Expert Shares Insights on Thriving as a Clinical Research Associate

Reginald Hooks, MS, MPH, PMP, Associate Director, Clinical Operations, Oncolytics Biotech

“After you’ve been a clinical research associate (CRA), the sky’s the limit,” says Reginald Hooks, MS, MPH, PMP, associate director of clinical operations for Oncolytics Biotech. “You understand the whole [clinical trial] picture.”

For example, a skilled CRA, after learning the ins and outs of his or her role, should find it relatively easy to “transition to project manager,” Hooks says. However, it’s not an easy job and it’s not for the disorganized or timid, he notes.

“I always encourage potential CRAs to work on their speaking skills, because they will be doing a lot of teaching and leading of meetings,” Hooks says.

Hooks, who has worked with and managed CRAs in various capacities in his career, is a big advocate of organization, too. An effective CRA is “a tracker of tasks and events, manages document deadlines, and should [have a firm grip on] the timing of meetings” throughout the trial, he adds.

However, don’t neglect so-called soft skills, Hooks suggests. “Be human, help out sites when you are there and it’s appropriate,” he says. For example, if you see a site struggling with inventory issues or document filing, “roll up your sleeves and offer to help out,” Hooks says. Not only will it improve the operation of the clinical trial, but it will endear you to those around you.

Finally, Hooks emphasizes that effective CRAs have a clear understanding of the difference between confident and cocky. For a confident CRA, “it’s okay to say you don’t know the answer to something but will find out,” he says. Strong organizational skills come into play here, too. “Just make sure you follow up and get the information requested,” Hooks says.

Author: Michael Causey