A colleague called Melissa Nezos to tell her about an exciting job opening at a contract research organization (CRO). Unfortunately, there was a small problem. “I didn’t know what a CRO was,” she recalls today.
While Nezos has emerged as a talented addition to the clinical trial industry as global head for clinical monitoring services at Premier Research, she worries that her ignorance of clinical trials as a viable career is the rule rather than the exception among college students and other new workforce entrants.
“The future workforce is unaware of clinical research as an employment option,” Nezos says. For an industry awash in turnover and suffering from chronic shortages in the talent pool, it’s an ominous situation.
Nezos is also a big fan of certifications and core competencies to professionalize, and solidify, the clinical trial workforce. She lauds the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) for “doing a great job recently of raising awareness [and value] of the certifications and providing some data to back it up,” Nezos says. For example, studies suggest that professionals who have attained certifications have lower rates of protocol deviations than their peers who lack that training.
However, there’s an inertia out there to be addressed, Nezos says. “We’re such a slow industry to change,” she says. That’s one of the reasons she’s joined the ACRP Workforce Innovation Steering Committee (WISC), a group dedicated to advancing competency standards in the clinical trial workforce. “Whenever there’s an opportunity to volunteer for something where we can impact [and promote] innovation” we should seize it, she says.
Looking at the lack of clear career paths and absence of core competency standards, it’s clear the clinical trial industry needs a bit of a jolt, Nezos says. “If there’s a way to be disruptive and innovative, I want to be a part of it.”
Nezos has a few ideas to change the dynamic, beginning with institutions of higher learning. While there are some online degrees focusing on clinical research, they generally aren’t available at brick and mortar locations, she says. “You can’t go to UCLA and get a degree in clinical research, as an example,” according to Nezos. Colleges and other training facilities should recognize the clinical trial industry as a viable career option and offer degrees accordingly.
Author: Michael Causey