The Mix Tape: Ep. 5 — When You Give a Marketer a Diagnosis

When a life science worker has a life science problem, where do they turn? Mix Talent's KC McAllister talks with Jessica Krauser. Jessica is a Marketing Advisor for Two Labs, a pharmaceutical services company in Columbus, OH who faced a difficult diagnosis of Early Onset Parkinson's, and chose to make a difference regardless. Hear her inspiring story in this week's episode!

Transcription

Unison-

Welcome to the Mix Tape.

Valerie McCandlish:

I’m Valerie.

Natalie Taylor:

And I’m Natalie.

Valerie McCandlish:

Thank you all for joining us today. If you remember from last week’s episode, we were talking about leaving our first ever home for Mix Talent, our office at 955 West 3rd. And we are officially out and into our new one. It’s so exciting to see us in an office that’s about four times the size of where we were before, and it’s got some work that it needs to get through to truly make it ours, but it’s already starting to feel like home. I just can’t wait to see where we’re able to take this space and take Mix from here on out.

Natalie Taylor:

Yeah, Val. It’s so exciting, but it is bittersweet because that was our first home and that’s where many of us met, but we are so excited to move into a new space and continue to grow as an organization and continue our goal of ultimately helping patients. At Mix, we are fortunate to be able to connect with patients occasionally and today we get to hear from a very inspiring one. Today’s conversation is between one of Mix’s founding partners, KC McAllister, who is our Head of Strategy. And Jessica Krauser. Jessica is a Marketing Advisor for Two Labs, which is a pharmaceutical services company located here in Columbus, Ohio.

Valerie McCandlish:

We’ve had really exciting stories to listen to up until this point, but this episode is one that I can’t wait for. Just two years ago, Jess was diagnosed at the age of 37 with young onset Parkinson’s disease, which is just, wow. Today, she is going to share with us her story: If You Give a Marketer a Diagnosis.

Natalie Taylor:

If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews, there’s a good chance that you’ve probably read one of the best selling stories by Laura Numeroff, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. These popular stories are circular tales, sharing the inevitable journey of ending where you begin. Our guest today, Jessica Krauser, Head of Marketing at life science consulting firm, Two Labs has shared that her personal journey has gone down a similar path. If You Give a Marketer a Diagnosis, welcome to the Mix Tape, Jessica.

Jessica Krauser:

Thank you so much for having me.

KC McAllister:

So glad to have you here today. Obviously, we want to learn about what you mean when you say, “If you give a marketer a diagnosis,” but before that, I think it would be great for our listeners to understand more about how your journey has led you here today.

Jessica Krauser:

Yeah, absolutely. Let me at least take you a step back and tell you a little bit about marketing because that’s where everything started, at least for me. I always actually tell my kids, “Know your audience,” and it’s especially true right now as they get older, and just think before you speak and know who you’re talking to. I got into marketing for that reason. I love finding out more about my audience, who they are, and what really makes them tick and messaging to them accordingly. In the beginning of my career, I started at Smucker’s, which was great, because I was right out of college, you get peanut butter and jelly for free every day, so that was wonderful. But I wanted something more than that. I really wanted to contribute to something that had a lot more meaning behind it. I started looking around and that’s when I found Abbott Nutrition and I did marketing there on their Similac baby formula for 10 years.

Jessica Krauser:

After, I don’t know, three years of being there. I think, three years of being there, I had twins. So now I was the actual target that I was trying to capture.

KC McAllister:

So you were the consumer?

Jessica Krauser:

I was now the consumer and it was being on the other side. As a marketer, I had a new appreciation for everything that I was doing. I was able to really have the experience as a marketer and understanding as a parent, what each side was going through. It was actually really wonderful and it brought a whole new meaning to my job. Now, after about 10 years of being at Abbott, I moved and found Two Labs because I wanted a different type of challenge in my life. Abbott being big corporate, and I wanted to try something small. I found Two Labs and Two Labs has been great. I’ve been there for four years. They’re a pharmaceutical consulting company and we help pharma manufacturers, emerging and small mostly, we help commercialize their products.

