Sharon Frazee - Express Scripts
Vice President, Research and Analysis
Dr. Sharon Frazee, vice president, Research and Analysis at Express Scripts, leads research that helps make the use of prescription drugs safer and more affordable. Prior to Express Scripts, Dr. Frazee led clinical and outcomes research for companies including Walgreens, Take Care Health Systems, and Landacorp. She was an instructor at North Carolina State University and provided evaluation research for various state and local government agencies before joining the private sector. Dr. Frazee earned her doctorate at North Carolina State University and an MPH from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to our nation?
Our industry is rooted in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Take away any one of those and we fail. Many other emerging industries have STEM as a cornerstone for their workforce. Continued innovation to address the great challenges in healthcare requires a commitment to STEM.
What principles do you apply to your professional and personal life to advance the STEM cause?
Two principles are critical to me: Integrity and a passion to find practical applications of science to solve real-life challenges. Scientific and personal integrity is critical – compromise on that and the entire field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics suffers. After that is passion to find real solutions, practical solutions that make a difference in the world. I started in academia and spent years working on integrating theories - very “ivory tower” stuff that was interesting but for me, science really came alive when you applied it to practical problems. When I was able to take theory, combine it use tools like geomapping and statistical and predictive modeling to help solve real problems such as crime, unhealthy behaviors and selecting the right people for healthcare interventions, my passion for applied science took on new meaning. Rigorous scientific analysis can help us allocate resources most effectively, determine the effectiveness of solutions and even save lives.
What about STEM gives you passion?
I grew up in a working class neighborhood in upstate New York. I went to a small Catholic school on a scholarship. I was introduced there to the world of science and math and it opened my eyes to what was possible.
In sixth grade science class, we dissected a cow. Sounds strange nowadays, but in a rural farming community, you needed to understand how things worked, including the animals. In math, we learned probability by looking at the how many eggs chickens would produce and what proportion of female chicks would hatch. Our teachers made math and science relevant to us, using examples we all understood as part of our rural life.
I’m passionate today about STEM because my teachers and other mentors have helped me apply STEM in a practical way. It’s part of my everyday life and not just because I work in a scientific organization. It’s because it was made relevant early on.
How do we get more women involved in STEM?
My teachers encouraged me, even though science and math were nontraditional subjects for girls. They suggested books and helped me discovered how fascinating these subjects could be.
They set me on a path where I found a world beyond my small hometown. I was the first person in my family to go to college, the first to finish an advanced degree and so on.
For two years in a row my team has judged the 4th, 6th and 8th grade science fair at a local school and have hosted a celebration for the top winners each class at the Express Scripts Research and New Solutions Lab. Many of them were young girls from underprivileged backgrounds who happened to think science was pretty cool, kind of like me. For them to succeed, we need to give them passion for learning, encourage them especially as other interests compete for their attention, and provide them with opportunities to apply what they have learned. The best part about working with these kids was seeing them connect the dots and learn how their interest in math and science could lead to an exciting future; one where they could have a better life and help the people around them. They saw the practical side of math and science. One girl said she was going to go home and tell her grandma why she needed to take her medicine. When we add passion to curiosity, amazing things happen.