Syreeta Lynn, ’04
Senior Clinical Monitoring Associate, PAREXEL International
When Syreeta Lynn returned to campus as a guest speaker at the 10-year anniversary of the Clinical Trials Research Associate program at Durham Technical Community College, she told a story of struggle and determination.
“I was a single parent to two children, in school full-time, working full-time, and doing field work,” Lynn said. “There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it, but it all worked out in the end. I knew I was where I was supposed to be and doing what I was supposed to be doing.”
Prior to enrolling in the Clinical Trials program in 2001, Lynn was hired for an entry-level call center position at a pharmaceutical research organization. Just two weeks on the job, the supervisor recognized her potential and offered her a promotion as an In-House Clinical Research Associate. The position ensured compliance with FDA protocols during clinical trials and at that time, was typically filled by nurses.
“It was unheard of for someone with only a high school diploma to be offered that position,” Lynn said. “I started doing the work and I absolutely loved it. The first assignment paid $12/hour, but the second assignment paid $25/hour. I remember thinking, I’ve got to do this. I love it, possessed the key skills and personal qualities to be successful, and it’s a great way to make a lucrative living.”
As soon as Lynn started the new position, she began looking for educational opportunities to advance in the industry. She chose Durham Tech because it was the only school in the area that had a two-year program for clinical trials.
“Durham Tech gave me the clinical research foundation that I needed to hit the ground running,” Lynn said. “The Clinical Trials program was a life-changer. Though I was in the industry before I came to Durham Tech, I wouldn’t have been able to sustain a career in the industry without this degree.”
The program required students to do four field work internships to gain experience and Lynn’s third rotation was with PharmaLinkFHI, now Novella Clinical.
“Before I completed the rotation, they called me asking if I’d entertain the idea of permanent, full-time employment,” Lynn said.
Lynn had a full-time job before she graduated from the program and now has 17 years of experience in the industry. She attributes much of her success to Melissa Ockert, the dean and department head of health technologies at Durham Tech. In 2001, Ockert was the program director and taught Introduction to Clinical Trials.
Lynn said she didn’t know what to make of Ockert to start.
“The work she gave us was overwhelming and at times I didn’t think she wanted us to succeed, but it was actually the total opposite,” Lynn said. “Once I was able to sit back, listen and learn, I realized that Melissa was amazing. There was no better person to teach the class, if you didn’t embrace her you were selling yourself short. She knew a lot and she was willing to share what she knew. Melissa was instrumental in my success both in the program and after graduation.”
The road leading up to Lynn’s enrollment at Durham Tech was not an easy one, but she says it made her a stronger person. Originally from Newark, New Jersey, Lynn moved to Durham when she was 10 years old and lived in a housing project with her mother.
“There are very few, if any, people in the projects who are aspiring to new heights in life,” Lynn said. “The struggle motivated me. As a child I couldn’t change my environment, but I knew when I was old enough to change it, I would. Once I had my son, shortly after high school, I kicked it into high gear. I watched my mom struggle all of our lives and I knew that was something I didn’t want for my children.”
Lynn, 42, is now married with four children, four step-children, and working from home as a Senior Clinical Monitoring Associate at PAREXEL International.
“You must have a willingness and a capability to learn to succeed,” Lynn said of her advice to future students. “You can’t be willing, but not be capable or be capable, but not be willing — you must have both.”
Eight years after graduation, Lynn earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Services Administration from Drexel University. Her daughter, 16, is currently enrolled in Middle College High School at Durham Tech, a program that allows high school students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and associate’s degree.
“Without this degree, my life would be a struggle,” Lynn said. “Durham Tech is a hidden treasure and the Clinical Trials program has totally changed my life. For those reasons, I will always be indebted to Durham Tech.”