Welcome to the Woman of the Week podcast, a weekly discussion that illuminates the unique stories of women leaders who are catalyzing change throughout the life sciences industry. You can check out all our podcast episodes here.
Kim Boericke’s career orchestrating clinical trials has spanned from paper-based report forms to the new era of decentralized clinical trials, but her focus has remained on patients. Now, however, she worries that the industry is missing the boat in terms of centering trial design around the patient experience.
“I think that’s where the industry really needs to change — [we] need to be thinking about clinical trials from a patient perspective and making [patients] front and center in how we design the studies, how we look at outcomes,” she says.
In her new role as chief delivery officer at Thread, Boericke is supporting the tech company’s consulting services to allow the clinical teams to deliver better trials and reach more patients.
“Honestly, trials need to be more efficient, they need to have greater reach,” she says.
“Currently most patients are enrolled within 10 to 50 miles of a site, but that’s not where all patients are sitting,” she says. “In order to reach farther and broader and to be able to get the right real-world patient into trials, we need to reach them in different ways.”
In this episode of the WoW podcast, Boericke reflects on how a challenging clinical trial early on in her career served as a turning point, why as a Hispanic woman moving the needle toward greater gender parity is personal and what her key is to finding career success.
Welcome to WoW, the Woman of the Week podcast by PharmaVoice, powered by Industry Dive.
In this episode, Taren Grom, editor-in-chief emeritus at PharmaVoice meets with Kim Boericke, chief delivery officer, Thread.
Taren: Kim, welcome to the WoW podcast program.
Kim: Thank you, Taren. It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’m really excited to chat with you this morning.
Taren: I’m excited to chat with you too. It’s been a little while since we have had a chance to catch up. I’m excited to learn about your new role as chief delivery officer. I have to be honest, this is the first time I’ve heard this title. So what does this role encompass, and I think you’re breaking new ground.
Kim: I’m hoping I’m breaking new ground. That’s always the fun place to be in the industry. For me and for Thread, the chief delivery officer is a way to connect better with our customers. Thread is a technology company and we’re working in a clinical research environment. So my role and my team’s role is to support the clinical team to better understand the components that our platform can provide in order to help them deliver their trials better and to reach more patients.
So I’m kind of the connector of the glue and we kind of manage the timelines to ensure that our platform is up and ready to go by the time our customers are ready to enroll their first patient.
Taren: That sounds exciting. Tell me why you think this role is becoming more critical as companies seek to be more patient-centric in their research approach, or even more effective in their research approach?
Kim: I think it’s more the latter than the former. Honestly, they need to be more efficient, they need to have greater reach. Currently most patients are enrolled within 10-50 miles of the site and that’s not where all the patients are sitting. So in order to reach farther and broader and be able to get the right real-world patient into trials, you need to be able to reach them in different manners. I think that’s why Thread is so focused on being patient-centric and enabling patients to be productive and want them to participate in clinical trials.
Taren: Through your interaction with patients involved in clinical trials, what is one of the biggest barriers to have patients enroll? Is it the distance?
Kim: It’s distance, it’s the time commitment. I don’t know if you’ve wandered through a clinical trial, but it’s written in a way that is well beyond standard of care for the patient. A lot of that means a lot more time and burden on them. A good portion of our patient population are adults that are working and raising families and trying to participate in the community, and the burden that it places on them to have to leave work and sit in a clinic for an extended period of time if you’re working in a very traditional trial, or the drive that it takes to get to the site in order to have a weekly treatment, is a burden. So we have to be starting to look at different avenues and different ways of collecting information from our patients to be able to bring better products to the market to meet those unmet needs that are currently out there in the world.
Taren: We’re going to delve into that a little bit deeper in just a few minutes. But since taking on the role just about a month ago, what has been your biggest aha moment?