Jessica Krauser:

Bringing it from phase three up until launch and post-launch, and I was really energized again, starting my marketing new path there because I was learning so much more and learning about these drugs, learning about what we’re doing for the drugs and for the manufacturers. It was just very inspiring. Everything we do is for the patient. As well as for the client. I know you guys are on that same path. After two years I was there, it was there that I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

KC McAllister:

Okay. The next part of your journey begins.

KC McAllister:

So, “When a marketer gets Parkinson’s,” what did that mean to you?

Jessica Krauser:

I love to talk. I love to be loud and outspoken. So when you give a marketer Parkinson’s it was giving me a voice and it was giving me a voice for other patients out there and other diagnoses too. I could think of it that way. I found out other people were coming along the journey with me. They knew I was going to all these different doctor’s appointments and things. So the day I was diagnosed, my boss found out and my husband and my family, I still had to go through some more testing and things like that. So then after everything, all of that was complete, I told my friends, I told neighbors, more or less because I wanted people to not be afraid of it. Because everything that I learned the day I was diagnosed was, there are things that you can do like exercise to help lessen the progression. It’s a neurodegenerative disease so nothing’s going to make it better, but exercise can help slow the progression and then medication will actually just help you live a better daily life, if you will.

KC McAllister:

So let me ask you this. So you mentioned obviously that you get your diagnosis and then you told everybody, right. Was that uncommon?

Jessica Krauser:

It’s very uncommon. And I didn’t think anything of it. I was just like, yeah, this is what it is. I was relieved that I had an answer because when I was 35, I started with tremors and it took until I was 37 to be diagnosed. And being young with Parkinson’s is obviously not the norm. And everybody sees and hears about Michael J. Fox. So learning a lot from his website and foundation was really helpful, but I met a lot of people in the early stages of the diagnosis. And they all said the same thing. They’re like, “You were just diagnosed and you’re here, you’re exercising already?” Or you’re doing this, you’re learning about that? And I’m like, “Why wouldn’t you be? This is what you’re supposed to do.”

Jessica Krauser:

And I know a lot of people, especially those that I work out with, they may not have come to our class until two, three years post being diagnosed because they either don’t want to believe that they have it, they don’t want other people to know that they have it, they don’t want people to feel sorry for them. And by no means do I want anybody to be, “Oh, poor Jess,” but it’s more of like I’m thrilled that I found an answer. If I can help somebody else find this answer of, “Why are they shaking? Why are they having stiffness in their legs and foot?” By all means, I will tell the world.

KC McAllister:

Tell the world. Okay. So that’s a good point. So you said at 35, you started having tremors. So take us through your patient journey. What was that like?

Jessica Krauser:

Oh, that was, it seems long, but now that I look back, it really wasn’t, but I was 35 and I was working at Two Labs and I noticed my hand tremoring and I remember giving a presentation and I’ve presented to hundreds of people before and you always get nerves, but nothing visible. And all of a sudden I’m shaking in front of a small group. I’m like, “This is not me.” So I asked my family physician and she said it could just be an essential tremor, which is very common. Just means it’s benign, you’ll just tremor. But she said if it becomes a nuisance or interfering with work or with life, then she’ll recommend a neurologist. I’m like, “I am 35. I’m not going to see a neurologist.” So I waited a year and still was happening. Just didn’t think about it as much.

Jessica Krauser:

And I started training for half marathon with my sister and I was getting a lot of pain in my calf and my foot and my toes. My toes were curling. My leg was cramped up. I would have a knot in my calf every day. And so I thought it was because of the training. I went to see a foot doctor, had an x-ray, nothing. Then I went to see my gynecologist for a yearly checkup. And she’s like, “Why are you shaking?” And I was like, “I don’t know. It’s really cold in here.” And she’s like, “No, that’s like more excessive than normal.” I was like, “Well, it could be an essential tremor. I talked to my doctor.” And she’s like, “I really want you to see a neurologist.” And this is the woman who delivered my twins.

