Caoimhe Vallely-Gilroy

Caoimhe Vallely-Gilroy Head of Data Analytics and Strategy, Healthcare

We all deserve respect

I’m that one who speaks her mind. I’m an outspoken believer in fairness and in the goodness of people. A friend once described me as having a really ingrained justice streak. I’ve always tried to stand up for people who don’t have the chance, or cannot stand up for themselves – if it impacts me negatively but makes someone else’s life better, I can live with it.

Perhaps it’s genetic. My family has a lot of strong women. My mum is the oldest of six (five girls and one boy) and I’m the oldest grandchild. If you join us for a family dinner, you may not get a word in edgewise. Coming from this environment of openness and unwavering support, I’ve learned that I can make a difference.

Self-confidence is a journey

At some point, I was in a job and relationship where I didn’t laugh or talk as much, and I realized that I had lost my sense of self. I felt as if tiny parts of me had been steadily chipped away, eroding my passion and purpose. I didn’t recognize myself; I was miserable and it crushed me.

I’m bisexual, which is not something I hide, but it is something that I am constantly aware of as something that makes me stand out in a way that is not always positive to some people. I feel lucky that I have the ability to have been influenced by both male and female partners as I believe that has made me a much more rounded person.

Yet, being bisexual can be more confusing to cultures that are not as understanding or progressive and makes me always wonder, is my sexuality seen or used as an excuse not to understand me as a person?

I realized that I was placing the discomfort of others over my own and I remember trying to take up as little space as possible.

Although we’ve progressed in terms of LGBTQ legislation, rights and acceptance, I still find myself using neutral pronouns, they or them, when talking about relationships just because I’m cautious of a negative reaction or of raising an underlying prejudice. I still deliberately adjust how I present myself and censure my words in order to make myself palatable. This editing is a constant in my life, and a challenge our LGBTQ community faces every day.

My moment of Pride

So, I started taking up space. I realized that what’s most important to me is my integrity, both with myself and with others. I try do what’s right whether or not anyone is watching. I have no agenda; I am who I am and I try to keep my word. This is me and my normal – and it is normal – and I shouldn’t have to hide it.

Every day, I proudly wear my rainbow watchstrap as a reminder that every one of us has a story to tell. We have a responsibly to stand up for ourselves, our friends, our families, our colleagues, our community and any individual labeled as different. We need to be the change we want to see.  

Keeping our promises

It is this attitude and integrity that I bring to work every day, where I strive to protect and honor our patients’ rights. Every person is the steward of their own body. This basic human right – the right to autonomy and self-determination – must be respected. Clinical trials rely on volunteers who understand that they may not even benefit from the trial. But they volunteer anyway, despite hardship or time away from loved ones, because they know that they might make a difference in someone else’s life. This selfless attitude drives us to minimize clinical trial burden on our patients and get the full value out of their contributions.

I came to Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany to support the collection and usage of patient samples ethically and carefully, during and long after a trial concludes. We are developing a data platform to provide cross-company access to clinical samples for future research, in line with patient consent want to boost scientific research with patient data, and recognize what patient’s sacrifice during a trial by respecting their wishes regarding the samples and information they extend to us. This is something I’m highly passionate about.

Making all patient data count

I’m a blue-sky thinker. Patient samples and data should answer more than one question and we should be able to curate it easily. How can we convert the patient data we have and unlock its potential to ensure that it’s used to the fullest? I’ve recently stepped into a newly created position, Head of Data Analytics and Strategy, Healthcare, and have the wonderful opportunity to define Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s vision for long-term data usage. I love what I do and know that I’m contributing to developments that someday will help patients being able to live a fuller or longer life.

At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, we have a moral and ethical obligation to our patients and their rights. I’ve had the privilege of putting together a team that epitomizes our culture of curiosity and innovation; no two people have the same skill set, and more importantly, they each think differently. Value and respect are what guide us and I truly believe that our vast quantities of data are key to reducing patient burden, managing sustainable manufacturing,  and getting much needed medication to market faster.