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Michel Tarabocchia, Associate Director, Precision Medicine



Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Michel Tarabocchia, a wonderful human being, wife, mother, and current Associate Director in Precision Medicine at Regeneron (a biotechnology company). Below you will read about Michel's journey with managing her health, the health of her daughter, as well as how her career path led to sources of healing.

 

Michel grew up on a busy boulevard in Jersey City with her sister and parents. She says that she was a happy child, always looking to bring joy into people’s lives. Michel recalls that when she was younger, she would tell people that she wanted to attend “clown college”, as she wasn’t quite sure of her career path but was certain that she enjoyed cheering people up. When Michel was 13 years old, she moved with her family to Rutherford, a quiet suburb in New Jersey. With experiencing such a difficult transition during the most formative years of her life, she was overcome with stress which in turn led to a flare of psoriasis, as well as migraines.


Psoriasis is an immune-mediated skin disease that causes red itchy, and dry patches, and is triggered by things like stress, cold weather, and infections. Psoriasis is genetic in Michel’s family, and it quickly began to hinder her ability to be comfortable and confident in her own skin. As a result of being in constant pain and feeling self-conscious, she became very introverted and avoided activities that exposed her skin. Ultimately, with the help of her dermatologist, and the trial and error of several medications, Michel was able to manage her psoriasis.


With moving to Rutherford, Michel lived closer to Roche (a pharmaceutical company), and soon became interested in clinical trials in the treatment of disease. One day, while Michel was working as a waitress, her co-worker told her that he was leaving his full-time job at Roche, and asked if she wanted to apply. Gratefully, Michel followed her intuition in choosing to apply, and pursued a job in the pharmaceutical industry, despite having a college degree in marketing. She recalls that from a young age, she has always followed her intuition as it has never led her down the wrong path. Michel says that she grew up religious, which became intertwined with spiritualism once she began working in pharma, alongside a spiritual co-worker. Overall, she emphasized that every fork in the road has led her to where she is today.



In 2011, Michel brought her beautiful daughter, Leah, into the world. When Leah was 3-months old, she began presenting with signs of psoriasis as a result of a dairy allergy. The same red, itchy, dry, and open lesions completely covered her body and consumed her life, as well as the life of Michel and her husband who were desperately searching for an effective treatment. When Leah was 1 ½ years old, the company that Michel was working for shut down, leading her to search for a new position. One day, at a job fair led by Roche, Michel met a kind woman working for Regeneron who said that she had the perfect job for her- one that combined clinical trial experience and sample experience. Michel happily submitted her resume and quickly got the job. In this position, Michel met several doctors and medical directors who she spoke with about her daughter’s treatment-resistant psoriasis. She recalls explaining that creams, lasers, light-box treatments, and different steroid creams, had not been effective for her. Several doctors thought that it was atopic dermatitis or eczema, but Michel had a strong feeling that it was psoriasis.


Eventually, Michel met a wonderful woman, her current VP, who recommended a doctor of dermatology at Mount Sinai. Michel, her husband, and Leah, met with this doctor who then took a punch biopsy of Leah’s skin and discovered that it was indeed psoriasis. They began a systemic treatment with a monoclonal antibody medication (Ustekinumab), off label. Leah was one of the first children in the United States to receive this treatment as this medication was on the market but not approved at that time for her age bracket. After only four weeks on this medication, Leah experienced rapid improvements in her psoriasis. Remarkably, these improvements continued until her skin was completely clear.


Michel is grateful to the people that encouraged her to keep seeking treatment options, and to the doctors who fought to get this medication approved and covered by her insurance company. Looking back on her path, Michel says that if she didn’t get the job at Regeneron, she may not have ever found that specific doctor at Mount Sinai who helped to restore Leah’s quality of life. When asked how she got through this turbulent time, she said that she had to learn to let go, and leave it up to God. Her words of wisdom are, “give it up to the universe and you will be amazed at the way things fall into place”; words that she continues to live by in all facets of life.





Currently, with twenty years of experience, Michel leads a team at Regeneron with the awareness that everything happens in perfect time, and that we can learn from every experience. She now gives back by mentoring other moms who have kids with psoriasis, and by working with the National Psoriasis Foundation, with her daughter at her side. It is clear that her strength, compassion, and lighthearted nature, shine through the adversity she has faced.


At the end of the interview, I asked Michel if she had any advice for people struggling to find their way through a difficult situation. She responded with, “even in your darkest days, have your eyes open. That little trip to the super market might change your life.” These are words that we all need to remember- you never know what will result from an interaction with someone, we need to keep our heart and eyes open in order to witness it.


Thanks for reading!


Stay curious,


♥️ Oliviah




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