Jessica Krauser:

So I’ve known her for years. So I listened to her and I found a neurologist. The first neurologist, he was just regular, like a primary neurologist or a general one and did an MRI and EMG. So the electromagnetic things in your arm and everything came out fine. Did an in-clinic test and it was fine. And I kept coming up with more symptoms. Somebody said my arm doesn’t swing. And I knew I was doing it. I didn’t think anything of it. So people were picking up on different things. And so finally he said, “Everything you say sounds like Parkinson’s, but I don’t think it is.” He’s like, “You can either see a specialist or try medication.” So I went to a specialist and within that hour she diagnosed me.

KC McAllister:

And there you were.

Jessica Krauser:

And there it was. And I was relieved and my husband was a mess.

KC McAllister:

That’s interesting. Because you were so [crosstalk 00:11:15]

Jessica Krauser:

I was looking for an answer. I actually knew it was Parkinson’s because I had every symptom that they showed on any given website. I know you’re not supposed to self-diagnose, but I did anyways. And so he was along the journey with me, but up until that point, I don’t think wanted to really believe anything was that wrong. He’s been an awesome caregiver, awesome support system. And part of the reason why I wanted to speak up about this so much is because the way he reacted.

Jessica Krauser:

And in my family, everybody thinks it’s like you’re going to fall apart. And it’s like, no, I’m not. I can take care of myself. And there’s things in 20 years, I don’t know what I’m going to be like, but nobody does, and so for right now, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that I can live as good a life as possible. And so once he realized that I’m not going to be in a wheelchair next year, he speaks up about it just as much as I do now because people are very fearful and there is a lot of things to be scared of, but there’s a lot of things that you can really learn from too.

KC McAllister:

So that’s an interesting point as well, right? So you’re talking about again, when you give a market or a diagnosis, we’re having this discussion. So you referenced earlier that this gave you a voice. So when you think about that, Jessica, what does that mean from a marketing perspective? How have you used your marketing skills, abilities to get the word out about Parkinson’s or the opportunities of the treatment?

Jessica Krauser:

Initially, I started off small with my company. The team works with pharmaceutical manufacturers every day and might come in contact with a patient maybe here and there. So I shared my story with them at a company meeting two months after my diagnosis. And to give the word out of everything that they’re doing, everything we’re doing as an organization, you’re helping somebody like me and you’re helping, whereas we work to every day help get the drug to market. There’s a patient on the other side who’s waiting every day for that new drug to come to market. So I kind of had my coming out party if you will, with them at that point. And then I just started talking to people at my Parkinson’s exercise class at pDNextSteps, which is local here in Dublin.

Jessica Krauser:

And I also have a boxing class too that I work out at T&J Fitness that’s specific for Parkinson’s and even trying to get those two groups together and helping them find ways to bring a neurologist in to speak to us or other types of exercise. I started talking more on Facebook and different outlets of social media to do things. But the biggest thing is the event that we’re having this year. My friends got together earlier this year and launched the 5K for JK. And it’s a 5K in my honor, but it’s for Parkinson’s awareness because they know how important it is for me to get the word out and to bring education and exercise to those that might not know that they need it. Because it was an interesting point: not all neurologists tell their patients when they’re diagnosed how important exercise is, which I thought was crazy, because it is so critical and you read it everywhere.

Jessica Krauser:

But there is a handful of people, even that I work out with, they’re like, “My doctor never told me that.” So if I can even help those that might feel like they just got handed the worst diagnoses ever is, there are things you can do. So even this 5K, we have 400 people who are hopefully coming now next week or this Sunday, October 3rd. And so 400 people coming. We have $70,000 that we raised for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. And again, it’s just getting people to be aware of what they can do, how they can help themselves. If they’re a caregiver, how to help their Parkinson’s patient. So it just keeps going.

KC McAllister:

That’s amazing. 400 people, $70,000 with more opportunity there. And all of those funds go to-

Jessica Krauser:

All of them go to Parkinson’s research.

KC McAllister:

Okay. Specifically through-

Jessica Krauser:

The Michael J. Fox. Yeah. So I can’t even tell you how many studies they have done, but I know there’s a number of drugs. We have a representative who will be at the race. And so they’ll talk about the different drugs that have come from the research from Michael J. Fox. So everybody knows really every single dollar that is contributed to the Michael J. Fox Foundation is going directly for more clinical research.

KC McAllister:

No, that’s outstanding and a great opportunity to make an impact. This is your first year so imagine what this race will do in the future.

