Volume 12, Issue 8 - August 2022
UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center
Clinical Research Coordinator Foundations Training Program
Launched this year, three student cohorts have now rotated through the Clinical Research Coordinator Foundations Training Program, an innovative collaboration between the Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) and local community colleges. This program aims to address clinical research coordinator (CRC) workforce shortages and raise awareness of STEM career opportunities in a diverse group of community college participants. Kate Marusina, director of UC Davis CTSC’s Clinical Trials Office (CTO), led the formation of this program, noting that, “lack of diversity in clinical trials (and STEM fields overall) is a moral, scientific and medical issue.” Angela Griffiths, clinical research education program manager for the CTO and acting administrative director of the CTSC, notes that this innovative training program is one of the first of its kind in the country, partnering with local community colleges to engage groups of students in the clinical research profession and ultimately supply them with jobs, effectively improving both recruitment and retention of CRCs.
Clinical research coordinators are in high demand, and this trend is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. According to the Association for Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP), there is an annual 9.3% year-on-year growth in job postings in the field to keep pace with an annual 12.2% increase in clinical trials. However, turnover in the profession is extremely common. Olga Kishchenko, senior clinical research coordinator in the CTSC CTO, explains: “The current issue that we’re having in the field of clinical research, specifically clinical research coordinators, is that there is such a high turnover and a lot of people in this job go on to medical school, PA school and other types of professional schools. So, they just use this job as a steppingstone. What we are trying to do is to minimize that turnover and bring in people who are interested in staying longer.”
Department faculty and staff who provided shadowing opportunities for the trainees noted the same. Sammrah Raouf, clinical research coordinator for the Department of Pathology, calls the CRC training program “a brilliant idea” to address the CRC workforce shortages and gushes that her department’s experience with the students was very positive. “The students were delightful and asked insightful questions,” confirms Trisha Yassear, clinical operations quality manager for the UC Davis Alpha Stem Cell Clinic. Additionally, she notes that having the students shadow them was a positive experience for the faculty and staff who enjoy teaching.
“I know the course was valuable to me and I also was told by some of the current employees already working as CRC's that they learned some valuable information that they did not know or that they wish they had known when they started.” – Feedback from Spring 2022 cohort.
Kishchenko facilitates the program curriculum, which was purchased from ACRP and is based on Joint Task Force (JTF) Clinical Trial Competency Domains. Students in the program attend lectures and workshops, participate in field trips, and have shadowing opportunities with UC Davis Health research teams. UC Davis Health specific policies and procedures are also incorporated into the general training content so students exit the course with a strong foundational base of both general CRC knowledge and awareness of Davis-related research roles and requirements. The experience culminates in an Entry Level Knowledge Assessment Exam. Community college students also attend a human resources workshop during which they are introduced to the UC Davis Health job application process.
The inaugural cohort of six students were UC Davis staff recently hired as clinical research coordinators or who were considering transitioning to this position. The second cohort of students included five community college students as well as five additional internal employees. The third cohort is currently in session and consists of 10 internal employees. Applications and interviews are being conducted for a fourth cohort slated to begin Fall 2022 of both community college students and internal employees.
“[The program] explains a lot about what duties the CRC needs to complete, including administrative duties that may be unfamiliar. It also provided tools and scenarios to help make clear what priorities should be.” – Feedback from Spring 2022 cohort.
Students working with Abhi Gorhe, a senior researcher in the Emergency Department, got to see the complex work of enrolling research participants and processing lab samples; learn about the detailed work of clinical research source documentation; become more knowledgeable about regulations; and work with a collaborative, interdisciplinary team. By the end of the program, she says, “most of them I feel had made a decision about whether or not this is the path they want to pursue. They learned about their ability to collaborate, work in a close team, and about their tolerance for documentation and paperwork required of this position.”
The CRC role requires the ability to work with complex therapeutic, regulatory and logistical issues, with most CRCs taking valuable time to learn these skills while on the job, resulting in lost work time up front. As Eric Hanson, Regulatory Coordinator for the Emergency Department, explains, this is because there has historically been no traditional pathway to a CRC position. “It was almost like you would fall into the job through other portals – for example, by being involved in NIH studies with a professor in college – and there was no academic training at all.”
Hanson mentored the community college students in the second cohort of the program to do their shadowing experience in the ED administrative unit. “This program is successfully giving access to the real-world experience of a job description that might not give the full scope of the job,” he says. “It gives them a chance to test the waters.”
