Remembering Kathleen Drennan, pioneer in clinical trial patient recruitment
Kathleen Brady Drennan, CEO and president of Chicago-based TrialAdvance, passed away Oct. 3.
Widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of clinical trial patient recruitment, Drennan had a passion for women’s health and pediatric clinical trials in particular. She worked in the industry for 40 years and was a popular speaker at new-media conferences.
She died as a result of a heart attack while undergoing treatment for kidney cancer. Not surprisingly, she was participating in a phase II clinical trial.
“Kathleen Drennan has been a truly inspirational figure in the clinical research enterprise,” said Ken Getz, director of sponsored research programs at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD).
“Her passion, commitment to evidence and quality, and her fountain of new ideas brought insight and change to clinical research professional practices and moved us all to better engage patients as partners,” he continued. “She occupied and was a powerful force in every corner of the enterprise: as a healthcare professional, pharmaceutical company manager, director of investigative site staff, contract service provider, entrepreneur, editor-in-chief. Her energy, encouragement, friendship and ideas will be deeply missed.”
Drennan was a founding member and long-time board member of the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR). Her lobbying efforts resulted in more women being included in research studies.
Drennan then cofounded the Chicago Center for Clinical Research (CCCR), which became a large independent research organization. There, she developed performance-based trial strategies that have been used as the model for clinical research across the country and helped set the standard for conducting clinical trials involving food and nutrition.
She operated her own consulting firm, Drennan Healthcare International, and then spearheaded the development of IRIS Global Clinical Trial Solutions, which specialized in clinical research communications and centralized patient recruitment and retention programs. As managing director, Drennan set standards for managing pediatric trials and patient registries.
While running IRIS in 2002, Drennan hired Paul Ivsin to strengthen the technology and analytical side of her work. They stayed friends; he remembers her always being several steps ahead of the rest of the industry.
“Kathleen was the only person I knew who was actually running patient focus groups, listening to their concerns and trying to customize the trial experience more to their wants and needs,” Ivsin said. “Ten or 15 years ago, a lot of sponsors thought the idea of changing a protocol to accommodate patients was a little crazy. Now, the idea of integrating patient experience into trial design has gone mainstream, but that’s really only because of the work of people like Kathleen really pushing for that to happen.”
Drennan began her career at Upjohn in Kalamazoo, Mich., where she worked as a cardiovascular R&D clinical trial specialist.
A native of Grand Haven, Mich., she attended Michigan State University.
She also had been the editor-in-chief of the Elsevier publication Contemporary Clinical Trials.
She leaves her son, his wife and their two children; a sister; three brothers; 11 nieces and nephews; and her companion, Bob Lupo. Her family has requested memorial donations in Kathleen’s name be made to the Van Andel Institute at vai.org.