Kim: For me the biggest aha moment is around the term patient-centricity. Everybody uses it. You can go to many different websites for pharma companies, and they say patient-centricity. All of the CROs are patient-centric. But when you think about it, have we really engaged that patient early on to understand what they would like to do or what they’d like to see in participating in a trial? I think Thread here has done a really nice job with the recent acquisitions they did earlier this year to actually be able to listen to patients, reach out to the patient community, gather information and evidence from the patient on participation in trials. Whether that’s through looking at the protocol and the criteria around the protocol and the procedures and providing feedback on that, or talking about understanding the value of the trial. I think that’s my biggest aha moment.
The other thing I would say is just the technology and frankly, how simple it is to use. I’ve been here for five weeks, and I’ve already had an opportunity, although it was in a test mode, because God forbid, they don’t want me in there for real. I got to configure my own study and then enroll in the study. It’s amazing to see how well thought-out and how easy the tech is here to set up a trial at a site and then enroll patients on the trial and then be the patient that actually enters the information to participate in the trial. Those are kind of my two aha moments I would say.
Taren: That’s great. I love that the technology is easy because I do think that it makes such a difference for everybody involved. My other question is around patient-centricity. It is a term that has been used so often and so frequently that it almost has no meaning. Is there a different way, should the industry start to think about a different way in how to describe what they’re doing in order to address patient concerns?
Kim: I think when you think about the term patient-centricity, it’s putting the patient in the center. It’s actually, what the industry needs to be doing is putting the patient first. If you look at the way the industry has evolved over time, back in the olden days when I started, we had hard paper. We had case report forms and monitors would go to the site to look at the data that the site transcribed from one place to another place, and then they would take those papers in, and somebody would manually enter it into a database to be able to run analytics on it.
Fast forward 20-something years, and all of a sudden electronic data capture became the new “in” thing. But once again, we’re still not touching the patient; we’re just collecting data.
And now you fast forward again, and all of a sudden we’re putting tools in the hands of a patient to collect their own information. But we’re not really thinking about it from a patient first perspective. Like I’m a patient, I’m a mother of X number of kids, I go to work every day, I’ve got my household to run, I’ve got the weekends and I’m driving around taking kids to softball and soccer and dance and whatever else is part of their life and now you’re making them stop from their life because they have a disease in order to participate in a trial. So I’m not really thinking – I don’t really feel like we’ve thought about the patient first and made them really the center. And I think that’s where the industry really needs to change, is we need to be thinking about it from a patient perspective more and making them front and center in how we’re designing the studies, how we’re looking for outcomes to come from them and really I think if we do that, then you’re getting a lot of… well, you’re getting better data because you’re getting real data. It’s not specifically data that’s very narrow in the criteria that you’re collecting.
Taren: Kim, all excellent points. And as you noted, back in the day when I also was one of those dinosaurs walking the earth, it was paper, then it was EDC, then it was patient diaries and now we’re into this next evolution of whatever that’s going to be to put that patient first. You have witnessed a lot of significant shifts in the industry that have transformed it. What do you see coming down the pike? Do you see this DTC movement as the next iteration?
Kim: I do actually. I am very passionate about it, and I fundamentally believe that it is a more sane, pragmatic, realistic approach to collecting data. I don’t believe that the industry is going to flip to 100% fully decentralized, never go see a physician approach because I think there is still a relationship between a physician and a patient that’s important. And from a patient perspective if you’re truly putting the patient first, they’re going to want that interaction, that feeling of caring that they’re getting from their physician.
That being said, there are so many tools that allow more flexibility in how a patient is interacting with that physician. I do believe that is the future state, whether a patient has a preference to not go see them and have their visit done via telehealth, or a patient prefers to wear a sensor or carry a smartphone and answer some questions. I do believe that data collecting in this manner is higher quality, it’s more efficient and it will move you through the trial faster from an efficiency standpoint. Because you no longer have to go out and verify that the data is the data because it is the source. I think that’s also the big change in it is going directly to the source to get your data point rather than having to go through a physician or any EMR or a medical chart to gather that data.