A key aspect of this program is the collaboration with Cosumnes River College and Sierra Community College to recruit underrepresented students who are interested in clinical careers. Says Kishchenko, “This provides a career track for students who might not have thought they had access to work in science and research. We are aiming for underserved students who may not have had the opportunity, access, or plan to attend professional school or medical technology programs.”
A critical element of supporting trainee diversity is providing stipends of $3,000 per student based on economic need to allow them to fully focus on learning, says Marusina. Need-based stipends are administered via an external staffing partner, Medix, which serves as an employer of record and has an enterprise-wide agreement with UC Davis Health. Using Medix to onboard the students also reduces barriers to full-time employment. “Departments who wish to hire a student may do so through Medix immediately and not have to wait for the job posting and formal hiring process. Students who are not hired by UC Davis Health can be promoted by Medix for other opportunities.”
The CRC role is an in-demand career with a competitive starting salary and offers many opportunities to advance, both within the profession and through diversification into research regulatory, compliance or finance roles at academic medical centers, in government regulatory bodies, and within the pharmaceutical industry. This program provides access to training and shadowing experiences which allows students to connect the dots between training and practice. For additional program information or to enroll/nominate an internal employee or community college student for attendance, please visit our Join the Team website.
A Legacy Program That Benefits TL1 Scientists
In the wake of the loss of H. William “Bill” Schnaper, M.D., a new program was born. Schnaper, a pediatric nephrologist and associate chair for Faculty Development in the Department of Pediatrics at Northwestern University, served on the TL1 Directors Executive Committee. He was a key contributor to the design of the national TL1 Survey and he initiated the new TL1 Visiting Scientist Program. The Schnaper Visiting Scientist (SVS) Program is dedicated to him.
The SVS Program is designed to offer essential professionalization and networking for T scholars at each stage of their development. The program provides three pathways for intercampus scholar engagement – debate is for early stage TL1 trainees and the mini-symposium is geared toward mid-stage TL1 trainees, while the grand rounds targets more senior TL1’s.
The debate sets 2 to 4 scientists from two different institutions against each other in a competitive environment. With expert judges in the audience, trainees have the wonderful opportunity to display their knowledge set in a compelling and persuasive manner. By having trainees discuss and organize their points of view for one side of an argument, they are able to discover new information. The topic for last year’s debate was, “Should statins be prescribed for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease among the very elderly (>=75 years old)?” The evaluation was unanimous – all of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that by participating, they increased their knowledge of the topic debate and developed professional/career skills. TL1 scholar participants remarked that they enjoyed the “friendly competition” and appreciated that the moderator was an expert in the field.
The mini-symposium took place on October 11, 2021, at the Institute for Translational Medicine in Chicago, featuring the theme: “COVID-19: Innovation and evolution of research in the pandemic”. Ten pre- and post-docs, each representing a different CTSA, gave presentations in both clinical and basic science. By participating in the mini-symposium, trainees gained valuable experience submitting an abstract, presenting their research, and fielding questions from an audience of experts and peers. One mini-symposium presenter remarked, “This will be the only conference I'm presenting my COVID-19 research for so it was great to be able to showcase that work”. The next mini-symposium for TL1 scientists will take place December 13, 2022.
The grand rounds portion of the SVS program is a series of day-long virtual visits between a TL1 pre- or post-doc scholar with an institution. The visit includes a 45-minute presentation and Q&A, three one-on-one meetings with faculty members, and a meet and greet with TL1 peers. Seven TL1 scholars and five campuses participated in the grand rounds portion of the SVS Program. As a result of participation, scholars expanded their networks and had the opportunity to present their research in-depth in a low pressure/high feedback environment.
UC Davis Health had the privilege to host three TL1 scholars, Andreea Waltmann (UNC Chapel Hill), Charles Askew (UNC Chapel Hill), and Tara Bautista (Yale Center for Clinical Investigation). There were also two TL1 scholars from UC Davis Health who presented their research to member institutions. Ben Osipov presented his research, “Sex differences in systemic bone loss after fracture and the effect of estrogen”, at UNC Chapel Hill on December 7, 2021. Vanessa Hull presented her research, “Targeting N-acetyl-L-aspartate synthesis and transport to treat Canavan Leukodystrophy”, at the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation on February 25, 2022.
Grand round hosts also benefitted by participating in the program, with one host reflecting, “I think this is a very valuable program to increase the visibility of our scholars work and in general our program. We tend to be very confined regionally and I think this is a great opportunity of interaction with other institution.”
