“Vetting” The Field, Part 1

My past two posts have been about gaining valuable animal experience for your veterinary school application (see It’s All About The Animals Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t read them!). Now, it’s time for veterinary experience! After talking to some other members of the LMU-CVM Inaugural Class of 2018, I realized how incredibly varied and unique each of our experiences are. Some people are licensed veterinary technicians that decided to return to school to further their education; others have worked in a vet clinic in different capacities (i.e. kennel technician, veterinary assistant, receptionist) since they were in high school. Then you have people like me that have lots of animal experience and a great GPA, but not as much veterinary experience. I took a somewhat unconventional route to gain much of my experience: an internship in clinical research (with humans). Prior to the current cycle, VMCAS included experience with any healthcare professional as “veterinary”, not just work done with or under the supervision of a veterinarian as in the 2015 cycle. I’m glad VMCAS clarified the definition this year because there was a lot of debate about whether an experience could be considered “veterinary” in the past.

Clinical Research Coordinators get very good at drawing blood!

I’ve always been interested in research, thanks to my mom’s involvement in clinical research for the past several years, and I want to get involved in animal clinical trials after graduating from LMU-CVM. I like learning about new and upcoming treatments and diagnostics and improvement on older drugs. Without clinical research teams across the world, every day medicines like Zyrtec (for allergies) and Neosporin (for cuts), as well as life-saving drugs like Digoxin (for congestive heart failure) and Aricept (for Alzheimer’s dementia), and devices like a blood glucose monitor would not be available. I didn’t realize how detail-oriented and safety-oriented clinical research trials were prior to my internship; the goal of the medicine, of course, is to make someone better, not worse! If someone is having severe adverse reactions to the trial drug, then they will almost always be removed from the trial by the sponsor (the pharmaceutical company that designs and runs the trial).

My first few days at my internship were spent going through several different training courses. First was the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training, which introduced me to “Biomedical Research”, “Good Clinical Practice”, and “Conflict of Interest”. I learned much about the history of clinical research (the good and bad) and the formation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a governing body for medical drugs and devices. Then, I completed National Institute of Health (NIH) training in “Protecting Human Research Participants”; this course taught me about the different types of studies (observational vs. interventional, Phases I-IV) and why it is important to make sure the subject understands the Informed Consent before they (or their legal representative) signs. Finally, I completed Mayo Medical Laboratories “Transporting Dangerous Goods” training, which taught me about the proper way to handle specimens in the lab, how to package them for shipping, and proper disposal of unneeded specimens in order to prevent contamination of the sample or myself.

After I completed training, I began shadowing Clinical Research Coordinators (CRCs) to their visits with subjects. The visit varied depending on the focus of the trial, and the trial may last anywhere from a few days to a decade depending on what outcomes the Sponsor is looking for. For instance, a study visit for a new diabetic drug would usually start by having the subject weigh, then the CRC would take their blood pressure and look at the subject’s daily glucose logs since the last visit. On some visits, the CRC would draw blood in order for labs to be conducted to look at different biochemical values to see if the subject’s numbers were improving or if the drug was causing other problems, such as in the liver or kidneys. Regardless of what the focus of the study is, patient compliance is monitored by counting the number of doses that should have been taken and the amount of doses that the subject actually took and finding the percent difference. Usually, if a subject is less than 85% compliant, they are removed from the trial because the statistical analysis completed at the end of the study would be skewed. After the CRC has collected all of the information from the visit, they input the data into the trial’s specific website, which then tells the CRC which batch of double-blinded medicine to dispense to the subject.

Research is all about documentation–if it isn’t written down somewhere, it didn’t happen! Towards the end of my internship, I learned how to create source documents, which involves taking the study protocol timeline and making a paper form for each visit that the CRC can fill out during the visit so that they don’t overlook a crucial diagnostic test or question. Finally, the on-site doctor that oversees that study (called the primary investigator) signs off on all of the paperwork and takes ultimate responsibility for what happens on the trial.

In addition to learning the aspects of clinical research, I also got to shadow the director of clinical research during his clinic hours. While we were seeing humans, not animals, the factors that make a great doctor are the same; he took time with every patient to make sure they knew that he was listening to them and made them feel at ease with their condition and his recommended treatment. I learned so much about great patient-doctor interaction through these visits, and I know I’ll use this knowledge in my career. My internship in clinical research was an incredible learning opportunity, and I’m excited to get to work in clinical research in the future!

Do you have any questions about clinical research? Email me or leave a comment below!


Posted on June 24, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great article with lots of good information in it as usual. Do most trials on medications for humans start with trials on animals? How do you get an animal to consent to trials?

  1. Pingback: “Vetting” the Field, Part 2 | From The Horse's Mouth

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