I love it. I think we’ve talked about a lot of different things. We’ve talked about your background, your personal professional journey, kind of what’s gotten you to where you are today, this intersection of parenting and the lessons that it has for us as female leaders in the space and the concepts around leadership. If you had one piece of advice to give to your younger self, what would that be?

[00:30:32] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Surround yourself with the right people. And I think we sometimes minimize the value of a really good support network because, when I was younger, my high school days, I was, this is, I got this it’s me. I can do this. And my best friend, Katrina, she was that person who was like, oh, I love you Hisani, giving me a hug. I’m like, why are you hugging me? I don’t know, what are you doing? And then even thinking about my transition to Duke, I was raising a brand new baby. My husband was doing his graduate program at a different place. And my network there was just what carried me through. And so thinking about what your support looks like, and even through this pandemic, working from home, my husband and his flexibility to say, all right, well, I got this newborn baby. You get the work you do. And then there’ll be times where you switch off when I’m like, I have all the kids, you get the work done that you need to get done. But ensuring that you’re supporting. Is from and solid will carry you through so many different things and acknowledging that you can’t have it all, you can’t do it all, but with a really good support network, you can delegate effectively. And so the things that you really want to do, you can do very well. So I think that’s what I would tell my younger self. Maintain those support systems through all the phases.

[00:31:50] Kristi Ebong: That’s everything. I mean, I couldn’t have said it better. There is the support network, which you have to be really intentional about when you’ve time constraints and vulnerable and outreach and reach out to people and say, I need help. I might not even know what I need help with, but I’m just I’m drowning.

[00:32:09] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Yes. Can you pick just this one thing up for me and being vulnerable enough to acknowledge that, to say that, and continuing those connections where people don’t feel, when you’re reaching out, really, why are they contacting me? But keeping those connections strong has been important, both from a business perspective and a personal perspective.

[00:32:28] Kristi Ebong: It’s amazing. I love it. Just one last thing before we wrap. If you were to write your story, the Dr. Hisani Madison story, what would you title it and why?

[00:32:39] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Definitely, I probably would title it, “Both Can be True”, right? There’s that ratchet from College Park and prim and proper member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. There’s that Hasani that’s well put together. And then Hisani that’s sometimes falling apart. Being able to show both sides of the coin effectively. So I would probably be, “Both Can be True”. You can be amazing and struggling sometimes at the same time, but it doesn’t negate the power and strength that exists. So I think that’ll be the title of my book.

[00:33:14] Kristi Ebong: It’s brilliant. I mean, for being one of the youngest in the boardroom so many times, you’re bringing some real wisdom to the table. Thank you so much Hisani for joining us today, for sharing your personal journey, your professional journey, and what you’re working on with novel immunotherapeutics for cancer is nothing short of amazing. And yeah, I think what’s really a blessing we’re grateful for is the way that you’re creating a playbook for others to follow. So thanks again.

[00:33:45] Hisani Madison, Ph.D., MPH: Thank you for inviting me. It’s been wonderful and, of course, I always love talking to you, so I really appreciate the time to chat. Thanks.

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