Inclusion Matters: Black LGBTQ+ Innovators Transforming Healthcare

Brelynn Jones
Samone Williams
Published on Jun 18, 2024

These Black LGBTQ+ leaders have created transformative change in healthcare. From breaking barriers to advocating for inclusive care, they challenge norms and shape a more equitable future for all.

Tia Lyles-Williams, DSc – LucasPye BIO

Tia Lyles-Williams made history as the first Black woman within the LGBTQ+ community to establish her own drug manufacturing company, LucasPye BIO. As the founder of LucasPye BIO, Dr. Lyles-Williams pioneered inclusivity in the biotech sector and aims to empower underserved communities. She attributes much of her personal and professional motivation to her grandmother, honoring her resilience and wisdom with her own career. Moving from biotech to a C-suite position in financial services focused on STEM manufacturing investment, she is no stranger to bias and marginalization in multiple industries historically and disproportionately dominated by White men. She persists in the face of these longstanding barriers, driving workforce development programs and partnerships that diversify the field. While at LucasPye, her vision extends globally with projects aimed at replicating these success stories in countries lacking healthcare infrastructure. Dr. Lyles-Williams envisions both biotech and investing as catalysts for economic empowerment, paralleling the historical impact of industries such as steel and textile manufacturing in communities of color, with the goal of rebuilding and inspiring through innovation.

Susan Whitehead – BioSavvy Advisors

A former pharma executive and now founder of her own strategic consultancy, Susan Whitehead embodies the mission of greater health equity, driven by her personal experiences as a patient of mixed heritage. Faced with disparities in healthcare access and delivery, she championed diversity in clinical trials and spearheaded efforts to provide personalized cancer therapies for underrepresented minorities. As she transitioned from an aspiring social worker to a leader in biopharma development and business strategy, she embraced her identity as a woman of color and LGBTQ+ individual in increasingly visible roles. She leverages her unique perspective to amplify marginalized voices with a commitment to mentorship and activism. Whitehead consistently emphasizes authenticity and a passion for excellence as the keys to achieving these crucial goals.

Jayson Johnson – Genentech

Jayson Johnson, formerly a dancer, now choreographs diversity and inclusion enterprise strategy at Genentech. Johnson’s creative background pushed him to focus on business culture as an incubator for inclusion and creativity as he transitioned to the biotech world. He discovered that the Genentech pillars—fostering belonging, advancing inclusive research and health equity, and transforming society—matched his own personal and professional values. In his role as Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships, he shapes inclusive programs and fosters a sense of belonging through PRIDE initiatives. He also serves on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, driving support for expanded LGBTQ+ resources.

Monica Raye Simpson – SisterSong

Monica Raye Simpson is a queer Black leader, activist, and artist. As the executive director of SisterSong, a national reproductive rights organization, and founder of Artists United for Reproductive Justice, she has devoted her professional life to raising awareness of the reproductive health biases that black and indigenous women face. She also worked to foster greater community in LGBTQ+ spaces by co-founding The Black Gay Pride Celebration in Charlotte, NC. More than a supporter of artists, Monica's own art tells the story of all her encompassing identities and interests and provides comfort to those who can see themselves in her story. Monica brings a lot of passion to her work and strives to create an equitable health environment for those who have gone without a voice for so long.

Valerie E. Stone, MD – Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Not only is Valerie Stone a teaching physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, she’s also vice chair of the hospital’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) department. She was honored with the 2020 LGBTQ Health Award from the Massachusetts Medical Society for her contributions to LGBTQ+ health, including her research and activism around disparities in HIV/AIDS care among marginalized communities. This work included co-editing the definitive textbook on the subject, HIV/AIDS in U.S. Communities of Color. Dr. Stone is the first African American to become a full professor in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where she mentors other LGBTQ+ healthcare professionals and leads efforts to advance diversity in medicine. Her accolades include the Elnora Rhodes Award from the Society of General Internal Medicine and the W. Lester Henry Award, given by the American College of Physicians for outstanding accomplishments in advancing DEI in the healthcare workforce and/or improving health equity for people with historically marginalized group identities. Her prominent role in the LGBTQ+ community is a source of pride, a value she works to foster in others. Her legacy includes a generation of mentees inspired by her example to improve healthcare equity for all.

These leaders and innovators remind us why we recognize Pride Month and Juneteenth, and what’s possible when awareness meets dedication and action, even when the odds are stacked against you. Join us during these important occasions to learn more about those who are helping underrepresented communities find better health and boundless futures.