Disability Employment Awareness Month & ADOA: A personal story of career success with David Adams



October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, where companies like Google and The U.S. Department of Labor focus their efforts on the importance of promoting roles to increase access and opportunity for people living with a disability.


Living with a disability teaches people how to adapt, overcome challenges, and develop additional skill sets, leading to a strong-willed and determined employee. Adding disability inclusiveness to a company also creates a positive, diverse atmosphere within a company’s workforce. We at the Autosomal Dominant Optic Atrophy (ADOA) Association are highlighting a personal story of the successful career of David Adams, a scientist working in pharmaceutical drug development and toxicology at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Photo of David Adams, Toxicology Project Specialist

Dave was six years old when he first presented with decreased visual acuity, which was generically labelled as an optic neuropathy, until definitively confirmed by genetic testing in his mid-40’s as ADOA due to an OPA1 mutation. Additionally, Dave also started experiencing extraocular symptoms (myopathy) in his late 30’s consistent with OPA1-plus phenotypes.


Due to frustrations over lack of a definitive diagnosis, Dave began exploring literature on ophthalmologic diseases, and suspected ADOA based on his symptoms, well before receiving genetic confirmation of an OPA1 mutation. Dave keeps current on emerging ADOA-related literature and participated in a clinical trial for treating mitochondrial myopathies. He graduated from Penn State University with a BS degree in Microbiology and completed a one-year internship at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia to obtain his certification in Medical Technology. After college, he pursued his interest in science and has been working with GSK for over 20 years, starting in the clinical pathology department and now specializing in nonclinical toxicology for pharmaceutical drug development.


Like many people living with ADOA, Dave has often noticed throughout his life that nagging feeling of not being “normal.” When he was younger, that meant not being able to see the blackboard in school and having to copy notes from his classmates. At work, that means using a large, mounted computer monitor that he can easily get close to and zoom in on text. However, he’s never let ADOA stop him from living a fulfilling life and doing what he’s passionate about. This includes his studies, a successful 20+ year career in pharmaceutical R&D, and hobbies such as cycling and playing guitar.


In addition to Google and The Department of Labor bringing awareness to National Disability Employment Awareness month, the nonprofit Ability Corps and AbilityJobs.com are hosting a Virtual Job Fair on December 3rd, 2020 specifically designed to help find jobs for the disabled. Featured companies in the past with participation and open positions are: Google, CBRE, Department of Transportation, The CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, The Geo Group, Inc., Wells Fargo, and more.

Dave with his girlfriend, Andrea

One fact that has become increasingly clear to the global community this year with the rapid spread of COVID-19 is that a disease can affect each person in unique ways. The same is true of ADOA. In the ADOAA community, we want to share everyone’s experiences to gain a better understanding of how the disease affects people in different ways and where to better focus our research. We’d love to hear your story as well!


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Photo from American Association of People with Disabilities (aapd.com)

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