Calethia Hodges: “We’ve been through worse — and survived”

Stay positive: Corona will not beat us; we will beat corona. Life will return back to normal. It’s just a blip in history, a shared experience for all of humanity in 2020. As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had […]

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Stay positive: Corona will not beat us; we will beat corona. Life will return back to normal. It’s just a blip in history, a shared experience for all of humanity in 2020.

As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Calethia Hodges.

Calethia T. Hodges is the founder and CEO of Infinite Clinical Trials, LLC. Prior to founding, Infinite Clinical Trials, Ms. Hodges executed large scale, global clinical development portfolios from early development through life cycle management. These included over 60 studies at 1000+ sites in over ten countries treating over 30,000+ subjects resulting in 7 major global regulatory submissions and approvals.

Ms. Hodges obtained her Bachelor of Science at DePaul University and holds professional certificates in Clinical Trials Monitoring, Obtaining Approval for Clinical Trials in US & EU, and Clinical Trials Management from Biopharma Institute.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I am blessed to own a thriving independent clinical trial practice, Infinite Trials, LLC. Our standalone 8,700-square foot facility is located in Morrow, Georgia. Our commitment at Infinite Trials is to help our community: we run clinical trials to evaluate life-saving and transformative new drugs.

My life as it is now is a welcome change from what it once was. In my early days, I was barely making ends meet.

In my youth, all I saw was poverty and struggle. I knew I didn’t want that for myself. In the hope of finding a different path, I began reading the Bible.

In one particular passage, the Lord says, “If you will, then I will.” I found hope in those words: I saw that when I began to give to God, He would, in turn, bless me with abundance. So, I started tithing faithfully every month. I was ready to show my renewed faith to God. I knew that it was through a stronger relationship with Him that I would find strength, opportunity, and success.

In 2005, I graduated from DePaul University. Shortly afterward, I began working for a major clinical research organization. Over the next decade, I spent nearly 75% of my time traveling. I gained valuable management experience in the pharmaceutical industry. I worked for Fortune 500 companies in the biotech, pharma, and CRO sectors of clinical research and development across multiple therapeutic areas and geographies. My industry experience in clinical research includes operational oversight of Phases I — IV drug development across multiple platforms, including drugs, devices, small molecule, biologics, and vaccines.

God’s greatest to me, however, was the creation of my three beautiful daughters, Sorea, Calia, and Wynter. I was blessed with the three of them in my late thirties, just as my career was at its most demanding. Despite the immense joy my daughters brought me, constant travel began to burn me out. While I never stopped tithing and helping others, I began to pray for the work/life balance I so desperately needed. At all times, my highest priority was being there for my daughters in their childhood.

In 2017, with no business loan, the Lord blessed me with my business: Infinite Clinical Trials, LLC.

Since then, my passion has been in discovering new treatments for diseases. I feel a sense of greater purpose in finding new ways to detect, diagnose, and reduce the chances of developing diseases. I love seeing people choose to participate in trials that result in new, more effective treatments — and, most importantly, thinking about the millions of people that these treatments will help. Even during times of struggle, I surmount all obstacles thanks to proper pretrial planning, patient education, genuine commitment and concern by study staff, and, ultimately, hard work.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I can’t recommend the book “The Gift of Participation” enough. One of the biggest struggles I face is trying to get people to understand why clinical trials are so important. There is a lot of stigma and fear, which is a shame because clinical trials save lives.

This book help alleviates a lot of that stigma and fear. It showcases how clinical trials can make a profound impact on the health of not just the participants, but of all people across the world.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective, can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

It can be tough to stay hopeful during a pandemic. As with any news, many of the stories out there are going to be negative.

But that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. While alarmists may be getting more headline space than realists, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Here are five reasons to stay hopeful during the coronavirus crisis.

