Meetings Have Meaning!
Stacey Carmody, CCRP
Coordinators travel to their fair share of meetings, most of them being investigator meetings. It is at these meetings we learn about a new protocol and take an opportunity to connect with others in the field. We meet other coordinators, monitors and investigators, often swapping stories about past and present studies; we compare notes about IRBs, study subjects, recruitment techniques, staffing and so forth. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have some time to be a tourist and explore your surroundings. The time is very limited since investigator meetings run only about 2 days.
Aside from investigator meetings, conferences for research professionals are held. Both ACRP and SOCRA hold yearly conferences for their members. They are prime opportunities for networking, meeting vendors, sharing research projects, and continuing education- where a wide range of topics are covered. They are good learning opportunities.
If you work in a specialized field, most likely there are associations and conferences specific to that the field. The attendees include doctors, nurses, other healthcare providers, pharmaceutical personnel and researchers. My clinical research is in the specialty of liver disease, or hepatology. So, I had an opportunity to go to the annual conference of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, or AASLD. Simply called “The Liver Meeting”, thousands from around the globe come together in the US for five days every November to attend. It is primarily for doctors who specialize in liver disease, but it is open to anyone who works in the field of hepatology. Nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, scientists, research fellows and pharmaceutical representatives all come together to learn and share. The pharmas promote their latest products competitively with their exhibitor booths, and the latest drug research data is presented in the form of posters and lectures. I was asked why a research coordinator like myself would be interested in attending this conference and what can I get out of it. I will try to answer this the best I can. I attend because it is a learning opportunity, and my attendance tells my bosses that I show a keen interest in my work. I also get to see colleagues from my past and present. I get to touch base with the pharmas at their booths, finding out what they have in store in the way of research. But there’s other reasons too. Day to day, I collect and enter data for these clinical trials and send it to the sponsors. I am one of many players in a multicenter study protocol, and once I submit the data, it takes time to see what becomes of it. Eventually my data and other sites’ data come together at meetings like this one in a presentation in the form of a poster, a slide show and a topic of discussion. The findings will be taken in for the first time by thousands of people, discussed, questioned, processed and implemented by healthcare providers. This information has the potential to change patients’ lives. Simply put: it’s my work coming to life.
A little background: the bulk of the clinical trials I have coordinated have centered around hepatitis C, which has no cure. I have been involved with such trials for the past 12 years and have seen a lot of changes in the treatment of this disease. When I first came on the scene, the injectable drug peg-interferon plus ribavirin was considered cutting edge treatment. Some years later, additional pills were added to this regimen, yielding a better response rate. Today, all-oral regimens have been developed with even better response rates. Recent media releases talk about more tolerable and effective treatments and getting closer to a cure.
I have visions of myself in the future telling young folks, “In my day, there used to be a disease called hepatitis C…”
I watched the speakers present study results to the large crowded room, I studied the graphs and pie charts shown on the screen: the sum totals of the efforts of myself, other coordinators, the principal investigators, the pharmaceutical personnel, and the subjects. The data now had meaning and told a story. Sometimes during your daily efforts in completing source documents, capturing data and resolving queries you can lose sight that you are part of a bigger picture- until it is shown in front of you.
The physicians in the room will factor this data in their clinical decision making. I do not make such decisions, but knowing this information broadens my horizons, it also gives me a glimpse into the future as to what kind of treatments will be available. I can see what kind of clinical trials may be coming down the pike and which pharmas I may have a relationship with in the coming years. It is a reminder that I am a part of something bigger, and of the role we coordinators play. And if we play a role in finding a cure for a disease, it doesn’t get much more awesome than that.