Taren: DCT (or decentralized clinical trials) has had a lot, a lot, a lot of press and hype over the last 18-24 months. Can it live up to the hype?
Kim: I think when it’s applied appropriately it can. I think the challenge we have right now is because of the hype everybody wants to have a DCT. But we’re not rethinking the way we are looking at a study and designing that study. To effectively live up to the hype, we need our researchers to actually redefine how they design clinical trials, so that they can leverage the uniqueness in the technology and the data collection tools that are a part of that.
What we’re trying to do today is take a traditional trial and decentralize it, which allows for bits and bobs and different components to be added to a trial, but you’re not really thinking about the patient. You’re not really thinking about the timelines and you’re definitely not thinking about the overall cost. Because if you’re just adding stuff onto a traditional approach, it’s going to be more expensive. You have to really redesign it to get the full benefit of efficiency, cost savings and patient reach, which is all what you’re looking for is that diversity in the patient population.
Taren: Absolutely. So this really needs to go even beyond – it needs to go to the source, right back to the researcher. How amenable are you seeing the industry to respond to that?
Kim: Well it took 22 years for EDC to become a standard within the industry. I believe though honestly, humor aside, I do believe because of the pandemic, people are looking at things differently. When you can take a drug from discovery and get it through the FDA in 287 days, that’s like a wow moment. That’s unheard of in the industry and in probably our lifetime to see something move that quickly.
But taking it back and looking at it pragmatically, if we design it differently, you can do it faster and it is accepted. The agencies have already accepted the data. I think that kind of change will happen faster than 22 years from now when DCT becomes the standard. I think you’ll just see more and more DCT components added to trials until you get to a point where you may be fully decentralized. But that may be more in the phase 4 follow-up space than you’re really going to see truly in registrational trials with certain therapeutic areas.
Taren: Over the course of your career, you have created a number of programs and platforms that are patient first to make clinical trial progress easier for patients to participate and stay in a clinical trial. Can you share a few examples with us in how they changed the experience for patients?
Kim: For me there have been a lot of different things that have gone on. Some of them are people-based and some of them are technology-based. I think first of all it’s the value. I think the biggest thing in clinical research is for a patient to understand the value of them participating in a trial. For a lot of these patients, it's an unmet need. They’re at the end stage of their disease and they’re only option is a clinical trial. I think it’s how the physician is working with their patients to discuss the trial and the added value that the patient is going to get by being a participant in the clinical research. I think that’s a big area when you’re looking for a patient-centric approach and patient forward. It’s what is the value for the patient and how are you presenting it to the patient, so they understand the values they’re going to get out of it?
Then it’s really thinking about the burden. It’s really walking through the patient journey and seeing it from the eyes of the patient by going from the time I screen you into a study all the way through the last visit. What is going to happen to that patient during each of the visits on the trial? And is there something we can do to make it easier for the patient to be more compliant, to want to participate, to be staying in the trial? Those are the technologies that you start to enable. Are there things you can move to a smartphone, is there a sensor you can wear somewhere on your body that’s discreet that allows them to capture the data without you having to go back to a clinic? Can you deploy a nurse to go to do a visit at a patient’s house at their convenience rather than having that patient have to come back to the site every week or every other week for the course of a trial? I think it’s those types of programs that are really focused on the patient.
Each one’s unique and each one’s different and I think it’s that engagement that you have with the sponsor up front to really look at the protocol and talk about how it’s going to be operationalized and executed that I think is where you get the most benefit. I also believe that you need to have those triggers where it’s agreed on up front that if something happens or doesn’t happen, which is usually the case, is you don’t get the patient enrolled or you don’t get enough patients enrolled, that there’s a point that you can pivot, and pivot quickly and not have to go into several months of discussion in regards to what’s the next step. That’s also very, very much key. That comes in building trust, and I think having an open relationship with the sponsors that the goals are set, the expectations are set, and everybody’s aligned up front, that we’re doing what’s in the best interest to move the trial through, get the patients enrolled and to capture the best data.
