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Introducing the wonderful SITU Clinical Trial Coordinators: James Van Santen (CPinBOSS Trial Coordinator and assisting with the NEON, ALLIKAT and REJOIN study), Yara Neves Silva (SPAARK Trial Coordinator) and Jack Morris (MACRO Trial Coordinator). 

 We asked James...

What is it like being a trial coordinator during Covid-19?

To be honest, it has been quite frustrating. Due to the fact that all my trials involve elective surgery, recruitment has been significantly affected just at the stage where CPinBOSS was hitting its strides at the start of the year. Starting up again has been tough as all Trusts are opening up at different rates. I have been drafted in to help with a COVID related study (REJOIN) and that has included setting up the database and liaising with different NHS Trusts which has been quite refreshing. We are getting back to normal but who knows for how long! I just miss the contact with colleagues as Teams is not quite the real thing.

Where would you like to go next with your career?

This is a tough question as I have never been a career driven person. I have always wanted to be involved in sport, in some capacity, working in a team with a competitive goal and testing the human body to the limits. I am just not quite good enough to be a pro sports player!

A fact about yourself?

Sorry, I think I am going to do my first parent thing and talk about the baby here. For those that don’t know, Sally and I are expecting a baby in about 7 weeks. Time has flown by and we are getting so close to meeting the little one. As I have been typing this email back to Teya we have actually received a delivery of our car seat and base…so very adult of us! Following my paternity leave (2 weeks), I think it is going to be tricky balancing work and always wanting to be around the baby. I am going to have to be strict with myself and lock myself (or the baby) away in another room. I will be that annoying person that brings the baby to work meetings! I will also be wearing sunglasses so that you won’t be able to see the bags under my eyes from the lack of sleep!

WE ASKED Yara...

WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING A TRIAL COORDINATOR DURING COVID-19?

My work as a coordinator has not suffered much since the start of the pandemic because recruitment and surgery were already completed, and the trial is in the follow up phase. The biggest change was having to work from home, not being able to interact with colleagues. But at the same time, it was a great advantage for me because it gave me the opportunity to work in Brazil for 2 months. The joy of being every day with my family and seeing some friends overcame all the difficulties I encountered. UK is 4 hours ahead of Brazil so normally my day started at 6am, with the exception when meetings started at 5am in local time. The internet connection was very good, but speed was often a problem, perhaps due to network congestion during peak hours. Belo Horizonte, my hometown was in lockdown for most of the time I was there, so everyone was working from home. But the biggest challenge was certainly arriving in the UK where I went into quarantine. As I live with two other people, I had to be isolated in my room for 14 days as a precaution, and always avoiding meeting my housemates in other areas of the house. And finally, without any symptoms, today I celebrate my first day of freedom since I returned to the UK.

What was your pathway into Clinical Trials and how did your pathway lead to your role as a Trial Coordinator in SITU? 

My career in clinical trials started a few years ago, in Brazil, when I made the decision to move away from clinical care to act as a Technical Consultant of Research Projects at the National Research Ethics Committee (CONEP) at the government Department of Health. Upon moving to the UK, I worked as a Research Officer with the NHS (Weston Area Health NHS Trust) coordinating, from start to close out, several phase II and III clinical trials in oncology, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, HIV, among others. After that I had a role as a Clinical Trial Assistant at the Jenner Institute, working across several phase I, II, and challenge malaria, emerging pathogens, TB, and influenza vaccine trials, in the UK and overseas. I believe that all the knowledge and experience I gained in the last three jobs have prepared me for the great challenge of being a Trial Coordinator in SITU.

WE ASKED Jack...

What was your pathway into Clinical Trials and how did your pathway lead to your role as a Trial Coordinator in SITU? 

Having completed my undergraduate degree in Biological sciences and then a masters in Biomedical Research I was looking for my first job out of university. This search led me to take a role in OCTO as a Clinical Trial Support Officer. After nearly two years in this job I was looking to the next stage of my career when the opportunity arose to apply for a Trial Coordinator role and that’s how I ended up in SITU.

Where would you like to go next with your career?

As a relatively new Trial Coordinator I feel I still have much to learn about trials from this role. Further down the line I would like to see myself learn and grow into this role more, and maybe eventually progress further and become a trial manager.

What’s the best advice you can give to someone who just started their career in clinical trials?

There is so much to learn and take in when first starting out in the clinical trial world. The best advice I can give is to listen and pay attention to what those around you do and try to learn as much as possible from them.