Next up in our Alumni Guest Post series: Priscilla Lam ’12 discusses her role as a clinical research coordinator in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute!
I could not have been more ecstatic when I received a phone call from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, MA) during senior week with an offer to be the new clinical research coordinator in the Center for Neuro-Oncology. Without any hesitation, I immediately accepted the job offer even though I was informed that the start date of my job would be June 4th (exactly 9 days after graduation!). Everything felt like a whirlwind, but I was very excited to begin a new chapter of my life in Boston.
It is hard to believe that I have been working at Dana-Farber for over four months now. Dana-Farber is an outpatient clinic that is directly connected to Brigham and Women’s Hospital (inpatient). I absolutely love working here. Sometimes it feels like I never left Holy Cross because I work with three other Holy Cross alums in my department and I am constantly running into Holy Cross grads from all years working in various disease centers at Dana-Farber.
The responsibilities of a clinical research coordinator differ slightly depending on the disease center. In Neuro, the majority of the patients I work with are Glioblastoma patients. I am responsible for knowing several clinical trials and being familiar with protocol requirements. Our primary responsibility is data entry and management. We are responsible for entering medical/surgical history information, lab values, concomitant medications, adverse events, etc. in the database for each clinical trial participant for sponsors to review. We have monitors (a representative hired by the sponsor, usually from a pharmaceutical company) come in once a month for every clinical trial to review our data and ensure that all data are properly documented and captured. They issue queries and we are required to answer these queries in a timely manner. Research coordinators are essentially the primary point person between the industry sponsor and the research team at Dana-Farber. We also have regulatory responsibilities such as submitting Serious Adverse Event reports to the Dana-Farber Internal Review Board and the industry sponsor. Other duties include preparing research tubes/kits and flow-sheets for nurses, shipping samples, requesting pathology, scheduling clinic visit appointments and MRIs, [and] communicating with patients, ordering labs, being in attendance when physicians screen/consent patients for potential trials, reviewing provider notes to ensure that there is proper source documentation for data, and organizing/prepping patient charts to be ready for monitor visits and future audits.
Most of the research coordinators work in the Longwood Galleria offices while clinic is in the Yawkey Building. Every day is different. This is not a typical 9-5pm job. Things come up spontaneously and each day is completely unpredictable. Generally, clinic days tend to be busier because that is when our patients come in for visits. I learn something new every day. This job can be challenging and demanding at times, but overall very rewarding. It is interesting to see research from a clinical perspective and being part of the research care team is fulfilling.
Clinical trials give patients a sense of hope. Clinical trials investigate specific experimental drugs not yet approved by the FDA and explore novel cancer therapies, as well as implement standard of care treatment in hopes of finding new and effective treatments for patients.
My favorite part of this job is being a contributing member of the research team and having the opportunity to experience full clinical exposure. I also take much pride in being able to work at an institute that offers state-of-the-art treatment for patients, with renowned physicians and experts on brain tumors, and a team of compassionate individuals consisting of neuro-oncologists, researchers, nurses, and PA. I could not have asked for a better place to be after graduating from Holy Cross. Everyday, I find myself inspired by patients, their families, and the support and care that clinicians provide to patients. This job has definitely helped reinforce my dreams of pursing a future career in medicine. I cannot thank the Holy Cross faculty, staff, and alumni network enough for opening my eyes to the opportunities that can be had working as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Dana-Farber.
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