One nonprofit’s efforts to raise the relevance of the clinical research enterprise.
Non-profit organization Greater Gift provides a vaccine to a person in need for each person involved in a clinical
trial with one of its partner organizations in an effort to celebrate clinical trial participants and raise awareness for study participation. Ahead, the group’s executive director, Amanda Wright, discusses its program and the state of clinical research. Wright began her career as a clinical research coordinator and moved on to serve in various leadership roles in operations, patient engagement, business development, and marketing.
Q: You have a long history in clinical research. How did you become the executive director of Greater Gift?
WRIGHT: I was very fortunate in that I was involved in Greater Gift since the day it was conceptualized. And when the former executive director decided to transition to a new role and a new opportunity, it seemed to be the right time, the perfect fit for my interests, and really a direct complement to the work that I was doing at the time, specifically within patient engagement.
Patient engagement was something that very early on in my career peaked my interest. In a clinical role more than 20 years ago, it was a core element of what I was doing as a clinical research coordinator; so it seemed to come together at the right time and it’s certainly something that I’ve enjoyed and has been a passion of mine since the very beginning and continues to be.
Q: Greater Gift’s most recent PopUp Star Event was very successful (see http://bit.ly/2wq3BO8). Can you tell us more about that and your plans for moving the event and its initiatives forward?
WRIGHT: The event was a great success; and like anything you do the first time, there was a learning curve, with some days steeper than others. When you consider the results of the competition, which ran for 10 days, and at the end of those 10 days we were able to engage over 1,500 people in a conversation around clinical research, you can only be proud. When you think about the magnitude of that and consider the likelihood of this occurring without the event, you have to step back and say that’s a success. And not just for those 1,500 people that we were able to talk to about clinical research, but also the networks of those people, and how it impacted those people who were engaged as event organizers; it’s powerful and I’m very proud of it.
We are currently evaluating what we learned and pulling together strategic minds and organizations to determine what the next iteration may look like. I’m confident in saying we will put all the feedback and insights to good use and bring forth another meaningful event.
Q: You have lived in the Winston-Salem, NC, area for over 40 years and are plugged into companies advancing health and research there. What is going on in that area that makes it special for clinical research?
WRIGHT: There’s a deep foundation for what’s happening now in Winston-Salem. We are fortunate in that we are in a city where we have two major, top-tier health systems-one being an academic medical center-that serve as anchors within the community. In addition, our city is, and has been, transforming through major revitalization and economic development plans for the past 15 years. Efforts have been centered on innovation and diversifying community collaboration and engagement for the success of the city and to the benefit of our community and beyond, and I think that in itself creates an advantage for clinical research professionals and clinical research interests. There are a number of parallels between what is happening in our city to revitalize our community to the clinical trial process.
Our city has a history of success through unique collaborations and prioritizes initiatives designed to improve the lives of the people within our community. I think that’s why clinical research fits perfectly. When you have a profound history as we do in medicine, along with a culture of innovation, really there is no better place for clinical research. We are also fortunate that our local government and community leaders have been encouraging of the clinical research enterprise within our city. I think that’s a tremendous driver.
Q: What single-most change in clinical trials do you think could bring the most positive impact to the enterprise?
WRIGHT: This may not be the typical response, but the greatest impact would be for clinical research value to be recognized across a wide variety of stakeholders, including not just healthcare, but groups like payers, government, and the broader community. That will have tremendous impact on how we collectively come together to advance public perceptions of clinical research and ultimately increase engagement in clinical trials. Such recognition of value could significantly impact many of the challenges that we face, from how long it takes to get a drug to market to the cost of getting a drug to market and in the hands of those in need. When effectively structured, clinical research could be an effective countermeasure to cost, care, and outcomes, or what we know today to be population health. Yet, we continue to have extremely low participation in trials. I believe with the appropriate value recognition, clinical research will experience increased participation, which leads to a shift in both time and cost; clinical research becomes relevant.
While there are many interventions that could improve the clinical research enterprise, and there are certainly a number of technology solutions that would fit the bill, without the relevance, we cannot do the best job developing those technologies, nor will they be adopted at rates that translate to high impact. By making clinical research relevant, the other pieces will fall into place and we will make better decisions around those solutions to support the clinical research enterprise, instead of expecting these interventions to drive the enterprise. Relevance has to drive it.