By Nancy McCann
It was no easy feat for two “superhero” clinical research coordinators (CRCs) to rise to the top of nominees at the 6th annual CRC Research Excellence @ Children’s Hospital (RE@CH) Award ceremony because they were in the company of extraordinaires.
Congratulations go out to the 2019 CRC RE@CH Award winners Katherine Kellom, a qualitative methods program manager at CHOP’s PolicyLab, and Lindsay Waqar, MPH, CCRC, a clinical research coordinator in the Division of Rheumatology. Their nominating principal investigators were Meredith Matone, DrPH, MHS, and Pamela Weiss, MD, MSCE, respectively.
The event held May 2 at the Colket Translational Research Building celebrated the ongoing work and dedication of ALL CRCs at CHOP. CRCs work closely with their PIs to accomplish studies’ goals, and thus help to carry out the Hospital’s and Research Institute’s mission. They are instrumental in helping to protect the safety and integrity of the research, working as advocates for study participants and the PIs.
“CRCs are the face of clinical research at CHOP,” said Debbie Kawchak, MS, RDN, LDN, CCRP, the clinical research team manager, and Master of Ceremonies of the event. “Those who excel at CHOP — the ones we will be recognizing today — possess an unique set of leadership and interpersonal skills and talents that allow them to effectively communicate with families, establish great rapport, and work with the study teams on one hand, while simultaneously doing all the technical aspects that need to get done.”
The CRC RE@CH Award, started in 2013, has seen the number of nominees increase throughout the years as the Research Institute continues to grow. This year, PIs nominated 26 CRCs. The winners scored consistently high in all six judging categories: relationships with patients, families, and staff; human subjects’ protection; regulatory compliance and data integrity; leadership skills; contributions as a clinical research advocate for the Hospital and Research Institute; and interpersonal skills.
Super Powerful Thanks
Words of gratitude and recognition for CRCs’ invaluable work echoed throughout the superhero-themed program. Richard Aplenc, MD, PhD, MSCE, assistant vice president and chief clinical research officer, whose research focuses on improving the outcomes of children with cancer, gave the introductory remarks.
“The integral role that coordinators play in these studies is so valuable and such a testament to your capabilities and skills,” Dr. Aplenc said. “Your work alongside PIs and other clinical staff is invaluable. Most important is your efforts to improve the experience patients and families have. You take the edge off for families who come to CHOP, and that’s extraordinarily valuable. The Research Institute values what you’re doing — it is absolutely critical.”
Keynote speaker, CHOP endocrinologist Andrea “Andi” Kelly, MD, MSCE, continued the accolades, describing CRCs as committed, practical, knowledgeable, organized, and having a great sense of humor.
“CRCs really do transform the lives of children,” Dr. Kelly said. “Without you, none of our studies would be successful — from recruitment to regulatory issues, data analysis, data entry, and helping to manage medical students, residents, and others who come along.”
Next came a spoken-from-the-heart family perspective of research participation by Lainey Moseley, a freelance film producer and advocate for her 22-year-old daughter, Leta, who was enrolled in a research study at CHOP. For the first 16 years of Leta’s life, she had no diagnosis to explain her cognitive disabilities, pulmonary distress, and heart issues.
But their world changed in 2012, when CHOP medical geneticist and researcher Ian Krantz, MD, and his research team discovered a new diagnosis: CHOPS syndrome, which stands for Cognitive impairment and coarse facial features, Heart defects, Obesity, Pulmonary involvement, Short stature and skeletal dysplasia. (Read about this discovery in Cornerstone.) Today, the condition is known to affect 14 people worldwide.
“CRCs are the heart and soul of research breakthroughs, whether they are there ensuring the study falls within the regulatory protocols, explaining the science behind a health condition to a family, or simply spending time with patient participants to put them at ease,” Mosely said. “Coordinators bridge the gap between an idea and its execution. Your impact on families like mine goes beyond the diagnosis or clinical visits. You help us find our new normal.”
And the Winners Are …
Choosing just two winners from such distinguished nominees proved a tough job for the selection committee. Through much discussion and deliberation, the volunteers finally narrowed the nominees down to two, and the winners were announced during the premiere of the 2019 Coordinator Tribute Video.
“I am both honored and humbled to have been selected as a recipient for this award,” Waqar said. “It’s a privilege to be counted among so many exceptional clinical researchers across the Institution. I thank CHOP and the Research Institute for not only the award itself, but also for recognizing, supporting, and encouraging research coordinators as a pivotal part of the organization. I’m especially grateful to my amazing team in the Division of Rheumatology, whose support of clinical research has allowed me and our entire clinical research team to play a vital role in advancing care and outcomes for our patients and families.”
Katie Kellom was also elated to be chosen for the CRC RE@CH Award. “I’m reminded every day, by the work of everyone around me, that CHOP is made up of compassionate, hard-working people striving to make the world a better place,” Kellom said. “I am honored to have my efforts recognized among a group of such exceptional individuals. I am filled with gratitude to work with a boss and mentors, and at an organization, who highlight the significant contributions of staff.”
The other 24 CRC nominees included: Abinaya Arulselvan, Susan Becker, Meckenzie Behr, Maria Gemino-Borromeo, Hayley Buffman, Kristin Cao, Vivian Chang, Jennifer Frazier, Leah Gaetz, Stephanie Givler, Samantha Hagopian, Nicholas Huffnagle, Lionola Juste, Geraldine Liu, Jennie Minnick, Genevieve Nesom, Sara Nguyen, Alyssa L Ritter, Omar Sherbini, Martha Sisko, Alexandra Thomas, Carol Tustin, Lauren Vernau, and Kristin Wade.
A big CHOP Research Institute “thank you” to all!