Jessica Krauser:

Right. So it’s like, yeah, give me Parkinson’s and I’ll keep asking for more.

KC McAllister:

Definitely going down that line. So if I may, let me ask you this, we’re talking about how your marketing skills have helped from the Parkinson’s community standpoint, more on that personal front. Have you seen the opportunity to take that perspective into your work at Two Labs for your clients, for your customers?

Jessica Krauser:

I do. So I don’t work directly with any of the pharma companies, but all of the messaging and the marketing that we do for our sales team goes to the clients. But everything I do now, just like I was when I was on Similac being a mother, I have that patient perspective. And so I have brought that into work with me and it’s almost more of a reminder to everybody: as we’re thinking of helping or supporting certain pharma companies, the why we’re doing it, which we’ve always had, but it’s kind of a nice reminder when you see it in front of your face, especially if I’m presenting any of the new materials or at the end of the day, we want pharma companies to work with us so we can help them get through any of those roadblocks that are going to come across, because no drug launches as planned. Nothing is easy.

KC McAllister:

Almost never.

Jessica Krauser:

Never. But we’re aware of what those roadblocks are. And if it is a new roadblock, we figure out how to get around it because we have so much expertise. And so my job is how do I create the messaging for our sales team to the clients to make sure that they understand we’re going to help you on that journey. We are the ones to work with, because I want our company to work with them because I know we can get through those paths. And I know sometimes if they work with another group there might be pieces missing. So then you’re missing that launch time or you’re not getting into the hands of prescribers at the time that you expected or into the hands of the pharmacy or the patient support group. So my biggest thing is how do I message our company appropriately to get the manufacturers to work with us? Because I know as a patient, I want that drug to come to market as soon as it can.

KC McAllister:

Right. No, that makes a lot of sense. Well, and there’s so many opportunities, right? As we always talk about from lab to life. In order to get that therapy or that therapeutic into a patient there’s so many steps along that way. And it’s really important, especially for those smaller and emerging organizations that may not have the same level of resourcing as the big clients to have those partners that understand that and can really help them along that journey.

Jessica Krauser:

Yeah. Because it’s all the emerging manufacturers that seem that are coming out with all these new therapies. Everyone’s going small and trying to launch these drugs, but there’s so many times that it can’t get to market just even because, it could because of clinical trials, but it could also because there’s different things along the commercialization journey that they may not have been aware of that in big organizations, it’s just taken care of because they have all those departments.

KC McAllister:

Absolutely. Well, good. So what’s next for you from a career perspective, from a marketer with Parkinson’s perspective?

Jessica Krauser:

Yeah. So career-wise, I actually did take a step back this year. So another thing that Parkinson’s patients don’t typically do is tele-work. They’re afraid of what people will say or do, or again, I wasn’t afraid, especially we’re in the pharma industry. So I’m like “I have this, this is what I need.” And they gave me space. They gave me time. They’ve been amazing to work with. And I was able to take some time off earlier this year because my cognitive skills weren’t what they used to be. And although everyone’s like, “No, you’re fine.” I’m like, “That might be fine for you, but this is not my typical what I would expect from myself.” So I took a step back and now I’m working in just helping as an advisory role really from a market standpoint.

Jessica Krauser:

So for my career, I still see continuing down that path, because I do have an energy for pharma, medical, and marketing is always going to be my life. So continuing along that, but I think this race, the 5K for JK is going to turn into much more. I’d love to see more events throughout the year that we can continue to raise money because we’re raising money for Parkinson’s research. But we’re also going to start raising money for local Columbus community as well because there’s a lot of people who maybe not be able to afford exercise classes that we can then sponsor and get them to exercise. And again, just driving more awareness out there. So going to just continue down this path of marketing and marketing Parkinson’s more.

KC McAllister:

That’s great. So, and you referenced a couple of times the importance of exercise, right? One, that some neurologists don’t even reference it, but then just generally that there’s also opportunities patients may not even know about. What is it about exercise that’s so important to a Parkinson’s patient?

