Building on Experience and Being Driven by Compassion in Leadership

Clinical Researcher—March 2021 (Volume 35, Issue 2)


Al O. Pacino; Matthew Chandler


Now more than ever, we need to review what it means to be a leader in the clinical research enterprise. Many in the clinical research community are feeling pressured to produce innovative solutions while adhering to safety guidelines for COVID-19. Executives and clinical research leadership should be striving for the best leadership tools to ensure positive outcomes for all staff and patients. Executives should acknowledge the current circumstances of clinical research and inspire solutions from their staff to address challenges. Scientific and healthcare organizations, governments, and biotech companies should aim to improve their leadership capabilities by targeting key areas.

Creating a Culture of Empowerment in the Workplace

Many medical drug and device entrepreneurs know the impact of introducing innovations to the market that improve lives. They may have been involved with the co-founding, development, and selling of multiple start-up companies active in clinical research in their careers. In order to thrive in such a fast-paced environment, the most successful of them have learned that while it is common sense to keep an eye on the competition and identify possible partnerships, it is also critical to assess the workplace environment of their research staff.

Executives should be asking themselves whether they are applying their staff’s strengths and mitigating any weaknesses. Making sure everyone feels listened to and valued is also an investment toward increased productivity and maintaining cooperation among teams. In practice, staff who feel a sense of self-empowerment are more inclined to improve processes and workplace attitudes.

Effective leaders also appreciate and act upon the importance of inclusivity and diversity in their organizations. Most major sponsors and biotechnology companies, and even the smallest of sites, know the benefits of having a representative dataset. It’s imperative that sites have access to the latest tools that target all demographics, so that the products and services approved in part through their efforts can be globally successful.

Collaboration at the workplace and business-to-business level will be crucial for long-term sustainability. One of the outcomes of having a collaborative work environment and industry is that the patient is a top priority. As our world becomes more and more interconnected, it’s not only important to center the patient experience, but also to make sure we remain open to new ideas that may challenge our previous assumptions.

Managing Change and Adapting

Modernization is natural, and being knowledgeable of industry trends is just a first step clinical research executives can take. The time and expenses required to fully transition to modern and more efficient systems may seem too risky to undertake in today’s clinical trials arena, but many of these new systems are worth examining.

For example, to this day, many stakeholders who participate in clinical research still rely on paper-based systems and silos that require many logins to conduct clinical trials at their sites. However, COVID-19 has demonstrated that digital solutions are becoming more vital to continuing the progress being made in the name of public health by the research enterprise. There is greater risk in not implementing a modern digital infrastructure, with the cost being the possibility of limited access to the latest scientific information and accurate data.

Meanwhile, different business models are becoming more readily available to executives and entrepreneurs that can ensure productivity, cohesion, and positive branding are maintained. Business models of the future will have to incorporate a level of cross-sectoral collaboration, minimize bureaucracy, and establish trust with the businesses’ communities. Flexible business development plans can provide more beneficial opportunities to health training practices and patient care.

Further, it’s imperative that clinical research executives stay dialed in to the ever-changing regulations that directly impact the industry. Governments, biotechs, and social media companies are continuously raising privacy and security standards to better protect individuals. It is essential that executives use their experience and judgement to identify laws that directly impact their research institutions.

Social media outlets are good tools to utilize and track new problems and new solutions being proposed throughout the clinical research community. Several influential clinical research executives, key opinion leaders, and patient-survivors routinely share their insights through sites like LinkedIn. Reading credible industry media publications can also inform decisions and necessary steps to address pending rules and requirements of clinical research.


Being in clinical research leadership can feel like an immense burden to some. The management philosophy and attitude executives carry into work every day set the tone for their organizations. Establishing a sense of shared responsibility can ease pressure and create more opportunities for staff members.

When it comes to continuing successful leadership, clinical research executives should consistently build their professional and business networks, while remaining committed to their goals and objectives for entering the field in the first place. Achieving and maintaining a productive and accountable work environment depends on everyone’s mindset and ultimate desire to help patients.

Success is found in creating a workplace culture of self-empowerment, incentivizing collaboration, and understanding the needs of research stakeholders and regulators. It’s time to use our increasingly connected world to save more lives, so that no patient is left behind.

Al O. Pacino is President at BlueCloud® by HealthCarePoint Professional Collaborative Networks, based in Cedar Park, Texas, and a former member of the Editorial Advisory Board for ACRP.

Matthew Chandler is Manager of Site Engagement at BlueCloud® by HealthCarePoint Professional Collaborative Networks, based in Cedar Park, Texas.