Someone recently posed the question: “What do you find most exciting about clinical research?” I find that it is hard to answer this is in just a few words. If I was to sum it up, I would say, “making a difference.” The role of clinical research is an awesome responsibility when you think about it. It determines which new drugs get approved that will enhance, or perhaps even save people’s lives. I find it exciting and humbling to be part of that. It is a great thrill to work with a drug that I later see gain FDA approval- to see it go from a number to a brand name. It’s kind of like knowing an unknown actor who finally becomes a star.
Another exciting aspect about clinical research is that it is never static. It always changes. There are always new treatments to study, and improvements to be made on the treatments we already have. Just when you think you have seen the best drug in its field, another one comes along that has promise to be better. Research never stops.
I also find it exciting when I have opportunities to connect with others who work in the profession. Logistically, research coordinators are often isolated in their private practices or hospital departments where there aren’t too many other coordinators around. Meetings and conferences have given opportunity for interaction, and the rise of social media have been especially beneficial.
I keep these thoughts in mind if I find myself aggravated- and anyone who works in this field can tell you that there will be times when you want to tear your hair out! In the worst times, you have to deal the demands of the study sponsors, the requests of the IRB, unpleasant monitor visits, noncompliant patients, stressed out Principal Investigators and so forth. There is also the strain of meeting enrollment demands, as in many cases, payment amounts to center depend on the amount of subjects enrolled in a clinical trial. Often, the existence of the research staff’s jobs depend on the amount of subjects enrolled. As unpleasant a thought that might be, it is a hard truth that clinical research is also a business and a competitive one at that, so there is a sense of urgency to enroll when you can. My former principal investigator was found of saying, “We’ve got to strike while the iron is hot!” The sponsor also has the pressure of deadlines to meet- which in turn is transferred to the participating center.
But all of this is quickly fades when I think about the main benefactors to research: the patients. Things happen when patients sign up for a clinical trial and come in for their visits. You get to know their personalities, their hopes, their fears. A relationship is formed. You find yourself rooting for them, hoping that the study drug will enhance their lives. Nothing gets more exciting than telling a study patient that the drug worked and that they are cured. To witness the looks of relief, the smiles, the tears of joy- is priceless. And it reminds me why I do what I do.