Jessica Krauser:

So if you think about it, with Parkinson’s it’s all about your movement. We lose that ability, the dopamine that we’ve already lost and we continue to lose at a faster rate than everybody else. It’s your movements. Everything slows down, but it’s your movement, your mood cognition, all of that is taken into effect with your dopamine. So with exercise, you can actually retrain your brain. So the pathways that were built before that told you step over this rock or make a step past this curb. It’s not working the right way. It’s not functioning. So if you add movement to your life and make steps bigger because everything we do is small. Any movements of that exercise retrain your brain. They create new neurological pathways in the brain to hopefully have you do certain things in real life.

Jessica Krauser:

So we actually, sometimes in our exercise class learn to get up off the ground because there’s a lot of people who fall. And if you’re laying on your back and you roll over to one side and go slowly and then you push up and you put your one foot out and it sounds normal, right? And then you put your other foot and stand up. Parkinson’s people like to try and do it too fast or shuffle and their movements are too slow. But by practicing and knowing how to do it, I’ve seen half of my class fall the first time and then we do it again and they do bigger movements and go slowly. And then all of sudden, they can stand up on their own. And these are people in their 70s and 80s. I am by far, obviously the youngest one. But I mean, these are individuals that my own mom will come work out with us and she’s in her 60s and she’s like, “Oh my gosh, this is really hard.” But they can do hard things if you really train yourself to do it.

KC McAllister:

That’s great. So in case we’ve got listeners that have family members or they themselves have a Parkinson’s diagnosis, especially the local community, let’s give a shout out to those places. Where are you taking your classes and where could they find those?

Jessica Krauser:

Yeah. So pDNextSteps. It’s by Melissa Carlson. It’s in Dublin, Ohio. It’s Parkinson’s specific. She has classes every morning. It’s just her right now. We have great group of people that are there every day. And she also still does Zoom classes because with COVID we can’t get in the gym, we have Zoom and in-person classes. And the great thing I love about the name that she decided on is, what is the next step you take after you’re diagnosed with Parkinson’s? Exercise. So Parkinson’s disease, next steps. And then I also do boxing classes. Rock steady boxing is a really big thing with Parkinson’s patients. I don’t know of any rock steady locally in Columbus, but I do a Parkinson’s boxing class that an instructor Jill does at T&J Fitness in Powell, Ohio.

Jessica Krauser:

So it’s another great Parkinson’s group. We meet every Wednesday at 11:00 and Parkinson’s individuals are, it’s a wonderful community. I mean we get together, we exercise and then we all say, “Oh, what pill are you on now? What medicine are you taking?” And we talk about it and everybody just feels so comfortable because you’re around people like you. Although I come in and they’re like, “Who are you?” But they’re super excited to know that we’re trying to get more awareness out there because they know more people could benefit from the exercise that we do.

KC McAllister:

Oh, that’s amazing. Well and our team at Mix Town is so excited to be able to participate in the first 5K for JK this year and a sponsorship. And we’ve got several people that are going to be walking, which is exciting for people. If you’re listening to this before or after, there’s still an opportunity to donate. Can you share the website?

Jessica Krauser:

Yeah. So it’s just 5KForJK.org. And so that’s the website that we have for the 5K that will stay up all the time. And there’s a donate button that will take you right to the Michael J. Fox website.

KC McAllister:

Okay. So again, and obviously that’s an impact across the country and in particular on research, so great opportunity to support the work and continue to advance the cause, if you will. Okay. Well great. So what are a couple things you want to leave our listeners with today? What are some of the takeaways that we should walk away from this conversation with Jessica?

Jessica Krauser:

I think what I will want everybody to realize is when you’re diagnosed with anything, being your own advocate is really important. But knowing not to give up on anything. Parkinson’s specifically, I want people know that they can educate themselves. There’s a lot of education materials out there and to exercise. And to those in the pharma industry, I want all of them to know everything that they do every day is so meaningful to so many people out there. I’m one of many who have Parkinson’s, I think 60,000 right here in Ohio and I think only 4,000 have young onset. There’s only 4% of the population. So everything that the pharma companies, medical companies are doing, it’s making an impact on so many people’s lives. And I just so much appreciate that.