By providing opportunities for TL1 scholars to engage in research dissemination across campuses, the SVS Program is enriching the experience and developing skillsets of TL1 scholars on our campus and others.
UC Davis Health CSTC’s own Daniel Moglen will be taking the reins for the 2022-2023 academic year as the SVS Program Director. Please stay tuned for more information on SVS programming and events.
For more information on the SVS Program working group, please visit: https://clic-ctsa.org/groups/tl1-visiting-scientist-working-group
Melisa Price, M.P.H., Adolescent and Young Adult Program Manager, CTSC Health Equity Resources and Outreach Program
Meet Melisa Price, Adolescent and Young Adult Program Manager in the CTSC Health Equity Resources and Outreach (HERO) program. The Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) advisory boards, coordinated by Melisa, are an integral programmatic piece to one of two optional functions for the CTSA award held by the CTSC. We asked her two professional and one personal question to help learn more about her and her role at the CTSC. Thank you for engaging us, Melisa!
Q: Please tell us about the work of the CTSC’s optional function, the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Advisory Board.
Melisa: There are many programs that work with or whose work encompasses adolescents and young adults. The AYA program works closely to incorporate several key players within the CTSC. I regularly interact with Vanessa Trujillo, program manager for the CTSC Community Engagement program and the Center for Reducing Health Disparities, regarding an upcoming Science Café on adolescent mental health and the various programs we are both coordinating. Scholars from our K and T programs have been invited to observe the upcoming AYA advisory board, so conversations with Rachel Reeves, program manager for the CTSC’s Research Training, Education and Career Development (RTECD) program, are also occurring . We have involved Laura Kester Prakash, adolescent medicine physician and faculty director for the UC Davis School of Medicine K-12 Outreach program and the Health Equity Academy as well, to ensure well-roundedness of our program. The number of people participating in the AYA working group is reflective of people’s desire and interest in learning about and from others who work with AYAs.
The AYA advisory board is comprised of three groups based on age. Our 13–17 age group has 20 members, our 18-24 age group has 10 members, and our 25-39 age group has nine members. The goal of the advisory boards is twofold: 1) to give adolescents and young adults a chance to provide feedback on research that involves people like them; and 2) to give researchers valuable feedback regarding best practices to recruit and retain adolescents and young adults in health research studies. The board’s first meeting was in April, and their second meeting was held in the first week of July. Board members provided feedback on a national CTSC survey designed to gather information on AYA recruitment and retention.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job and why?
Melisa: My job gives me an opportunity to bring people to the table who may not always be present in research. Having worked with youth and the community for 20 years, I can utilize my education and experiences to bring an opportunity for young people to have a voice in research by including them on the adolescent and young adult (AYA) advisory boards, part of our CTSC optional function for the current CTSA grant cycle. I love facilitating this for them and believe that adolescents are at a moment of great potential in their lives – it is up to us to tap into this and listen to them.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Melisa: My family has season tickets to the Angel City women’s soccer team, so we make regular trips back to Southern California, where I was raised. We also make a trek to the women’s World Cup, which will be held in Australia in August 2023, so we are busy making travel plans!
In the News
Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola to Lead New Federally Funded Digital Health Equity Program
Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, CTSC Community Engagement Program director, will lead a new digital health Equity Program in an effort to improve access and continuity of care for vulnerable populations in Sacramento.
Angela Jarman, BIRCWH K12 Program Scholar, Published in JAMA Network Open
A new study entitled “Experiences of Transgender and Gender Expansive Physicians” was published on June 29, 2022, in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Network Open. Angela Jarman, an emergency department physician, served as senior author on the study, collaborating with colleagues at several institutions across the country.
Spotlight: Health and Data Equity Resources
On July 13, 2022, the CTSC Health Equity Resources and Outreach (HERO) program partnered across UC Davis Health to sponsor a two-hour spotlight event. The four presenters focused on providing helpful tools and resources for researchers as follows:
As part of HERO’s mission, the event and most of the resources are public. Using one of the tools demonstrated in the presentation, the HERO team compiled the speaker presentations and resources mentioned during the event. With a nod to equity, the presentations and resources can be found in grid view or gallery view.
Presentations were well received, with particular interest in Sandra Taylor’s data equity presentation. Evaluations highlighted attendee interests in seeing more on each of these topics in workshop format. Our next event is titled Spotlight: Addressing Race in Research: Advancing Health and Data Equity Commitments in Translational Research.