As a 25-year-old African-American woman working in Manhattan for a major Fortune 500 company in the mid-1980’s, I had it all: great job, solid income, new car and much more than my now-47-year-old brain can remember. Yes, those were such fond memories. My body endured 12-hour work days, followed by meeting colleagues for cocktails at 8 pm and then dinner by 9:30. My young body still remained lean to fit into my size 8 Harve Benard suits for my 7:30 am meetings the next morning. Conveniently, my father’s youngest brother enjoyed a fabulous bachelor pad on the Upper West side, where I laid my head to sleep when I missed the last train back to Jersey.
My uncle, who was just 12 years my senior, secretly loved when I missed my ride home so that he could fuss over his baby niece for the evening. I loved it, too, because I dreaded that dark and lonely journey back over to the other side of the Hudson River. We sincerely enjoyed each others’ company, especially when singing Patti Labelle songs off-key and a little too loudly.
We threw parties together in his finely decorated art-deco apartment overlooking Columbus Avenue. The combination of his metrosexual friends and my business associates made for lively debates and sincere everlasting comradeships, until one day, a stranger arrived.
My uncle was smitten. Romance ensued. HIV resulted.
Within months, I lost my dearest friend, my loving uncle, my confidante, my parent who loved me unconditionally. My life was blank. His death on December 27, 1987 became my anger. I was angry because I felt like someone should have been able to save him.
Why weren’t there enough AIDS drugs available to help him? Had the experimental drugs available at the time been tested on African-American men? Was he part of an underserved population and overlooked for treatments? Why wasn’t there enough information available for him to go seek proper drug treatments? Why had AIDS been around for years and still no medications available to save him?
After years of sulking, I decided to turn my misery into the driving force to do something about what happened to my uncle; my unrelenting focus was to form a company whose mission was to be the center of excellence for the clinical testing of biologics that have the highest impact to African-American communities. My challenge was to raise the money and find the best of the best: those who were dedicated to saving all of our “uncles” around the world.
In late 2004, A10 Solutions, Inc. (now A10 Clinical Solutions) was born. Our mission is to be the center of excellence for clinical trials research and healthcare delivery focused on therapeutic products that will aid in combating diseases in patients that have traditionally experienced healthcare disparities. HIV was our driver; other diseases that greatly affect minorities quickly followed. This year will mark my uncle’s 23rd anniversary of his death. I repay him each day by providing critical clinical trials services to assure that all “uncles” are able to provide their nieces the special relationship that only our dear wonderful uncles know how.
Entrepreneurs Shaping Public Policy: Hear A10 CEO Leah Brown at Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum November 2012