You think you may want to take your career in the direction of pharma but you don’t really have experience outside of clinical medicine to leverage the transition. One way to build experience and also to peek behind the pharma curtain to see if it would be a good fit, is to get involved in industry sponsored clinical research. You might think that clinical research is only for those in academia—you are wrong. Many physicians from all sorts of practice settings are involved in research. They find it to be an exciting and challenging—and even lucrative—complement to their usual clinical activities. It is also a professional activity that makes one’s CV more attractive when seeking the transition to a nonclinical career in pharma.
So how do you get started in clinical research? Here are some first steps you can take in that direction.
Find out about ongoing research in your therapeutic area.
Browse through listings on www.clinicaltrials.gov to see what research is happening. Look up condition your commonly treat and read about ongoing and completed trials in that area. Do you see patient who fit the entry criteria? Does the trial design described seem reasonable? Who is sponsoring those trials? You can get a good sense for the current landscape of clinical research in your specialty in this way.
Explore who is already doing research in your area and NETWORK.
You knew I was going to tell you this, right? A quick way to identify local researchers is to go to Center Watch and find clinical trials by geographic location. Be bold and use this information to make some connections. Speak with the investigators and study coordinators involved with research locally about their experience in research. How did they get started? What infrastructure is necessary? What advice do they have for you? How could you get involved? You’ll be surprised to see how willing researchers are to speak about their work.
Solidify the connections you make through networking with other researchers by referring patients to trials they are conducting. Understand inclusion and exclusion criteria for ongoing studies (the principal investigator or study coordinator will be happy to share this information with you) and ‘prescreen’ patients before you refer them. These actions will be very appreciated by local researchers and could even be a stepping stone to becoming a sub-investigator. Obviously you only want to do this if it is a trial that you truly believe will benefit your patient. Ethics and patient safety above all else!
Get some education.
Learn about the regulations. Read the FDA Guidance on Investigator Responsibilities . Get Good Clinical Practice training, which is essential to doing research and a nice credential to have on your CV (Google GCP training—look for free and low cost options!)
These first steps are a great way to learn about what it takes to do clinical research. They may even lead you to an opportunity to be involved in clinical trials or inspire you to build the needed infrastructure within your own practice to be an independent investigator. Many physicians find that industry clinical research is exactly the diversion they need from the grind of patient care. It becomes an activity that challenges them intellectually and brings new professional opportunities.