Sept. 25, 2019 – Research is such a vital part of Rady Children’s mission. It can lead to new and improved drugs, devices and diagnostics that can benefit patients in local, national and international populations. Today, on National Research Administrator Day, I met with the team that facilitates these important studies and investigations.
My visit began at the team’s home base on the third floor of 7920 Frost Street. Director of Research Administration Christine Moran had done some research of her own on my background, and discovered that an explorative nature runs in my family. Both my father and I have published a number of research papers over the years on subjects ranging from cardiology (me) to Angelman syndrome (my father), a complex genetic disorder that primarily affects the nervous system.
Here at Rady Children’s, research is conducted in every division, with about 200 investigators involved in more than 900 studies. As Christine aptly put it, “clinical research is clinical care.” Today, I would be walking in the shoes of a research coordinator (and they do a lot of walking!) to get familiar with some of the protocols and processes involved in conducting a study. I sat down with several coordinators to go over what my day would look like working on a clinical trial.
My first job was to pack up a rolling cart with all of the equipment I would need. I first loaded up an EKG machine, and then rolled into a storage room where I gathered a subject binder, urine cup, pregnancy test, genetic test, blood draw supplies and shipping containers.
Next, I made a stop with the core research administration team to discuss how research projects get off the ground. The process all begins with a project initiation form, which guides investigators through some basic questions to get started. The goal is to get research projects up and running as quickly as possible. The median initiation turnaround time is four months, and 75 percent of projects are initiated within eight months. Institutional Review Board and Rady Children’s approvals are required to begin research, along with securing funding. Finally, a “Ready to Accrue” research approval notification is sent to investigators and they can launch their research. Other administrators handle pre- and post-award duties for research and clinical trials that are funded by entities including federal, state and local agencies; corporations; and Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation, ensuring that the rules and regulations governing the award are followed. Others look after research compliance, with the goal of promoting the highest standards of ethics, integrity and responsibility.
Next, I chatted with research coordinators who are assigned to specialty groups, such as infectious diseases. Listening to their stories, I was impressed with how passionate they are about managing the studies that are under their purview. Several had personal stories of their own children who struggled with health issues and were helped with research-driven treatments. One interesting project that I heard about involved Dr. Stephanie Leonard’s research on peanut allergies. She developed a “peanut patch” that, via the wearable patch, introduces children who are severely allergic to peanuts to slightly increased amounts of the allergen over time. The idea is that they will be become less sensitive to the allergen, and have milder symptoms. Fascinating stuff!
Word must be spreading that I’m a big Florida Gators fan, because a foldable Gators chair, thermos, sunglasses and towel were waiting for me when we headed outside for a team photo! I’m sure these will be put to good use. I then had the honor of presenting Christin Moran with a certificate of appreciation for all of her great work as the department director. This was one of her last days at Rady Children’s, as she is moving to the department of pediatrics at UC San Diego as director of sponsored projects. Christine has been a great advocate for pediatric research at Rady Children’s. Now Joey Principato, former pre-award grants and contracts manager, will step into the role. Congratulations to all!
The last part of my visit involved rolling that cart I mentioned earlier from Frost Street all the way to the EOB, with multiple stops along the way. While we didn’t have time to make every stop a research coordinator would actually need to, I definitely got a taste of a day in the life. For my particular case, I would have first visited the MOB to meet with the patient for a physical, take vitals and fill out questionnaires. Then, I would have headed to the research lab in the Nelson Pavilion to process and ship the samples, walked to a blood draw appointment at Building 28 and finally dropped off the forms with the principal investigator back at the EOB.
I felt at home during this visit, as I have a familiarity with and passion for research from my days as a pediatric cardiologist. I know that the job of a research administrator or coordinator may seem thankless at times, but rest assured your work is crucial in changing the trajectory of kids’ lives for the better.