Taren: That was a lot to unpack there, and I loved that you identified a couple of future facing trends. We’re talking about some technology things, we’re talking about sensor things. It really seems that the clinical trial industry is advancing at a much faster pace than, as you say, 22 years ago it took EDC to become the standard. The pace is changing pretty quickly. What do you see coming down the pike as that next big thing? If we’re going to take DCT as a given, what’s the next thing that’s going to move the industry forward?
Kim: I think it’s going to be really focusing on real-world data. You’re starting to see it but you’re not really seeing it yet. I think it’s going to change the design phases that you see in a trial. For example, in a lot of rare patient populations, there’s still not a good understanding of the natural history of disease. So what you see is a lot of patient registries that get started in the rare disease space. And what I’ve started to see a little bit more, is that they actually take the patients out of the rare disease registry and enroll them in the phase 1 study after they get some data. That enables for smaller patient populations because you can actually use the patient as a control for themselves – so the synthetic control arm. So kind of getting AI, data modeling, and real-world data to start being one of the arms of a study I think is an area that needs to be explored more and I think that will reduce the patient burden because you can use less patients in a trial and still have the confidence than the power for your analytics.
But I think it also is an important trend going forward, that will take us a little bit out of how you capture the data, but really looking at how you’re going to analyze that data and use the data going forward. I think that’ll be important.
I think through DCT there will be a way to enrich the data from a real-world perspective, whether you’re pulling in big data assets and merging it with patient follow up via smartphone and doing it much more remotely. That will be another area that I think will start to trend a little bit bigger over time.
Taren: Interesting. The other thing that you kind of noted in there was diversity and how DCT can potentially address the lack of diversity in clinical trials. Can you explore that a little bit more?
Kim: Sure. We’ll stick to the states because it’s a little bit easier from a numbers perspective. Most physicians in the US will – if they’re interested in clinical trials – do one trial and then they’re out, they’re not going to do anymore. So we end up pulling patients from the physicians that are interested in clinical research and have been doing it for a while. That patient population stays within a very knit circle, so you don’t see a lot of patients flying from place to place to participate in a trial. You’re also not going any farther than driving distance from a site.
Through decentralized trials and the use of telehealth and other things, you can now start to expand that ring farther. By being able to do that, you can actually reach into communities that may not normally be a high community for research, but it might be a high community for the disease state that you’re looking for. That will, in and of itself, create some more diversity because you’ll be able to reach farther out in the network globally into emerging marketplaces that haven’t seen research. But even in the States, you can get to areas outside of big cities and big hospitals into the more rural communities, which is also going to create some diversity in your patient population.
Taren: Excellent. So there’s a lot of bright spots there as well.
Taren: Excellent. Over the course of your very successful career in the CRO and clinical trial space, you have built a lot of high performing teams. Let’s just switch tracks here a little bit. What can you identify as some of the keys to your success?
Kim: Some of the keys to my success; the first one is to have fun. I have worked in a matrix environment for most of my career and the way project teams are set up, you end up with FTEs, so some portion of a body that gets assigned to your project. And being from a clinical research organization, which is a service provider, you don’t get to pick your teams; you get availability of staff to work with you on your team.
So for me the biggest thing to get a team to kind of form together is the team has to have some fun. You spend a majority of your working hours at work and if you’re not able to laugh and you’re not able to have fun, I think you don’t perform as well as you can. It’s having that passion, having that drive and enjoying what you’re doing. So you have to have a team that’s going to have fun together. That’s fundamentally important to me.
