Dr. Lamousé-Smith's career journey has been emphatically her own: Since setting her sights on becoming a physician-scientist in high school, she's never looked back. The story of her success since joining Johnson & Johnson, however, is anything but an outlier.
Here's how, in her own words, leaving academia to join our immunology practice reawakened “the feeling that I’m driven for, and by, myself.”
On the Physician-Scientist Track From an Early Age
Dr. Lamousé-Smith recalls making up her mind about her career path early on.
“For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “But one summer while I was in high school, I had the chance to work as a lab assistant. That summer really broadened my horizons. It showed me I had a passion for this kind of work and put me on the path to becoming a physician-scientist.”
Unlike physicians, for example, whose work primarily involves the application of existing knowledge, physician-scientists focus on researching and discovering new knowledge. And Dr. Lamousé-Smith was hooked on the quest.
After earning an undergraduate degree in biology, she began building an impressive academic pedigree: first, a combined M.D./Ph.D. in immunology, then a pediatric residency, a clinical fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology, and eventually a job as assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center.
Taking the Leap: From Academia to Industry
At the top of her game, Dr. Lamousé-Smith nonetheless felt like something was off.
In part, it was the competition for funding, which in her specialty—chronic diseases—was especially intense. “That was incredibly frustrating,” Dr. Lamousé-Smith recalled, “because in that kind of environment, you wind up being so narrowly focused on your own little island of interests. You have to be."
Worse than the frustration for Dr. Lamousé-Smith were the ways in which constantly focusing on funding seemed to constrain her inborn curiosity. It was more than a mere distraction; it held her enthusiasm for research and discovery in check.
So she knew a change was in order: “I wanted to return to the feeling that I’m driven for, and by, myself.” Never one to half-step, Dr. Lamousé-Smith made the bold leap, leaving behind her career in academia to join the immunology team at Johnson & Johnson.
What’s With the Title?
Dr. Lamousé-Smith's current title at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson may be something of a mouthful: Senior Director, Early Development Translational Science and Medicine in Immunology. What does that mean, exactly?
Translational science and medicine refers to how biological discoveries get "translated" into new drugs and treatments for patients. Add to the mix early development and immunology, Dr. Lamousé-Smith's two other specialties, and it means she's using her expert knowledge of the human immune system to advance new treatment options for children and adults.
"My work right now is both intellectually fun and very challenging," she said. "It’s all about trying to understand why something performs the way it does—and when it doesn’t, why it doesn’t. There’s a lot on the line, because when things go well, that often means we can progress to the next stage of a clinical trial."
And contributing to the development of those trials brings Dr. Lamousé-Smith into the orbit of multidisciplinary stakeholders every day at Johnson & Johnson—discovery scientists, experts in translational science and biomarkers, pharmacologists, regulatory teams and more.
“We’re all aligned around a common mission to collaborate and conduct research at sites around the world,” she said. "I think that Johnson & Johnson is just a great place to work for anyone coming from a research background.”
Set Up for Success From Day One
What's been the key to all of her success so far? For one thing, she says, her manager worked with her to create a personalized development plan. She's also had great mentors to turn to for advice. Beyond that, she said, "I think it's the fact that I jumped right in"—a practice she calls "learning by doing." She added: "That's sort of like second nature to a physician-scientist."
Plus, it didn’t hurt that Johnson & Johnson took care to ensure the success of her transition from day one.
"In my first year here, I took part in an immersive physician-integration program,” she recalled. “The company had gathered new hires who were also physician-scientists—people like me—from around the world. We all came together to learn, network and build a sense of community. It was a great start."
Break Through With Johnson & Johnson Today
Ready to join Dr. Lamousé-Smith, write your own success story and make a positive impact in the lives of people everywhere? Check out the openings we have in immunology right now, or you can explore all of the opportunities to join Johnson & Johnson today.