With the entry deadline for the PharmaTimes Clinical Researcher of the Year – The Americas competition fast approaching, we speak to Lisa Ince, last year's winner of New Clinical Research Associate, and Steering Group member Susan Romberg to find out how clinical researchers can survive in the modern industry


Lisa Ince, Senior Clinical Research Associate, Quintiles, and winner of New Clinical Research Associate of the Year 2016

What is your background and current role? 

I have been in Clinical Research for 11 years, starting out as a technician and moving to CRC, manager, and CRA. I have a BS in Psychology. I am currently a Senior CRA 2 with QuintilesIMS. 

What advice would you give to people looking to enter the industry?  

Know what you are getting into. Research the industry, the options for your career, where you would like to go within the industry, and what roles you think would best fit your work style. Talk to others in the industry and know what is expected for each role within the industry. The industry is getting much more regulated, so you need to be aware of how much information you need to know and how steep the learning curve is going to be. You will need to be very detail oriented, a self-starter, willing to be flexible within your career, able to speak to authority figures, and have the ability to be accountable for everything that you do. 

What do you think are the main challenges facing clinical researchers like yourself at the moment? 

Lack of formal education opportunities. There are much greater expectations for clinical researchers now than when I started in research, and there need to be more opportunities for people wanting to get into the industry to learn prior to being on the job. It is also difficult for those in the CRC role to move into the CRA role. I believe that CRCs that really understand what it means to be a CRA make some of the best CRAs. 

What do you think are some of the biggest trends in clinical research right now?  

Remote Monitoring. I believe that within the next 10 years, CRAs will see much more at home work and much less travel. I think that we will be able to remotely access more EMR and EDC systems and source documents/ICFs will become electronic giving us the ability to review without visiting the sites. 

Why did you enter the Clinical Researcher of the Year – The Americas competition? 

I wanted to know how versed I was within my role. It is easy to think that you know everything that needs to be done, however unless your knowledge is tested, you don't have anything to compare it to. I also wanted to see how the knowledge gained within my company compared to the education that is provided among other new CRAs.

How was the competition process?  It was fun. I am a very competitive person, so I scrutinised myself at every step of the process. It really made me look into myself and utilise all the tools that I have been given as a CRA and that was a lot of fun for me. 

Do you have any advice for those entering this year? 

Remember that you do this every day and if you are a successful CRA you have all the tools that you need to do well in this competition. Don't second-guess what you know. 

Has winning impacted your career?

It has given me notoriety among the industry. I have been approached by many colleagues and companies with opportunities that I may have had to find on my own. I have also been recognised within my company as a leader among my peers and given the opportunity to mentor those newer to the role. 

What are your ambitions over the next few years? 

I am planning on furthering my career by becoming a study manager, hopefully this year, and then continuing my career path moving into more managerial roles to lead study teams.

Susan Romberg, VP, Global Clinical Development, North America at Chiltern

What are the biggest challenges facing clinical researchers/the CRO industry at the moment?

There are several challenges facing the industry currently, including trying to increase the number of sites and PIs who participate in clinical research or keeping them engaged past their first trail experience, encouraging more patients to participate in trials as a health care option, and ensuring we have well-trained clinical research professionals. Each of these is being tackled by many across the industry, however there are still opportunities for each of us to have an impact and participate ourselves.

What are the biggest trends? How is clinical research going to change over the next few years?

Some of the biggest trends right now are patient centricity, the sharing of information across companies that is not consider proprietary, risk-based approaches to trial conduct, and of course technology, with its ability to change how we conduct clinical trials.  

We are going to see the traditional job functions and roles evolve as data is more readily available for review. Sites of the future may transform as technology (including wearables) allows access to data across institutions, sites, and ancillary clinics. Patients and advocacy groups continue to grow across the globe and are eager to participate to the drug development process.    

We in the industry will need to be adaptable and open in ways we have not been in the past. Historically we have been an industry which is slow to change, however we must embrace innovation, change and work together to meet the needs of patients and their families.
What are the most important skills clinical researchers need to have these days?

Today's clinical researcher needs to have strong technical skills to work with many types of technology, analytical skills to view and understand data and trends, relationship-building skills to effectively work on teams and with sites, a sense of curiosity, and most importantly an intrinsic drive to help patients and their families lead better lives. That's what it's all about.

Why is this competition important? 

This competition is important because for PMs, CRAs, Study Coordinators, and others that participate on a team there are few if any opportunities to challenge yourself against your peers.  It's an opportunity to take all you've learned and experienced and put it to the test.

Why should people enter?

People should enter because they are ready for a challenge and want to test what they have learned over the years. They should enter because they want to identify themselves as someone who is willing to stand up and face a challenge.  hey should enter because in addition to being fun, it an opportunity to learn during each step of the competition. They should enter because they will meet many new people who share their passion of working in clinical research. And lastly, they should enter because they want to put the "I was a CROY contestant or winner" badge of honor on their CV. 

Do you have any advice for people entering the competition this year?

First and foremost is to have fun!  While it can be a little nerve-wracking writing the essay or preparing and presenting the response to the scenario in the last step of the competition, the judges are rooting for each contestant along the way. Truly there are no losers; the fact that someone enters and works through each step of the competition is an achievement in and of itself. 

Secondly, network, network, network!  There are so many interesting people to meet and get to know. It is not unusual to see contestants from different companies sharing stories, laughing, and then exchanging contact information! It's a wonderful opportunity to build your network – I certainly have!

To find out more about the Clinical Researcher of the Year competition, visit its homepage