On the serious side of that, you also need to know what expertise you have sitting at the table. You need to leverage the strengths of everybody at the table and it’s sometimes challenging. I’m an über extrovert. Nobody would ever call me a wall flower. But I know that I need to shut my mouth when I’m working in a project team and let other people have a voice at the table. Sometimes that’s reaching out and probing and getting them to engage, and sometimes it’s just keeping your mouth quiet because somebody else will step up and start interacting. But I think by bringing that diversity and strength of all the players at the table to work together and understand that we’re working towards a similar goal, that is how you get a high performing team to happen faster.
Now knowing that they’re only allocated a certain period of time, if your team is more fun to work for than another team, they’re going to want to work with your team. So that’s my little secret about having fun with the team.
Taren: I love that. That is a great tip. Speaking about diversity, you also are a staunch supporter of DE&I (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) initiatives and moving the needle for women in particular. Tell me about some of the initiatives you have led and what are some of the challenges that women and other underrepresented cohorts still face?
Kim: I think women are their harshest critics. The boy’s club is a stereotype for a reason. I think that’s the biggest challenge is we don’t have a girl’s club or the girl’s club is too new and it hasn’t been as effective as it could be.
For me, moving the needle for women is personal. I’m half Hispanic and I’m a woman. I’ve been in an industry that is 70% female. If you look at the C-suite or senior leadership in the company, senior leadership will drop to 30%. When you get to the C-suite, it’s even less than that. For being in the industry as long as I have, that’s kind of sad that women haven’t arrived yet or are just starting to arrive.
For me, I feel that it’s my responsibility because I’ve had a lot of really good support over my career, to give back. When I was at ICON, I had a colleague that came up to me and asked me if I’d be interested in joining or creating a women’s group at the company at the time. This was a couple of years back. I said absolutely. I’m 100% in. We were probably a little slower getting to the table than we should have, but it was nice to see an initiative that one person in the organization just said this would be great to do and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. Within the first year, we had over 100 people just locally wanting to be a part of it. From there it just kind of grew. We had people saying hey can I join, can I join, can I join. It just expanded across the organization.
The focus at the very beginning was really to educate women on different approaches they could take in their personal careers in order to advance themselves. It was simple. We didn’t branch out into book clubs or other things, which is kind of where I think we were going to start to go. But it was definitely focused on individuals and how they can move up in their career. And dealing with some of the challenges for women trying to get back into the workforce after leaving for maternity leave and that transition going from being home back into the office, it also was supporting for women that had an older family support need so that the caregiver phase where you’re starting to have elderly parents and you’re having to take that on as an additional responsibility to your work. And then there’s the whole balance of a pandemic and parents now all of a sudden being teachers and having to run school and be part of the workforce. It was really there to help kind of support through some of the bigger challenges that I think women face as they come into the workforce and as they grow and mature as leaders in the workforce.
Taren: Absolutely. Thank you so much for doing the work you’re doing. There’s some arguments being made that this is not a woman’s problem. This is a societal and corporate issue. That it shouldn’t just be women who have to figure out how to balance, but there should be balance on the male side as well. And that there should be equal expectations for both genders, if you will. You talked a little bit about how you balance all of that. How have you found balance in your world? And is there such a thing?
Kim: I think there is balance, but balance also comes with making choices. For some people it’s not advancing in their career right now because the balance is I need to be focused at life at home and I can’t advance my career while I’m trying to be a parent especially if they’re the main part of being that parent or they’re a single parent. For me, I was really, really fortunate. My parents lived locally, and my mom offered to take my kids after maternity leave and was my primary caregiver for them. That, for me, allowed me to come back to the workforce and re engage immediately after maternity leave and continue on with my career.
I think for different generations, I think you’re going to see that there’s differences. I was raised in a very traditional household. My mom stayed home while my dad went to work. I was one of three girls. My dad was very supportive of us doing whatever we wanted. So there weren't any boundaries on that from a mindset perspective. I think that’s part of what I brought to my adulthood; it was that I could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. It’s that concept that I can be really powerful at work and earn my money and I can come home and be a good mom and a good wife for my husband and have that family life. It came with a lot of support that I got from my greater family. For other people I think it’s just how they’re able to balance that all. I was über fortunate and I think that’s kind of why I’ve always tried to think of ways that I can offer support and advice, whether it’s through mentorship or sponsorship, I think that’s critical.