KC McAllister:

Well, and you are making an impact on so many people’s lives, right? Have throughout your career, but especially in this next step that you’re taking with Parkinson’s. So with all of our Mix Tape guests, we do have two questions that we ask everyone. So I have to make sure that I do before you leave. So the first is what is the best interview question that you have ever been asked or have asked?

Jessica Krauser:

Oh, I forgot to think about. Let’s see, best interview question.

KC McAllister:

Or maybe your favorite, not necessarily the best.

Jessica Krauser:

I think when I was being interviewed for Two Labs. Usually at least from when I grew up, you don’t talk about family or kids or you don’t bring anything up like that right away. And so one of my favorite questions during the interview was, they already knew I had kids at this point, and so they’re like, “So what do you want to do? How do you want to work?” I’m like, “What do you mean?” They’re like, “Well, you said you have kids so what do you think is the best schedule for you?” I’m like, “Huh?” They’re like, “Don’t give me some fake answer like, ‘I’ll work 8:00 to 5:00’ or whatever.” And I was like, “Well, my kids are still little so I’d love to be home with them. And then when they go to school and come back home. So 9:00 to 3:00?” “Okay.” I’m like, “What?” And they’re like, “Yeah. This is the type of company we are. We’re going to work with you, work around you, et cetera.” I know that’s probably not the best interview question, but it was-

KC McAllister:

It’s a great one. It was a great way to know the culture through the interview process. Just through that simple question.

Jessica Krauser:

I was floored. I was like, “Wow, no one’s at ever asked me that before.” And that’s what I did for the first few years. I worked 9:00 to 3:00 so my kids would walk to school and walk home and I’d be there.

KC McAllister:

That’s very cool. Well, and that obviously then also explains in part why you were so comfortable and confident in sharing with this great team that’s created a culture that has that sort of-

Jessica Krauser:

They’re like our little family.

KC McAllister:

Dynamic. Oh, I love it. Okay. And so the other is, it wouldn’t be the Mix Tape without a playlist. Yes. So what is either again favorite or the song that you should have included on our Mix Tape playlist?

Jessica Krauser:

Whitney Houston, I Want to Dance with Somebody. It’s my all-time favorite and everybody knows that. They play it in the gym for me all the time. And I’m like, “Yes. I can sing along.”

KC McAllister:

That’s a great one. Well, hopefully we’ll have lots of people singing and dancing along with you. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for sharing your story on today’s Mix Tape: If You Give a Marketer A Diagnosis with our guest, Jessica Krauser. So thank you so much.

Jessica Krauser:

Thank you.

Natalie Taylor:

Wow. That was so incredible and so touching. Jessica is such an inspiration to us and we love how she just dove in and immediately found a way to help the community and reach out to patients. I think a lot of times people can get a diagnosis, whatever it may be, and they find it difficult to share. So I think it’s really wonderful that she took that opportunity to connect with other patients and give a voice to her community.

Valerie McCandlish:

I agree, Natalie. I’m almost at a loss for words for just how amazing that was to listen to. And I think for so many people, to your point, they almost feel helpless and at times hopeless when they receive a diagnosis like this and instead Jess feels empowered and she’s found a way to connect her community and connect herself to the community and really just throw herself right into creating change. And it’s just incredible to learn about her story and too, from someone who’s been in life sciences for so long for her career to be now on the receiving end of the treatment. It just shows you that there’s a lot of passion that goes into this industry. And when you kind of match both of that being on the receiving end and part of the space, you can create so much change.

Natalie Taylor:

Absolutely, Val. That’s so true. Some of our Mix teammates participated in the 5K for JK, which was last weekend and the event raised over $86,000 for Parkinson’s research, which is just so awesome.

Valerie McCandlish:

It was great to see the pictures from the event. I couldn’t attend, I was out of town, but we’re hoping to see just how much of an impact this can have next year, the reach it can have and the support from the community. There’s actually still opportunity to donate to the cause. So we can share the link for that as well and allow people to continue to help patients and support Jessica as well.

Natalie Taylor:

Be sure to check out the show notes for resources and links, especially if someone you know could benefit from the information and also be sure to subscribe to this podcast and follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Valerie McCandlish:

Thanks for being in the mix. We’ll see you next week.

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