For some people, an “ah ha” moment in a high school classroom leads to a career as a bench scientist at a biotechnology company, like Vertex. For others, like Rocky de Kok-Somviengxay, the road to a career in the life sciences is a combination of rising above circumstances and a desire to make a difference in people’s lives.
Rocky is part of our GMP Quality team where she oversees certain activities related to our various potential medicines that are being used in clinical trials. Though Rocky has extensive experience in quality, manufacturing and management, it is her personal story and perspective that embody our culture.
Rocky was born in Laos, but her family escaped the political unrest when she was just an infant. They spent the next couple of years in a refugee camp in Thailand until a couple in rural Connecticut agreed to sponsor them, allowing them to move to the United States. Growing up, Rocky wanted to be a doctor so she could connect with patients in need, but she also felt the pressure of cultural limitations and expectations for women, particularly those from an immigrant family. As a small child she remembers being told that she couldn’t play sports because she was a girl, but she played anyways and earned her nickname, “Rocky,” on the soccer field.
This same perseverance led Rocky to attend Simmons College in Boston where she studied Biology and had the opportunity to intern at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. While interning, she heard stories from patients who were looking to enroll themselves or a family member in clinical trials. It was then that she realized that she could make a difference for patients by working in the life sciences.
Looking back now on her journey and the obstacles that she has overcome, Rocky believes it is important to give back to those around her. During our recent Day of Service, she shared her story with a group of students at Green Academy in South Boston, some of them immigrants themselves. She told them, “Each person’s struggle is unique, but know that your struggle doesn’t have to hold you back – it can make you better, and it can bring people together.”