  1. Gilead’s successful trials with coronavirus treatment. The world has been racing to create a COVID-19 treatment — and we might finally have one. Gilead Sciences, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company, has seen success treating patients with COVID-19 in clinical trials with its new drug, Remdesivir. While it’s too early to clear Remdesivir for widespread use, the drug continues to be studied and the FDA has already given the green light for the treatment to be used in emergency situations.
  2. Human clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines have begun. Effective treatments will help people battle COVID-19. The release of an effective vaccine, however, could mean that no one will have to battle COVID-19 ever again. Several countries, including the U.S., China, Germany, and Australia, are already beginning human trials for COVID-19 vaccines. While there is still a long way to go before, we can ensure that these vaccines are safe and viable for global use, we are well on our way to reaching an effective (and hopefully long-term) solution.
  3. COVID-19’s death rate may be much lower than we originally thought. The WHO originally believed that the death rate for COVID-19 would be somewhere around 3.4%. More recent studies show that that number could be closer to 0.66% (or even lower), which is about one-fifth of what we originally imagined. This is in large part due to the high numbers of asymptomatic people who weren’t tested (and ultimately recovered). While it’s far too soon to declare anything definitively, this is promising news.
  4. Countries are slowly opening up and easing restrictions. We haven’t beaten corona yet, but we’re getting better at containing the virus. Cases are on the decline in many nations. These are the first rays of hope that things are beginning to return closer to normal.
  5. We’ve been through worse — and survived. The numbers for the Spanish Flu in 1918 aren’t completely accurate, but we believe it ran through about 500 million people (which was about one-third of the global population at the time). The disease may have killed as many as 50 million people (or one in ten). That was a century ago, and we have about five times more people living on this planet now than we did then. But we beat the Spanish Flu, and we’ll beat this.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Most people experience some degree of anxiety during a crisis like a pandemic. It’s just human nature. But if you find that you or someone you know is having a hard time dealing with the current climate, there are a few things you can (and should) do to alleviate anxiety.

  1. Realize that you have some control over the situation: Masks. Gloves. Sanitizer. Social distancing. You have the power to protect yourself against coronavirus. Be smart and be meticulous.
  2. Stop obsessing over the news:Most news is bad, even when we’re not in a pandemic. It’s a fact: there will be more cases. There will be more deaths. But COVID-19 is not the only thing happening in the world. Take a break. Do something you love. Get your mind off it.
  3. You’re probably going to be fine: Coronavirus is a threat, but a large percentage of people who have it never even know they have it. If you are symptomatic, there’s a very good chance you can beat it on your own without having to be hospitalized. And if you’re hospitalized, the survival rate is still very high.
  4. Get perspective: Coronavirus has killed about 230,000 people so far in almost half a year. To put it in perspective, every year, 1.35 million people die from car accidents. But that doesn’t stop people from getting on the road and driving. Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from feeling happy and doing the things you love (as long as you’re practicing safety measures).
  5. Stay positive: Corona will not beat us; we will beat corona. Life will return back to normal. It’s just a blip in history, a shared experience for all of humanity in 2020.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

There are plenty of apps and videos available for yoga, meditation, and exercise. Studies have shown all three can all help with stress and anxiety.

If you do want to follow the news, I would recommend staying away from cable news stations and get information directly from the source, like the WHO or CRC. They tend to be more fact-based and less alarmist.

Personally, I find that being part of the “solution” can be helpful. Yes, it’s important to follow the CDC and WHO guidelines, but you can also go above and beyond. Donating to food banks or video chatting with people who are isolated and lonely can help make a positive difference (while taking your mind off your own anxiety).

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Maya Angelou once said: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

I find this quote to be especially pertinent at the moment. Right now, if you have the power to help, it’s essential that you do so. I contribute by running clinical trials for COVID-19 solutions. This is my responsibility: to help be part of the discovery team that beats COVID-19.

That being said, each and every one of us can only do so much. During these times of uncertainty and worry, we must realize that much is out of our control. This is not a cause for stress, but an opportunity for personal growth. There will always be things we wish we could change but can’t. It is up to us to find ways to accept these things — and find comfort in this acceptance. It is truly liberating and empowering to know that no matter what, you have the ability to control how you respond to the world around you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As a woman of color, one thing that hits close to home is the lack of minorities who participate in clinical trials. Minorities may have unique reactions to certain treatments, so it’s essential to get active participants and document their reactions. For the sake of safety and public health, I wish we could see more minorities participate in clinical trials.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

You can follow us via social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also reach us on our website as well.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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