Taren: Let’s talk about mentorship and sponsorship because obviously the two are different. Mentorship can be situational; sponsorship is when somebody really puts themselves on the line for you. Have you had a sponsor in your career?
Kim: I have. I was very fortunate fairly early in my career that I had an individual that was the head of our division and when he left, he became CEO of two other companies and took me along with him and gave me opportunities that I’d normally wouldn’t have had just climbing up the ladder in a very standard straight way. It would have taken me a lot more time to develop the breadth of skills that I was able to do under that sponsorship. I think that’s incredibly important. The thing is, I don’t know that I was necessarily aware. I used to call it my godfather. But I don’t think I was actually aware that there really was sponsorship until you actually get a seat at the table. Once you get to that senior executive level, you actually understand what sponsorship really is. That is when somebody is sitting in that executive room, and they are thinking about you, and they are focused on helping you get to that table.
It’s having somebody that’s always looking out for you even when you’re not in the room. I think that’s something that you need to think about as you want to enter or get into leadership and then senior leadership in companies. You need somebody that’s your advocate and that’s critically important. Mentors, I think the programs are well established now and mentors can help you hone skills, help you with networking, help you find opportunities. But they’re not sponsors. It is still a very different thing between the two.
Taren: Absolutely. When you talked about it, obviously you’re now sitting in that C-suite. You are a role model. What does that mantle of responsibility mean to you?
Kim: It’s funny. I was thinking about a role model, and I’ve never really thought of myself as a role model. I just kind of do my thing. But I think it’s critically important that I become the voice for others and not just the voice for myself. It’s not thinking about what I would do and what I would want, but it’s really thinking about what’s in the best interest of those within my part of the organization and how I can support them. How can they be visible? Especially in today’s day and age. It’s a decentralized workforce and it’s hybrid now. You’ve got people starting to come back to the office and those that prefer to stay at home. You lack the visibility of everybody being in one office or being in headquarters and being seen in the halls or seen in the cafeteria to make your own way up there. So I have to be the person to help others be visible in that forum so that they can continue to grow and develop their careers.
Taren: Again, I think it’s so important for women, particularly in seats of influence such as the one that you hold, to bring that elevator back down, as they say, and bring that next generation up. So thank you for what you’re doing for others and giving them an opportunity to find their voice. I’m curious, what led you to join the life sciences industry initially? Because you’re certainly very talented and you could have applied your talents to any industry. Why the life sciences, why healthcare?
Kim: I’ve always been a science geek. It was always my favorite subject at school. I was headed down a path of potentially going to med school at one point in my career, at one point in my education. Decided to deviate from that just because of how I work and how I function. I did want to be able to have a family and be an active parent. I know my personality; I would have been all in and probably unmarried and loving life as a doctor. But I made that decision pretty early in my education.
Then I looked down the course of potentially going into research. I did that for a little while and decided not to be too keen on bench top research work. Then kind of went into industry to see what was out there. I had an opportunity to work in a group at Becton Dickinson that was doing trans journal drug delivery research with a patch. They were trying to drive drugs into the skin. Ideally they were trying to cure diabetics by allowing them to wear a patch. But insulin on the skin degrades a little too fast. But they did get some analgesic patches out. From there I moved from basic research into clinical research. I absolutely love it and it’s my passion. I love project management. I love going in and working with teams on trials. The harder the trial, the better. It also felt really good to know that you were part of putting some good drugs into the marketplace to meet some unmet needs. That was just my passion and I absolutely love the space.
