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How Embracing My Non-Apparent Disability Helps Me Serve Patients 

How Embracing My Non-Apparent Disability Helps Me Serve Patients 

After suffering a traumatic brain injury in a motor vehicle accident more than 15 years ago, Barbara Tantillo was challenged to redefine what success looks like as a person living with a non-apparent disability. Today, Barbara, Senior Director and Head of Global Audit & Compliance, is an advocate for disability diversity awareness, and her story demonstrates how a culture of inclusion fuels our ability to create better tomorrows for patients.  

How I Redefined Success

I was on my way to a run when I was in an accident that left me with brain trauma, broken bones, facial paralysis and loads of self-doubt to overcome. The healing journey pushed me to redefine what success looks like. I realized I don’t have to look or be exactly the way I was before the accident to still be successful. 

My recollection isn’t what it used to be. Words will be on the tip of my tongue, but they don’t always come out how I want. So, I developed coping mechanisms to help me navigate life differently—whether by taking notes, pausing to collect my thoughts, or making lists. It's taken me time to accept it’s okay. No one is judging me. 

My Daiichi Sankyo colleagues provide an inclusive environment where I can succeed. They inspire me to keep contributing to our goals without putting limitations on my abilities.

Inclusive Leadership Begins with an Inclusive Mindset

When I reflect on how we can be allies to people with disabilities at work, empathy is essential. We don’t know everyone’s story just by looking at them. From the outside, I don’t look like I have a disability.  

If there is a coworker who needs to step away from their computer, for example, don’t assume they don’t want to work. Perhaps they are experiencing severe headaches and need a break from the screen. I know this because I lived it.  

I encourage others to begin by understanding their biases and how they can get in the way of seeing the individual. 

My Future Keeps Getting Brighter

Today, I’m proud to be a part of Daiichi Sankyo, which fosters an atmosphere where I can excel professionally and personally.  

From memorizing a 12-minute monologue for a TEDx talk to returning to running half marathons, I have accomplished so much despite my disability.  

My team always supports me in my endeavors to keep learning and succeeding. Earning my master’s was a foundational part of my individual development plan, which was created in tandem with my managers to help me reach my professional goals. Having their guidance helped shape the courses I took as I moved through my program. Within the Quality Assurance function, attending conferences and sharing knowledge through lunch and learns also helps me excel. This year I am excited to have an auditor from my team in Japan join us for three months so I can continue learning from our global colleagues. 

A growth mindset is crucial to ensure we’re continuing to innovate for our patients. I am committed to furthering my education and will start my doctorate program soon. My hope is to bring new skills to the workplace that enable my team to flourish and deliver the best treatments possible.  

I’m excited to see the impact I can continue to have in the future. By giving myself grace and embracing the support of family, friends and colleagues, I’m more than surviving...I’m thriving. 

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