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Case study: Sophie's journey to becoming a Clinical Trials Coordinator

Staff story: Sophie Kathirgamanathan

A career in research can be rewarding, challenging and exciting.

Sophie Kathirgamanathan works as a Clinical Trials Coordinator at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Now working in gynaecology oncology at Hammersmith Hospital, Sophie has had a successful career so far.

Here we explore Sophie’s journey.

"I love that I can do what I’ve wanted to do since I was a young girl, caring for patients directly."


What path did you take to get into research?

"So I've done a biomedical science degree. And when my final exams were done, I was applying for internships to try and get some experience.

"I started with an internship at St. Mary's for the respiratory team doing data entry. That's how I tumbled into clinical research. Then I went on to become a Data Coordinator for the hematology team at King's College. I dabbled in renal as well, and now in gynae-oncology."


What inspired you to work in research?

"My inspiration for doing clinical trials was always patients. From when I was entering data and seeing that the drugs we were using were becoming commercially available and that more people are going to benefit from it."


What skills do you think are needed for a career in research?

"Listening skills. You'll come across a lot of different types of patients and they want to talk through all their life with you, and all their personal beliefs and everything. So you should have a good listening ear.

"And also kindness. They're going through a very tough time and clinical trials for some of these patients is a completely new thing for them. And so it's very important for you to be kind and take time to explain with answers that they understand."


What do you love most about your job?

"Every day is different, so you can't predict what's going to happen. You might go with a to-do list for that day, but something is always happening that keeps you on your feet, or that involves a lot of brain power. I just love the unexpectedness of the job.

"I love my patients as well, that they're all different and they all have their little quirks. I love to care for them."


What have been your career highlights?

"I think the most memorable one is when I was a Clinical Trials Assistant for the renal team. They made me a co-author for one of the papers they wrote and presented it in America. That was a big deal for me because I had never been a co-author. To see my name displayed on that paper was a big surprise and big motivation.

"I think on the same level my next career highlight is when one of my patients nominated me for a *Make a Difference award and I got one of these awards."


Why work in research?

"Getting involved in research is important to improve what medicines people are going to get. Some diseases are becoming resistant and it's important to find out more. Research is improving future generations."


What would you say to your younger self when you were considering future careers?

"Stop obsessing about medicine. I was very obsessed with getting into medicine.

"When I fell into clinical trials, I was like ‘that's the perfect alternative to medicine’, because I still get to care for patients. And you work in a team of doctors without the additional burden of working out-of-hours and studying all those years for medicine.

"I love that I can do what I’ve wanted to do since I was a young girl, caring for patients directly."


*Make a Difference is a staff recognition scheme at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Patients and visitors can nominate members of staff for making a positive impact during their time in hospital.