In research, we sometimes get caught up in the amount of therapeutic information we have to assimilate and the multitude of meetings we have to attend, so that we may forget two simple, yet important, things: you were once new, and take every opportunity to help guide those who are new.
During a recent meeting, I was reminded of the importance of this.
I was contacted by the business development director from a large allergy research practice I had been trying to reach for several weeks. Our study start-up group was scouting sites for a large respiratory trial. The study included key imaging endpoints, which required us to assess the radiology site/radiologist in addition to meeting with the Principal Investigator during the site selection visit. This investigator successfully had enrolled several studies in the indication and also was affiliated with a large imaging facility. We were very interested in this site for the trial.
I wondered why the BD director had taken so long to respond. While I was eager to set a meeting date, this person was struggling to organize the meeting. During the call, he repeatedly asked for advice on meeting length, start times and key individuals. He even asked for an overview of the meeting content. I considered this strange for two reasons: this was a very experienced site that had participated in hundreds of site selection meetings, and I previously had sent this person an email with all of the information he was requesting. The email comprised a detailed list of site assessment visit requirements, the time needed to complete each portion (facilities tour, pharmacy lab and imaging) and the list of individuals with whom I needed to speak.
I asked him if he had received my email, and his silence confirmed he either had not received or had not read the email I had so painstakingly prepared.
I was due to catch a flight in less than two hours and did not have time to coordinate a meeting for which I already had provided the integral information.
After several more questions, I realized this person was new. But I did not have time to teach. I had several important things to do before leaving for the airport, and I was growing increasingly stressed. I apologized, telling him I needed to catch a plane and ending the call with the promise to resend the original email with the requested information. Though not rude, I was abrupt.
On the way to the airport, I replayed the conversation in my head. In my haste to finish my own “important” work, I had neglected someone who needed my guidance. I had been trying to reach this person for weeks and could have helped coordinate the divergent timelines into an agenda that would fulfill my requirements and the expectations of the attendees. I was not particularly proud of my behavior.
When I landed that evening, I found an email from the BD director, with an agenda for the now scheduled site selection visit. It was disorganized and unnecessarily lengthy: a three-hour tour of the facilities, two hours of investigator meetings and a two-hour lunch meeting. A seven-hour site selection meeting was unheard of. If coordinated properly, it could be completed in less than 4.5 hours. I now felt obligated to resolve the problem I inadvertently had helped create.
I crafted an email, apologizing for my earlier behavior and streamlining the agenda, attempting to not insult his effort. I eliminated lunch and shortened the meeting times. I hoped my suggestions were well met.
I heard back via email a week later, the evening before the meeting, the BD director profusely thanking me for my assistance. He had attached the official meeting agenda, nearly a duplicate to mine.
The next morning, I was greeted at the site by the very enthusiastic, very appreciative and very new BD director. The first set of meetings went well; we even finished the facilities tour ahead of schedule. We then headed to the radiology practice; upon arrival we were informed the surgery had run late. Though the radiologist was en route, he was still 30 minutes away. That left 15 minutes for both the meeting and tour. There was no way I could tour an imaging facility and review protocol endpoints with a sub-investigator in 15 minutes. The young man turned to me. “Can you do the interview with the radiologist over the phone?’ I smiled and said I could. He arranged an alternative plan with the receptionist; two minutes later we were in a conference room completing the interview with the radiologist while he drove, a creative and efficient solution to an unforeseen problem. We then were provided a facilities tour by the office manager. I was able to confirm the equipment and complete my assessment.
As we drove back to the main site, I thanked the BD director for coming up with such an ingenious plan. His words were simple, yet profound in their message.
“I had a great teacher.”
Elizabeth Blair Weeks-Rowe, LVN, CCRA, has spent more than a dozen years in a variety of clinical research roles including CRA, CRA trainer, CRA manager and business development director. She has written and edited newsletters for several CROs, created training curriculum for CRA/clinical research educational and training programs, and is a contributing writer to several research publications. She currently works in relationship development/ study start-up in the CRO industry.
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