Black History Month

February’s Black History Month honors the history and achievements of Black Americans.  Our Black Heritage Employee Resource Group asked three of their members to reflect on the importance of this milestone in their own life and which notable figure they are most inspired by.  Meet Kemothy, Beryl and Jennifer!

Kemothy T. Ruffin, Jr., MS&T Specialist, Cincinnati, OH

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What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is the time of year where I reflect on the black person's plight throughout history. The time set aside to honor my ancestors for their individual sacrifices and express appreciation for the successes of their collective efforts. Reading and hearing stories of African Americans who have beat the odds gives me the strength to continue showing up every day, ready to make my mark in history. It encourages me to find ways to give back to my family and my community; this is the ultimate way to demonstrate gratitude.

Is there a figure in Black history that has been inspirational to you and why? 

My grandfather is my inspirational Black history story. John E. McMullen, is an 89-year old retired pastor and father of 5. His father was a sharecropper in Jackson, Georgia, and at the age of 16, John was sent to Ohio after he had been told by the property owner that he was to address the property owner’s son as mister. Having only a 6th grade education, John made a living working on equipment at Milacron where he would later retire. John E. McMullen is known by many in the Cincinnati Christian community for his powerful sermons, dynamic singing, and compassionate spirit. Having him as a grandfather has truly been a blessing as he has poured so much wisdom into me. One day while struggling with my studies, he said “son, don’t focus on the size of the mountain, just start climbing.” I find that even to this day, those words often visit me, and are as encouraging today as they were when he uttered them. John E. McMullen I honor you.

What achievement at Teva are you most proud of?

In 2014, along with four colleagues, we created a Rewards and Recognition program for the Teva site where I work. This program resulted in a significant increase in employee engagement and morale among those working at the site. In 2015, I helped roll out our site’s packaging validation initiative; and am the site’s first and only specialist in the role.


Beryl A. Ojwang, MD, MBA, MPH, Medical Science Liaison, U.S. Field Medical Affairs

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What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is a chance to shine a light on the achievements of African-Americans and their industrial, scientific and cultural contributions to the United States. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, the evening news was constantly filled with negative bulletins and stereotypes often aimed at creating a narrative that black individuals were a drain on society. I admit, that even as an immigrant, I absorbed some of those negative stories and held them to be true. However, every day my family, friends, and community showed me that black people have risen above and contributed so much that their history cannot be ignored. I hold Black History Month as a sacred milestone each year to give pause, give thanks, and give back to the men and women who have shaped history, but often go unnoticed.

Is there a figure in Black history that has been inspirational to you and why? 

Dr. Charles Drew was a researcher and a surgeon who revolutionized the understanding of plasma, allowing for the liquid to be stored for longer periods of time. His research established protocols on how blood should be collected and refrigerated, how donors should be recruited and screened, and training methods for people who would collect and test blood. His work was critical during World War II, leading to effective battlefield storage and many lives saved. His work is still impactful today, especially in my life, since my own father requires bi-weekly plasma transfusion. It is inspiring to know that Dr. Drew’s legacy not only impacts my life, but the lives of many others till this day.

What achievement at Teva are you most proud of?

My proudest achievement at Teva involved repairing a damaged business relationship with a healthcare provider. Through presence, persistence, and collaboration, Teva’s image and business relationship were restored and I look forward to a continued rewarding partnership.


Jennifer Barnes, NA Pharmacovigilance Manager, Compliance, Parsippany, NJ

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What does Black History Month mean to you?

For me Black History is about remembering the past. Our ancestors endured so much for us to have the privileges and freedom we enjoy today. I use this month to reflect on their trials and tribulations, and ensure my children engage in some type of learning activity for black history, since I’m well aware that this topic is not always adequately represented in public schools. I also use this month to figure out ways that I can create my own black history moving forward. It’s not just about remembering, but figuring out a way to create and add to Black History.

Is there a figure in Black history that has been inspirational to you and why? 

Right now, I’m focused on Cicely Tyson. Her movies were so inspirational and she lived such a wonderful life…..classy, elegant…poised…a true Queen! I want to be like her when I grow up.

What achievement at Teva are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my efforts to increase collaboration between pharmacovigilance and our many stakeholders at Teva. Many people at Teva know what we do, and I work very hard to ensure there is a good working relationship between Pharmacovigilance and their other teams within Teva. Pharmacovigilance impacts so many other business units and it’s important that they understand how we have to work together to build compliant programs. I believe strongly in the “One Teva” principle and I try to share that with my colleagues.


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