Mentors Enhance Clinical Research Workforce Quality

Lisa Ince, BS, CCRC, CCRA, Senior CRA for Oncology, Syneos Health

Lisa Ince, BS, CCRC, CCRA, Senior CRA for Oncology, Syneos Health

“Doctors get a year of rounds before they have to work on their own, but clinical research associates [CRAs] don’t always get that kind of support,” says Lisa Ince, BS, CCRC, CCRA, a senior CRA for oncology in the Clinical Solutions unit at Syneos Health.

Ince is a big fan of mentoring from both sides of the equation. “I think I was the first person to sign up for ACRP’s mentor program,” she says. “Mentoring is so important.” Lacking formal, industry-wide, performance-based metrics and requirements, it’s not easy for a fledgling CRA to succeed, she adds.

Ince remembers her early days as a new CRA. She was paired with a seasoned CRA who helped her understand regulatory and task requirements, and, perhaps more importantly, “she helped me understand the dynamic between sites and contract research organizations [CROs].”

The need for mentors is more acute than ever, Ince says, while acknowledging there’s probably a shortage. “I think potential mentors believe mentoring takes more time than it does,” she says. “[But] you can set aside time to talk, or work via e-mail.” ACRP’s mentorship program has helped to facilitate that, she added. “You can make your own timeline.”


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Currently mentoring five CRAs, Ince estimates she spends no more than 45 minutes per week on any one mentee. In many cases, she doesn’t need to set aside much time based on where a mentee is in the cycle (e.g., is he or she looking for a new job, struggling at current post, or just looking for someone to vent with now and then?).

In one case, Ince estimates she spent a few hours over a month helping one mentee overcome rejections when she applied for jobs. Ince helped her adjust her CV to demonstrate how her skills outside clinical research were applicable to the help wanted post.

In that instance, the applicant had some higher education training in healthcare, but had spent the past decade as the manager of a trucking company. Ince coached the applicant to better understand that her people management skills and her ability to handle data processing, budgeting, and other talents were part of what CROs were after.  “I helped her better present herself, and it probably made a huge difference in her life” after she landed a good job, Ince says.

“Think about who helped you, and remember how much impact that had,” Ince adds, encouraging others to give back.

It’s a two-way street. “I sit at my desk alone five days a week,” Ince says. It’s nice to have people to interact with and learn new things about.

There’s another long-term bonus. “This is a small industry,” Ince notes. “I may end up working with them someday. I want to be excited to work with them,” and that’s more likely to be the case if they’ve had a good mentor—just like Ince did all those years ago.

Author: Michael Causey