"You can really see the difference your work is making to patients."
Ana Gonzales took part in the CRN North Thames graduate programme in 2018 and 2020. In this blog for the Your Path in Research campaign, she discusses her career in clinical research to date, what taking part in the graduate programme meant to her, and what kind of person is suited to working in clinical research delivery.
Although I knew I wanted to work in research in some way, I was not quite sure exactly what I wanted to do - I perhaps thought I wanted to work in a lab in a NHS setting or work in an academic research setting.
After I finished my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of York, I was looking for entry-level jobs in research at York but realised that there were more opportunities in London.
It was then that I stumbled across the graduate programme with CRN North Thames. At that time, I wasn’t really sure what the route to a career in clinical research was. I wanted to work in it because I felt that that way, I’m contributing more for patients - I could see real-time results and real-time data.
The CRN gave me a broad experience. I worked across all areas of the organisation - supporting different teams within the CRN, such as the Study Support Service, Industry, Communications, Primary Care as well as a Junior Trial Practitioner at Royal Free Oncology. This meant I had a wide-ranging understanding of the different disciplines. For me, having that experience of interacting with different people (in the NHS, in pharma, Contract Research Organisations and so on) really piqued my interest as to what went on in clinical research.
The graduate programme lasted two years and as part of it, I was also able to undertake a Master’s in Clinical Research at UCL, which again helped me to further develop my understanding.
From the CRN, I went to King’s College London to be an assistant trial manager specialising in ophthalmology, which gave me an understanding and knowledge on how clinical trials are managed in sponsor side, particularly in academia. Through this experience, I found great interest in trial management because I felt I would really be able to contribute to how trials were run and managed. We worked alongside the pharmaceutical company Bayer and as a result, I wanted to learn more how trials are managed in the pharmaceutical side of clinical research. I currently work for Gilead Sciences as a clinical trial management associate, whereby my main role is to support management oversight of clinical trials under inflammation therapeutic area. The studies I currently work with are a phase I and a follow-up observational trial.
From my experiences, I have seen how clinical research is a very broad field, with a number of different aspects to it. Therefore, clinical research always has door open to anyone who wants to help patients and who is always curious for real-time results, regardless of their background. In addition, the UK has one of the best infrastructures in the world for setting up and run clinical trials, and anyone who is looking for growth in their careers can be reassured of the experiences and the skills clinical research can bring.
It is an interesting field to work in; you feel as though because you can see the impact on patients, it gives you more motivation.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.