Pharmacy & Healthcare

Meet the team bringing clinical trials to Walgreens

Different paths brought them together, but there’s one thing these five leaders have in common: A dedication to making clinical trials more accessible, convenient and equitable.
Brittany Kruk, Walgreens Stories
They’re industry leaders with decades of healthcare experience. One’s also a photographer, another a Jeopardy! champion and romance novelist. They’re new to Walgreens, and they’re here for one reason: to disrupt the clinical trials sector.

And this impressive group is up for the challenge.

Last week, Walgreens announced the launch of its new clinical trial business, which aims to redefine the patient experience and increase patient access and retention in drug development research. But how, you ask? By building on our deep patient insights, strategic healthcare partnerships, convenient digital care solutions, plus a footprint of more than 9,000 stores across the U.S.—half of which are in socially vulnerable areas.

This is even more important considering 20% of drugs have a variation in responses across ethnic groups, yet 75% of clinical trial participants are white, while only 11% are Hispanic and fewer than 10% are Black and Asian, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Learn more about the Walgreens Clinical Trials leadership team—the brains behind this important work—including their backgrounds, personal passions and what drives them to continue breaking down barriers for diverse patient populations.

Meet Ramita Tandon, Chief Clinical Trials Officer

Ramita Tandon
Tell us how your career path led you to Walgreens.
I‘ve spent more than 25 years in the healthcare and life sciences industry. Across every stop in my career, I’ve been building and leading clinical trials businesses, continuously seeking innovative ways to partner with biopharmaceutical companies and uncover the patient voice to operate trials more effectively. I’m a firm believer that everyone should be educated, empowered and given an opportunity to cutting-edge therapies that improve their health. This is why I’m thrilled to lead the Clinical Trials business at Walgreens. We’re working to create a new and different kind of operating model that not only provides research options for patients, but also connects our trial patients to our suite of Walgreens pharmacy and healthcare services—prescriptions, vaccines, screenings and more.

What’s something people may not know about you?
Outside of work, I’m involved with organizations that offer life-saving care, shelter and support to traumatized women and children living in poverty. Providing education to children can serve as a foundation that keeps their hopes alive, which is extremely important to me. I’m also an advocate for women’s equality. When I wrap up my career in life sciences, my hope is to become an international ambassador for education, health and women’s rights.

What excites you most as you think about the potential of clinical trials at Walgreens?
There are so many structural and clinical barriers that serve as reasons why patients do not participate in research. Because 70% of patients live more than two hours from the closest clinical research site, we have such a tremendous opportunity to change the paradigm by creating a model that’s centered around the patient and their needs, instead of the clinic and the industry. Walgreens’ trusted community presence across the nation, combined with our data and health capabilities will be a gamechanger for how we transform the patient experience.

What’s the biggest challenge you hope to solve in your role leading this team?
As we look to disrupt the clinical trials ecosystem, it will require a complete rethinking by all stakeholders about the entire clinical trial process. To activate this new model, we want patients to feel like they’re part of this process and understand our mission to make research participation accessible as the industry continues to employ innovative approaches to advance new therapies.
Meet Kendal Whitlock, Head of Digital Optimization, Real World Evidence Clinical Trials

Kendal WhitlockTell us how your career path led you to Walgreens.
I’ve spent 20+ years in the pharmaceutical industry, in various areas, including clinical development and medical affairs, market access/business innovation and global clinical operations with a focus on digital clinical trials. Prior to this, I worked across multiple disease areas on public health programs in academic medicine, a county health department and medical education agencies, with a focus on professional education for physicians, nurses and pharmacists. The pursuit of solutions that allow an equitable opportunity for patients to feel better, function better or potentially live longer has been a constant theme in my career.

What’s something people may not know about you?
I’ve worked internationally as a photographer on a project designed to elevate awareness about the rise in suicidal ideation and suicide among child-headed households that resulted from parental loss due to HIV/AIDS.

What excites you most as you think about the potential of clinical trials at Walgreens?
I’m over-the-moon with excitement about the potential impact that access and opportunity to learn about clinical trials can be for patients already served by Walgreens, and the catalysts that community members can be for others in their respective health and wellness journeys.

What’s the biggest challenge you hope to solve in your new role?
The biggest challenge I hope to address is the digital divide, which can further limit the engagement that patients and communities can have as partners in bridging gaps in scientific evidence. Consistent and complete participation in clinical trials, supported by digital health technologies, is needed to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of therapies in patients who may be prescribed these medicines. We are reimagining clinical trial execution, leveraging real-world data, collaborating with patients early and throughout the clinical trial process, while ensuring our patients’ data and privacy is protected.