Taren: Thanks so much for sharing part of your career journey with us. That’s really quite enlightening. Over the course of your career, can you tell me what is some of the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Kim: Have a voice. Have a voice. Because honestly, outside of the sponsorship, which I think is an absolutely fabulous. You need that to make it into executive leadership. Women don’t have a voice. What I mean by that is you need to say what you want. And women aren’t very good at doing that. They believe that they’re inferring that there’s an interest and they believe that, or I always believe that if I do a really good job you’ll notice that I’m doing a really good job and therefore I move to the next level. But I was really bad at coming out and saying I want that job, I want that role.
The other thing I think with women is women will apply or voice interest in a role if they meet every criteria in the job description. And a man will just go for it. I think that’s something, once again, about using your voice that’s critically important. Now using your voice, you also need to be careful because using your voice means you also need to understand your audience. I think that’s another aspect of using your voice that you need to be careful about. When you’re moving into upper leadership and you start seeing the number of women shrink and the number of men grow, you need to understand the way they receive information is different than maybe the way you’re presenting your information. I think that’s something to think about as you move up and as you say what you want, is how you say it.
There is a fine line between being passionate about something, which is important, and you want to be passionate about it because it’s something that’s very, very critically important to you, versus being seen as being emotional. I think for women, that’s one of the areas of challenge. It’s modulating your passion to make sure that you’re passionate but not emotional. That’s a balance I think in voicing what you want that you need to remember is to look at your audience and make sure that you’re being heard for what you’re saying and not what you’re emoting.
Taren: It’s so interesting. I just had this conversation with somebody the other day about the emotion. It’s not about being emotionless, but it’s taking the emotion out of the argument. I think that’s something..I find myself in that position often where I get so passionate about something that I become overly emotional about it. That’s a great piece of advice. So thank you so much for that. The advice that you give, I think that’s true, take the emotion part of it out of it. What are some of the other things that you tell some of your reports or some of the other folks that you mentor to help them figure out what those next steps are for them?
Kim: A lot of times we have a lot of open dialog in regards to strengths and opportunities. I think you need to understand your journey based on your strengths. Opportunities you can work on, but there’s certain things that, it’ll just never be a good fit for you. I think that self-awareness is important as you look at where you’d like to map in a career. Up is not always directly up. Sometimes up is going sideways and taking on other responsibilities that will build your skills and your bag of tools for you to move forward faster. I think that’s another thing you need to be aware of.
The other thing that we always talk about is I want to understand exactly where they want to go and then let’s talk about the reality of whether that actually is going to happen. Everybody wants to be CEO but is that really what you really want to do? I think having that conversation also helps them channel and funnel where they’re going. I’m a big believer in networking. Especially in a decentralized workforce. You need your network. You need to have that network outside of your function. Whatever department you’re in or division you’re in, you need to build a network that crosses over the entire organization. Once again, that’ll help with visibility, especially if there’s not an office, a physical office, that you’re working from.
Then the last part is to get involved. If you’re passionate about something and there’s a corporate initiative going on, raise your hand. Say you want to be a part of that. Those corporate initiatives do provide executives with a network of individuals that are going above and beyond, and they take note of that. As they’re looking for opportunities for positions within their organization, they will look to see who are the go-to people in the company that are out there, and once again, that’s another way to become more visible with the leadership in the organization.
Taren: Thank you. Those are great pieces of advice and great tips. Appreciate that. You currently sit as an independent board director for the Mapi Research Trust, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving patient’s quality of life by facilitating access to patient-centered outcome information. Tell me about this organization and why it’s important to you? You’re a busy person so obviously it fits into your world and in an important way.
Kim: I was actually very fortunate. The Mapi Research Trust is sponsored by ICON and when I was part of ICON I actually sat as the chair on the trust board. I think it’s critically important because the research trust does more than just support clinical trials. They actually support academics, they support standard of care, facilities just in general, doc’s offices. What they do is they provide access to clinical outcomes, assessment tools that can be used to balance out the data that’s collected in a clinical trial.
