Clinical Researchers Should Learn to Toot Their Own Horns

Shirley Trainor-Thomas, MHSA, Chief Strategy Officer, eNRE

Shirley Trainor-Thomas, MHSA, Chief Strategy Officer, eNRE

Clinical research impacts many areas of any organization in which it is conducted, but the impact often goes unnoticed, says Shirley Trainor-Thomas, MHSA, chief strategy officer for GuideStar Clinical Trials Management.

“You need to brag about [research because] it brings strategic value, quality value, and financial value” to the organization, adds Trainor-Thomas, who is also a member of the Clinical Researcher Editorial Advisory Board for ACRP.

Unfortunately, researchers often assume others in the organization understand what they do, and its importance, she says. It’s important to communicate the contribution research makes beyond what is happening in the research department. She advises making certain others realize that research can help capture market share, maintain accreditations, attract new physicians, and “contribute to the overall reputation of the healthcare organization.”

Advocating for your research department begins with understanding the organization’s overall direction, Trainor-Thomas says. To get the process going, ask yourself a few questions, including:

  • Do you want to maintain status quo?
  • Do you want to expand into other specialties?
  • Do you want to open a Phase I unit?
  • Do you want to change the culture so that clinical trials are a part of the organization’s healthcare delivery choices?
  • Do you want to play a role in your organization becoming a destination of care because of clinical trial opportunities?

Building Support and Recognition for Clinical Research and Your Role as a Leader – Join Trainor-Thomas at ACRP 2018 and learn how to effectively gain support for moving clinical research from “just a small department” to part of the broader organizational structure. Take away proven techniques for gaining buy-in for a strategic plan and ongoing engagement, including group leadership, SWOT analysis, mission and vision development, and establishment of a research advisory board. View Session Details


When thinking about the future, bring in others to help think through the direction, Trainor-Thomas stresses. Include physicians, administrators, people from finance, marketing, information technology—and any others who you think might help you look at research from a variety of perspectives. “Different perspectives can be very enlightening,” she says.

Lead this group through brainstorming exercises, Trainor-Thomas adds. “Get them to help you identify strengths and weaknesses and ideas for where research can go,” she advises.

This tactic can be beneficial on many levels. “Getting such a group together also gives you an opportunity to educate and generate enthusiasm,” Trainor-Thomas says. “It’s important to [measure] the level of support you have for research program initiatives.”

Once you get a handle on the strengths and weaknesses, get this group to identify goals and the opportunities—are they:

  • Financial?
  • Reputational?
  • Based on physician engagement?
  • Based on the mission of the organization?
  • Based on serving the community?

“This exercise will also highlight for you the barriers you may encounter, both internally and externally, which will help you develop your strategy,” Trainor-Thomas says. The next step is to articulate your direction.

Author: Michael Causey