Meet John Campbell, Head of Decentralized Clinical Trials

John CampbellTell us how your career path led you to Walgreens.
Throughout my career, starting in patient advocacy and then in a series of roles in clinical research, I’ve focused on finding ways to empower patients as partners in research. I spent the past several years building out a decentralized contract research organization (CRO), developing trials that reduced patient burden and increased the meaningfulness of data. These experiences have shaped my understanding of the gaps between traditional clinical trials and what really matters to patients. At Walgreens, we have an opportunity to bridge the gap between the clinical trial ecosystem and the everyday lives of patients. Through our vast footprint and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we have a chance to transform clinical trials to better serve these communities.

What’s something people may not know about you?
In college, I co-founded a nonprofit that brought talented Afghan students to high school and college in the U.S. As part of our work, I ran a selection process and tutorial program in Afghanistan and worked to secure scholarships at schools abroad. I secured more than $2 million in scholarships, and alumni of the program have attended Harvard, Georgetown, Cambridge and Johns Hopkins, among other schools. Also, I spent a few years writing romance novels and I am a Jeopardy! champion.

What excites you most as you think about the potential of clinical trials at Walgreens?
I’ve dedicated my career to developing patient-centric clinical trials, and Walgreens has an opportunity to empower patients who have traditionally been excluded from research to participate for the first time. 

What’s the biggest challenge you hope to solve in your new role?
For many patients, clinical trials are confusing and inaccessible. Walgreens is in a unique position to demystify clinical trials and make them accessible to a diverse set of patients. By running trials that combine our local presence with technology that streamlines participation, we can enable these communities to participate and improve the diversity and equity of trials.

Meet Liam Wood, Head of Product, Clinical Trials

Liam WoodTell us how your career path led you to Walgreens.
My grandfather was a pharmacist at Boots in the UK, and I was planning on following in his footsteps. During my degree, I did an internship as a clinical trials data manager and loved the work so much I decided to change my plans. Even though I was initially interested in the medical side of the business, I quickly focused on technology and process. Since then, I have designed, built and implemented technology solutions to streamline clinical trials and spent my entire career in this industry. Who would have thought I’d end up following my grandfather’s path to Walgreens Boots Alliance … even if it was 30 years later!

What’s something people may not know about you?
In 2014, I was drafted to help U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services fix problems with, which had launched the year prior. I’m proud of the work we did to help ensure that year two was a success.

What excites you most as you think about the potential of clinical trials at Walgreens?
Clinical trials offer people access to the latest and greatest therapies. For many, this opportunity can be life changing. At Walgreens, we can provide access to these trials for underserved populations. There are many people who can’t afford the time and cost of travelling to the large clinical trial centers. Through our technology and our healthcare services, we can make clinical trials available for everyone.

What’s the biggest challenge you hope to solve in your new role?
Technology is already making massive strides in the execution of clinical trials, but there are many opportunities for improvement. One of the biggest challenges for any clinical trial is recruiting and keeping patients. We will use our data and analytics to identify those communities with the greatest need and provide healthcare and clinical trial services to them. Another big issue in clinical trials is efficiency. Many steps are still performed manually and on paper. We will use technology and automation to ensure that we have the most efficient and compliant processes in place.

Meet Adam Samson, Head of Clinical Delivery Operations, Clinical Trials

Adam SamsonTell us how your career path led you to Walgreens.
My career in clinical research—first working directly with patients, then moving into operational and leadership roles within academia, pharma, and tech—has given me the perspective to see the vast potential Walgreens has to offer the clinical trial industry. I’ve always looked for roles that would allow me to bring clinical trial opportunities to underserved populations. My ability to continue this effort will grow exponentially with Walgreens’ resources and vision to be the leading partner in reimagining local healthcare and wellbeing for all.

What’s something people may not know about you?
I’m fortunate to be a study participant in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trial. I received my first dose of the vaccine in August 2020, and my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. It has allowed me to gain first-hand insights into the experience of clinical trial participants, and I am doing my best to apply this knowledge to my work every day.

What excites you most as you think about the potential of clinical trials at Walgreens?
There is an industry-wide movement to make clinical trials more patient-centric, easily accessible and diverse. Walgreens has several differentiators that position it well to lead this effort, such as thousands of retail pharmacies that service myriad patient populations, and a highly recognizable brand that is trusted in the communities it serves.

What’s the biggest challenge you hope to solve in your new role?
Many within our industry would agree that the most significant concern we are facing is ensuring the recruitment of diverse patient populations. This is the challenge I’m most eager to help solve by leveraging our existing infrastructure and building additional capabilities to run hyperlocal, tech-enabled clinical trials.

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