My career in research started in an organisation running global health studies as a Clinical Trial Assistant (CTA). It was purely by chance, I worked in global mobility before and after a potential redundancy scare, it made me think about what I would find fulfilling for work. Being a CTA allowed me to gain a huge knowledge base relating to trial management and I was fortunate to work on a programme of global studies which meant I had exposure to study set-up right through to database lock and study close-out and all the requirements of global trials. I loved it there, I had autonomy and although I couldn’t directly see the clinical benefits I felt I was moving in the right direction. I later moved to another role within the same organisation to learn about the bid development aspects of clinical trials. I like to know the wider picture to know where my puzzle piece fits in.
I still had the desire to be ‘making a difference’ to patients directly. This led me to become a Research Facilitator in a community Trust. I was not only coordinating research but recruiting patients as well. I have fond memories of some of the patients who joined studies whose lives were changed by their participation. I found the role a huge learning curve, with some experiences that took me out of my comfort zone and helped me consider where my skill base was – in the facilitation and management of research.
When considering a new role at this point I wanted to explore an aspect of research which was quite unknown to me – funding. I’d had involvement in some grant applications but I wanted to explore this area to obtain a holistic view of the research management process. I became an Assistant Research Manager at NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre. I found the experience invaluable and it helped in my understanding of the funding decisions including being able to attend a Health Technology Assessment (HTA) board meeting which was enlightening in a way I didn’t expect. There can be a perception that research in medicine is an ‘old boy’s club’ but attending this board meeting allowed me to see the decision making processes and academic/specialist input from each and every board member.
My latest career development has led me to a new role as Clinical Trial Project Manager at UHS – I will be providing sponsor oversight for the Clinical Trial Investigational Medical Product (CTIMP) studies. I am very excited for this new opportunity and what it may bring!
Research & Development – a term which is cited in Sergen’s Medical Dictionary (2012) to define ‘work which is designed to provide new knowledge, the finding of which are potentially of value to those facing similar problems elsewhere (i.e. generalisable) and the findings are open to critical examination and accessible to all who benefit from them (i.e. work is intended for public).’ Within this definition lies the answer as to why I work in an R&D department. As much as my role is to support research delivery and iron out issues, it is also to help grow and inspire the research culture in new staff, junior researchers and established clinicians looking for novel treatments to improve patient outcomes.
[i] The Royal College of Physicians, in conjunction with the NHS R&D Forum, have recently released a fantastic document entitled ‘Research for all – Sharing good practice in research management’ (which can be found here https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/research-all-sharing-good-practice-research-management ). This includes an excellent diagram to demonstrate the varied and wide range of work which is involved when working in an R&D department.