Not all superheroes wear masks and capes. At Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, clinical research coordinators are the often-unsung superheroes doing important work in plain clothes and in plain sight. A good coordinator makes the process of participating in clinical studies easy and enjoyable for families while capably navigating the hidden complexities of running a study behind the scenes. And CHOP is home to many such staffers who are not only good, but super.
The fourth annual Clinical Research Coordinator RE@CH Award ceremony, hosted by CHOP’s Clinical Research Support Office and held Oct. 19, honored 16 nominees, two winners, and the entire community of clinical research staff at CHOP for excellence — and it featured a superhero theme, of course.
The comic-book-themed program flyer offered thanks to the 16 coordinators from diverse areas across CHOP who were nominated for the award: Deirdre Burke, Nancy Burnham, Eileen Ford, Stephanie Givler, Samantha Hagopian, Marlena Kittick, Jamie Koh, Kathleen Marshall, Jennie Minnick, Laura Motley, Sara Nguyen, Sarah Noon, Ratnakar Patti, Jordan Price, Carol Twelves, and Kristin Wade.
A clear sign that these coordinators and all coordinators at CHOP are heroes came in the kudos they received from the highest levels of the institution.
“Clinical research is absolutely key for CHOP,” said CHOP Chief Scientific Officer Bryan A. Wolf, MD, PhD, in introducing the event. He added that the Research Institute’s strategic plan emphasizes growth of clinical trials for conditions found in CHOP’s unique patient population, including rare and orphan diseases. “That can’t happen without your work and your dedication. You are absolutely key to our success, and I am here to say thank you.”
Dennis Durbin, MD, MSCE, assistant vice president and chief clinical research officer at CHOP, echoed those thanks and noted that clinical research coordinators’ jobs are often highly complex — involving, for instance, coordination with as many as 18 administrative offices to support a clinical trial at CHOP. While part of Dr. Durbin’s role in the strategic plan involves streamlining those processes to make research more efficient, he complimented the coordinators in attendance for their success at navigating these challenges seamlessly and professionally.
Following these welcoming remarks, the crowd cheered for a countdown of appreciation by keynote speaker Shana McCormack, MD, MTR, an endocrinologist at CHOP and investigator specializing in the neuroendocrine system. Dr. McCormack’s list, “Top 10 Reasons we ❤ Our Clinical Research Coordinators,” included coordinators’ strong networks of resources to solve unexpected problems, as well as their engagement with participants as people — running the gamut from offering heartfelt condolences when families experience a tragic loss to sharing kudos and excitement over family wedding photos.
The thrilling conclusion of this superhero celebration came with the unveiling of the 2016 coordinator tribute video. The second annual special-effects-laden celebration of coordinators’ numerous superhuman abilities featured feats that you must see to believe. (Many of their colleagues at CHOP may not know that research coordinators can fly.) Members of the CHOP and Penn community are welcome to visit the lobby of the Colket Translational Research Building, where the video will soon be played on a regular loop on the large screen near the elevators. It can’t be posted here due to licensing restrictions.
The video’s happy resolution came with the announcement of the winners: Eileen Ford, a program manager in the Infant Growth and Microbiome study and the Nutrition and Growth Lab (who happened to take part in a recent Q&A on Cornerstone about her work), and Sarah Noon, MS, CGC, a genetic counselor and clinical director for the Center for Cornelia de Lange Syndrome and Related Diagnoses.
Ian Krantz, MD, praised the outstanding accomplishments of his nominee, Noon, in both building studies and building their team’s program focused on Cornelia de Lange syndrome.
“She has evolved into the ultimate clinical coordinator,” he said. “She builds close, lasting interactions with all patients enrolled in our studies, and even those who come into the clinic and don’t enroll in studies. She is one of the best advocates for our research program.”
Babette Zemel, PhD, the principal investigator who nominated Ford, thanked her for being a partner in research who creates a great working environment for their entire team.
“She creates an atmosphere that is warm, welcoming, and accepting,” Dr. Zemel said. “She celebrates diversity not just of people who come into participate, but also among our staff and the different strengths and backgrounds they have.”
Jennifer Goldfarb, director of the Clinical Research Support Office, reflected on the success of the event as a showcase of the superhuman talent and dedication of research coordinators at CHOP.
“There is nothing ordinary about the everyday work of a research coordinator,” Goldfarb said. “It is truly extraordinary in that it has a profound impact on patients and their families, and on the future advances of science and medicine.”