Nine Clinical Research Coordinators recognised with Distinguished Contributor Award
- Clinical trials are vital in the development of new therapies for patients and have to be conducted in a safe and ethical way.
- From ensuring regulatory compliance, managing trial logistics, to journeying with patients often over several years, the work of a Clinical Research Coordinator is pivotal in the conduct of clinical trials in Singapore. However, their contributions are not often known nor acknowledged.
- The Distinguished Contributor Award recognises these unsung heroes of Singapore’s clinical research community.
Nine Clinical Research Coordinators (CRCs) received the Distinguished Contributor Award for CRCs for their dedication to the profession and outstanding contributions to Singapore’s research community. This is the second year the award has been presented since its launch in 2019, and there were 58 nominees received from public healthcare institutions.
The highest honour – the Distinction Award – was conferred to Ms Chong Hui Shan, Senior CRC from National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS). Ms Chong also received a $3,000 professional development grant.
Ms Chong manages oncology trials that offer new treatment options to cancer patients when standard treatments do not work for them. Unlike healthy volunteers, cancer patients require close monitoring as they may experience changes in their medical conditions or treatment-related side effects that require timely intervention.
During the Circuit Breaker period in 2020, many patients chose to minimise visits to hospitals due to the pandemic. As it is crucial for those on clinical trials to receive continued care, Hui Shan and the team at NCCS adapted quickly and implemented initiatives such as tele-consultations and delivery of medication to patients’ homes that support safe management measures to protect patients, while also ensuring minimal disruptions to their care.
“As CRCs, we are always on standby because patient safety is our priority. Cancer patients and their family members go through a lot during the cancer treatment journey. While it is not easy to put ourselves in their shoes, we try our best to empathise with what they are going through and show genuine care. As the communication bridge between patients and clinical trial investigators, our goal as CRCs is to provide the best care to patients while ensuring clinical trials meet ethical and scientific standards,” said Hui Shan.
“The COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges for the conduct of clinical trials in Singapore. For instance, trial participants and CRCs were unable to meet in-person for crucial follow-ups and monitoring due to movement restrictions, quarantine orders and stay-home notices. In spite of this, CRCs have dedicated extra time and effort to ensure that the well-being and safety of their trial participants are taken care of. Their dedication and empathy for patients is a special touch that they bring to the healthcare and research community,” said Dr Danny Soon, Executive Director of SCRI and CEO of the Consortium for Clinical Research and Innovation, Singapore.
Presented by the Singapore Clinical Research Institute (SCRI), the Distinguished Contributor Award recognises exceptional clinical research coordinators for their commitment, dedication and significant contributions to the profession and clinical research community.
Clinical trials are conducted for patients who have exhausted other means of treatment for illnesses, or with healthy volunteers to gain more information about a potential treatment. CRCs play a pivotal role to strike a fine balance between supporting clinician investigators and journeying with trial participants, often over several years.
Furthermore, CRCs also take on the bulk of research administrative tasks such as data collection, grant budget management, lab protocol review and development, junior CRC training, and even the sourcing for laboratory essentials such as personal protective equipment.
“CRCs are the backbone of Singapore’s clinical research community and are instrumental in not just driving clinical research but more importantly, ensuring the quality of the clinical research studies. They help bring science and innovation into our clinics to achieve better outcomes for our patients,” said Dr Soon.
In addition to Ms Chong who received the Distinction Award, Ms Vion Tan from the National University Heart Centre, Singapore, Ms Su Jialei, from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, and Ms Carolyn Yap from Changi General Hospital also received Merit Awards and $1,000 each for professional development. Five CRCs were also conferred Finalist awards.
More training opportunities for clinical research coordinators in Singapore
As the national academic organisation dedicated to enhancing the standards of clinical research, SCRI and its training arm SCRI Academy oversees the learning and development of CRCs in Singapore.
The SCRI CRC training programme, which equips trainees with fundamental skills and knowledge in coordinating and managing clinical trials, was first launched three years ago with a level one programme. A level two programme was added in July 2021 following positive feedback from CRCs. More than 200 CRCs from the public healthcare institutes have graduated from the level one and two programmes since March 2018.
The programme is supported by the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 CRC Funding Initiative.
In August 2022, SCRI Academy will be expanding its training programme with a new level three course which focuses on advanced skills in conducting clinical research and leadership training. The SCRI Academy will continue to target to train 100 CRCs per year through its three training programmes.
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Consortium for Clinical Research and Innovation, Singapore