Dave Kern, 37
BS ’07; PhD epidemiology ’16

Senior director of epidemiology, Janssen Research & Development (Titusville, New Jersey)

My Greatest Accomplishment:  Professionally, co-developing the REWARD system, which can give us the ability to use observational data to understand more about the efficacy and safety of medications at deeper magnitudes than we’ve ever been able to previously, has been one of my proudest achievements. However, there is still much more to be done, and I believe our work will have a tremendous impact on the well-being of all patients. On the personal side, running has provided me with a major sense of accomplishment. I began running in May 2020 after the pandemic shutdowns went into effect, as a way to preserve my sanity and avoid the COVID “19.” To keep motivated, I set the goal to complete a half marathon by the end of 2020. After completing it that fall, I knew I had to run the full 26.2 miles. In November 2021, I completed the Philadelphia Marathon under my goal of four hours. While finishing those last 6 miles of the race was one of the most difficult things I’ve done, I can’t wait to do another in 2022.

How Drexel Helped Me:  My co-op program during undergrad had a huge influence on where I am today. As a math major, I was never sure what I wanted to do with my degree; it felt like my options were to become an actuary or math teacher. The co-op allowed me to try three different jobs in completely different industries. The third rotation landed me at GlaxoSmithKline as a data analyst. There, I learned about observational claims data and biostatistics, and it was the catalyst to pursuing my master’s degree in biostatistics at Columbia. My PhD program provided a completely different influence. During my career my work has focused on pharmacoepidemiology, but at Drexel I was able to study the area of social epidemiology. My time at Drexel helped me understand that health care is a human right and we should always be striving for equity in the health care system. I hope my work helps achieve that in some way.

My Greatest Source of Motivation:  Mainly my kids (1 and 4 years old) and doing what I can to make the world better for them than it was for me. But there’s a much broader motivation also — we have the potential to make an impact on millions of people’s lives. There is so much more we can learn and so much more we can benefit from existing data, we just need to understand it.

Where I Hope to Be in Five Years:  I hope to be in a position where we have devised the tools to discover and develop effective treatments for some of the most debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and to better understand which drugs are most effective and safest for which patients. I hope that knowledge allows greater access to appropriate care for all individuals.

If My Life Were a Music Video, the Song Would Be: The training montage from “Rocky IV”.