People Power Key to Successful Clinical Trial Operations

Technological bells and whistles are nice, innovative processes crafted at the granular level are terrific, but none of it matters much if you don’t have the right people in place, experts gathered for the 4th Annual ACRP Executive Summit in Seattle affirmed April 30.

To succeed, “you need great relationships all down the line,” said Anita DiFrancesco, vice president for clinical development with Samumed. That starts with finding and hiring the right people. Skillsets are obviously important, she noted, but the human factor might trump them all. “Our CEO likes to say we don’t hire grumpy people,” DiFrancesco said.

It’s a pretty heavy lift given today’s clinical research associate (CRA) workforce shortage, summit attendees said. One solution? Grow your own talent.

Two years ago, Samumed tested that concept by creating “Samumed University.” The program includes training and mentoring. It begins with an aggressive, but targeted talent search at some of the nation’s top universities, including Carnegie Mellon.

Stealing a page from the TV show “American Idol” playbook, Samumed interviewed 100 hand-picked candidates to fill 20 slots via a public performance, as it were. The second year, they were able to improve pre-screening and interview about 40 to garner another 20 new hires. “We got better at it,” DiFrancesco said.

Candidates were put through the paces in front of Samumed top brass, where they were challenged to give a 5-minute presentation on the difference between an active and a placebo trial. The company’s leaders were looking for three characteristics in the candidates:

  • Detail oriented
  • Ability to communicate
  • Ability to perform under pressure

Based on their performance, candidates were hired or rejected on the spot.

Members of both hiring classes are now eligible to take the test to become a Certified Clinical Research Associate (CCRA) through ACRP. “We developed a syllabus with ACRP” that covers broader concepts Monday through Thursday, and Samumed gives company-specific training on Friday,” DiFrancesco said.

Author: Michael Causey