Haphazard Workforce Pathways Obstruct Pipeline of Incoming Trial Professionals

Amanda Wright, Executive Director, Greater Gift

Amanda Wright, Executive Director, Greater Gift

Boston drivers are frustrated and confused by the city’s notoriously illogical road network. Streets end for no apparent reason, then magically reappear under the same name a few blocks later. Others meander into dead ends or come together in odd configurations to produce intersections of epically confusing proportions. Allegedly, the roads are random in part because they followed old cow paths from the days when Beantown was more bucolic than bustling.

Clinical trial professionals would be forgiven for feeling as if finding their entry point and career path is reminiscent of braving the white-knuckling traffic on the streets of Boston.

For Amanda Wright, like so many others, finding her clinical research destination was more accident than design. While she knew she was interested in attending medical school to allow her to work in a clinical setting, pursuing opportunities in clinical trials never occurred to her. In college and other academic settings, she heard more discussion around bench research and discovery and next to nothing about the people who conduct clinical trials.

Today, Wright is the executive director of Greater Gift, a North Carolina-based organization that highlights the heroic work of study participants and increases patient engagement in clinical trials. However, she almost missed the opportunity.

Luckily, a friend who knew of Wright’s interest in clinical research was herself thriving in the industry and suggested Wright check it out. “I started exploring, and what I realized was everything I liked about bench research could come together in this thing called clinical research,” she says.

Wright entered the clinical research workforce, but even at this juncture she wasn’t thinking in terms of a long-term career. “I was still, in my mind, going to go back to medical school or [to a physician assistant (PA)] school and become a doctor,” she notes.

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However, after just a few days in the clinical trial workforce, Wright knew she’d found her calling. “I realized that this was just something I loved—I enjoyed it, it was motivating, and it was meaningful,” she explains. Becoming a clinical trial practitioner gave her “all the things I was longing for professionally and thought I could only get through being a doctor or PA,” she adds.

Wright’s is certainly a happy anecdotal story, but in a broader sense, the clinical trial industry has its work cut out for it on several fronts, she says. For example, it’s time to better educate the public on how trials work and why they are of such importance.

“I’ve had conversations over the years with people within and outside my family who struggle to understand what it is I do,” Wright says. She notes that drug development gets most of the attention, and people don’t think much about their medical products until “they show up on a shelf in the pharmacy.”

The clinical trial industry must elevate its community outreach efforts, Wright says, because patients won’t join clinical trials if they don’t understand the nuts and bolts of what they’ll be asked to go through.

It’s also time for the industry to raise its profile by advancing the professionalism of its personnel with certifications and core competencies, Wright adds, saying that new applicants won’t enter a workforce if they don’t know it exists. Besides, not everyone is lucky enough to have a friend like hers—one who not only understood what would make her feel fulfilled professionally, but also knew about a path to pursue that dream.

Author: Michael Causey