Ask a dozen clinical trial professionals how they entered or advanced in the industry workforce, and you’re liable to get a dozen very different answers. In an industry not exactly noted for its clear career paths and job titles, there’s not always an obvious entrance door or fixed landmarks along the way to rely on for navigation.
Former high school teacher Quincy J. Byrdsong, EdD, CIP, CCRP, vice provost for health affairs at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., used his knowledge of chemistry and science as a launching pad to enter the clinical trial field. “An institutional review board was looking for someone with a science and education background,” he recalls. He was astute enough to ultimately “transfer” skills he learned in a different field into success as a clinical research professional.
Today, Byrdsong is s a big advocate of using skills learned in previous occupations to enhance current professional performance. “I talk to people in the clinical trial industry who used to be accountants, and they say they aren’t using those skills anymore,” he notes. His response? “Why not? There are ways to use those skills” in the clinical trial space, he says.
“Bring the skills you learned along the way with you” into the clinical trials arena, he advocates. For example, Byrdsong found some of the skills he developed as a teacher, including curriculum development and crafting lesson plans for students, could be adapted to help him be a better clinical research practitioner.
He’s also a big fan of what he calls “differentiating yourself from others.” For example, if you see volunteer opportunities on committees or special projects, seize them. He was able to help advance his career and learn valuable insights about the clinical trial industry by volunteering early in his tenure for a subcommittee at Vanderbilt University.
Byrdsong also champions the clinical research enterprise and wants to share that enthusiasm. “The cool thing about clinical trials is that they touch the entire healthcare enterprise, including academic, business, and human resources,” he points out.
Author: Michael Causey