Dana Sowash Edwards and husband Duane are making it in this crazy world as a team
Dana Sowash Edwards has always been an incredibly responsible young woman. She’s the girl in high school that earned her own money, helped tend to her younger brother, and was there for her older siblings and parents when needed. As the tables turn, Edwards’ children are there for her offering words of encouragement and support as she tackles career, family, and personal goals. It’s one of those lovely blessings bestowed upon those who put positive energy out in the world and in turn receive it back.
As it stands, Edwards is on the cutting edge of a drug development company that collaborates with leading pharmaceutical and biotech corporations. Avillion LLP partners with companies across the globe providing financial and swift solutions to get products to market. It’s a very efficient organization established in 2012 and based in London England. Edwards fits perfectly into this environment as a tenacious and hard-working young woman. Her efforts are a testament to her true character.
Edwards was a student in the McCracken County School systems K-12 in Paducah, Kentucky. While attending Lone Oak High School she played softball for the high school team and played on an American Softball Association (ASA) team winning the 16U state title in 1996. In addition to academics and extracurricular activities, she was always juggling two or three part-time jobs.
After graduating high school in 1997, Edwards attended Union University in Jackson, Tennessee earning a Bachelor of Science degree in social work. In 2001, she continued to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tennessee and received a Master's Degree in social work with a concentration in clinical practice. As in the earlier years, keeping money flowing was a must, so she continued to hold down two jobs to make ends meet.
During Edwards' last year of school in Memphis, she participated in an internship program with Youth Villages, a nonprofit organization that helps treat emotionally troubled children and their families. Upon graduating she was hired full-time at the Department of Preventive Medicine at UT Health Science Center in Memphis. as a Research Specialist in the Outcomes Evaluation and Research Department. Edwards worked this position as she pursued her master’s degree.
As life and career advanced, tragedy struck the family. Edwards’ niece was killed in a car accident and the family encouraged her to move back to Paducah. “My niece died when my daughter, Mia was 12 days old. My family thought it would be helpful to have my new baby girl around to help ease some of the grief. I didn’t want to leave Memphis but I did it for them,” said Edwards.
Upon returning to her hometown, Edwards accepted a position at Four Rivers Clinical Research under Dr. Bent Ibata. For the next 10 years, she stayed in Paducah.
Four Rivers Clinical Research, located at the Mercy Health Medical Pavilion, conducts clinical trials for various pharmaceutical companies to discover new treatment options. Edwards began as a research coordinator and gradually climbed the corporate ladder. She was promoted to Lead Clinical Research Coordinator and finally as Director of the organization after the departure of Dr. Ibata.
In addition to career, Edwards participated in Leadership Paducah Class #26. She was a three-year board member of Family Service Society. This nonprofit organization provides help to families in McCracken/Paducah that need assistance with basic needs such as food, clothing, and other essentials. She also served as a volunteer orientation trainer for the American Red Cross.
After living in Paducah for over a year, Edwards made a friend on the internet. Duane Edwards was soon to play a key role in her life. The two chatted via the web for some time before deciding to meet in person. “Our first in-person meeting was in the Memphis airport when I was traveling for work.” said Edwards. The two struck up a friendship and started officially dating in 2009. After a two-year courtship, they got engaged and married in 2012.
“It’s funny,” said Edwards, “We later found out we had a mutual friend that tried setting us up on a blind date a few years earlier. The same friend, along with his wife sang at our wedding.”
After living and working in Paducah for 10 years, Edwards was offered an opportunity in Nashville, Tennessee. The family moved in 2017 where Edwards worked for a Site Management Organization (SMO)/Contract Research Organization (CRO) called Sarah Cannon/HCA Research Institute. SCRI formed in 2004 as a joint venture between Tennessee Oncology and HCA Healthcare. The research organization performs community clinical trials in oncology, gastroenterology, cardiology, and other therapeutic areas.
Edwards was responsible for starting, building, restructuring, and maintaining cardiovascular research programs at several HCA Healthcare hospitals across the country for both medical devices and pharmaceuticals. HCA operates 168 hospitals and over 2,000 sites of care and is based out of Nashville.
After leaving SCRI, Edwards went to work in her current role at Avillion LLP. She has a home office and travels extensively for clinical trials. Over the past year, COVID has really altered Edwards’ work routine. ”Because of travel restrictions across the country, my travel schedule was super slow in 2020.” Edwards admits there have been positive outcomes from the restrictions placed on the world due to the pandemic. She said, “Spending more time at home with my family has been really nice. I’m thankful for it.”
As a Senior Clinical Trial Liaison Manager, Edwards' career has given her the ability to work on many clinical trials in many disease states. One area she hasn’t dipped her toe in is infectious disease. In fact, her aunt and uncle were two of the first in western New York State to receive the monoclonal antibodies therapy that helps immunocompromised patients better fight the effects of COVID. Thankfully, Chris and Sheryl Balisteri were able to lessen their symptoms with the treatment and stay out of the hospital. Their story made the Buffalo News.
There are perks other than a career to living in Nashville. Edwards said, “It’s a big city with a small town feel.” She said they live in Williamson County and the school systems are top-notch. Edwards has four children: Mia (13), Carter (11), Tyson (6), and Miles (4). Mia likes school, friends, modeling and acting. Edwards said, “Mia enjoys working hard and making her own money too.” Carter is a dear, sweet boy much like Edwards. And the boys, Tyson and Miles are active in sports and other activities.
“There’s lots of entertainment for the kids.” said Edwards. The family enjoys everything that Nashville has to offer such as hiking trails, visiting parks, and frequenting museums. “We have a great church family too. And, we’ve made lots of friends,” said Edwards.
One of the family’s most favorite things to do is travel. “I’m very passionate about exploring the world.” Edwards said. “Our goal is to buy a vacation home in another country when we retire. So, we’re visiting as many as we can now.”
”We are huge beach people too.” said Edwards. “We’ve been to Jamaica, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Barbados. I’ve been to Trinidad and Tobago. We’ve also been to England, Ireland, Canada and have plans to visit Grenada soon.”
There’s more to this vacation home plan than meets the eye. Edwards said, “My ultimate goal is to be able to offer a place for other families to vacation with their kids for free. I never got to vacation growing up because we couldn’t afford it.” She continued, “ I’m sad that I don’t have those memories with my family. I want to see others have those memories. I’d like to offer a vacation home to families that otherwise couldn’t afford one.”
With four children, a budding career, and an MBA in the works, Edwards keeps a very busy schedule. She and Duane tackle this crazy life together. Edwards said, “We’re master jugglers.” Duane’s position as a Safety and Operations Manager requires lots of SkyMiles too. Edwards said, “We’re partners in life.” It takes two to make this family run.
The children are Edwards’ greatest cheerleaders. They offer encouraging words and share with mom how proud they are of her accomplishments. Mia is especially proud. “I try to keep everyone on a schedule, get them where they need to be, and get to my job done with the highest quality. I’m glad my daughter gets to see that she doesn’t have to choose family or career. She can have both if she works hard,” said Edwards.
When asked about career goals Edwards said, “I’m so blessed to have made it this far in my career. There was a time when you didn’t see many women working for sponsor companies. I was fortunate to have women before me take their time to train, mentor, and believe in me. I want to continue to work hard and share my knowledge with others.”
Edwards’ idea of the perfect day includes, ‘Sleeping past 6 am and having nothing to do at all. No work. No practices. No games. Just a day of nothing. Sounds amazing.’ And, well-deserved.