Right now clinical trials tend to have objectives. You want to make sure that the drug is beneficial to the patient, that there’s no major risks for the patient. So you’re collecting data on did it cure the disease, did it fix the symptom, did it not make the patient too sick, were there side effects? But clinical research traditionally didn’t collect a lot of things like how did that make you feel patient? Did it affect your day? Were you able to be more mobile, less mobile? Those types of outcomes are what the agencies are starting to look for as they balance out the risk-benefit ratio for drug approval. They want to understand is the patient able to take the drug every day? Does it have a major impact on them? Is there a financial impact on them? All these kinds of outcomes are important to gather over time.
And the trust basically works on behalf of the authors of these assessments. Whether they are academic authors or whether they are industry authors. And they house it in a library so that you can basically go in and take the assessment through licensing and use it as part of your trial or you can use it just to get a better understanding of your patient in a regular clinic.
Those questions that you get asked when you walk into your doctor’s office most likely are clinical outcome assessment tools that your clinic is using just for your general well-being. It’s a lot of different information there, but it’s information that can be quantified and also qualified. It’s a bit of analysis that is being done now.
Taren: Interesting. Thank you so much for sharing information about that organization. I had no idea what it did and or what it was. So this is great intel. Thank you. Kim, I could talk to you for another hour, but sadly we’re almost at the end of our time. So I’m going to ask you and challenge you to identify a wow moment that either changed the trajectory of your career or has left a lasting impression on you.
Kim: We talked about the fact that I’m very passionate about patients and being patient first and thinking about things from a patient’s perspective. I’m going to take you back to an early time in my career that I guess was the defining moment of really focusing on the patients.
I was a project manager back in the late 90s, early 2000. I was running a pancreatic cancer trial, which is a really devastating disease. They haven’t really found any great cures yet, although they’ve made progress over the last couple of decades. We’ll leave it at that. The patient population’s life expectancy once they are diagnosed is about three months at the time. So this was a bit ago. Really challenging, very devastating, very quick.
Part of the trial we decided to try a new fangled way to recruit patients and we advertised on the web, which was very new at the time. After several months, we only found one patient that way. So the sponsor at the time decided to re-channel the funding for patient recruitment into a different avenue. But the problem was it left a phone number out there on the web and you know once something goes out on the web, it’s very difficult to retract it. We had a phone number with nobody on the other end of the phone. Actually had the phone number transferred to my desk at the office and for the duration of enrollment, which was a year-long, nine months of it I had physicians calling me, I had patients calling me, I had spouses calling for their significant other, I had kids calling for their parents looking for sites that they could potentially go to for the patient – for the pancreatic patient.
It was inspiring for me, it was devastating in another way. But it was inspiring to me to hear directly from a patient population. Because of my role in research I didn’t get to touch the patient that closely. So hearing from the stakeholders and the desperation, the hope, it just changed me, I think. I think from that point on I’ve always tried to think about things from a patient perspective in all the trials that I touched going forward as I worked with many different companies to try to get the right drugs into the market.
Taren: What a poignant anecdote to think that a technical kind of glitch really impacted you and led your career in such a significant way. Think about had that not happened, maybe you wouldn’t have been patient first. Hearing those stories has to have had such an impact. When you started to say it, I got chills because I can’t even imagine the conversations you had to have with these folks who were so desperately looking for anything to help.
Kim: And then you find out how far they’re willing to drive. And at that point in time, this was more of the traditional chemo days, so it was three weeks of chemo, one week off. So you had to be in a clinic for an infusion once a week. People were willing to drive… you talked about the 50-mile radius – this radius was much larger. You’re thinking a patient that’s that sick having to go back and forth to a clinic and a family member just being willing to make that drive back and forth to support that patient for as long as that patient was alive was just amazing.
Taren: I don’t even know how… You can’t top that. We’re just going to say thank you, Kim, for sharing that story with us. I think it’s a lesson learned for everybody that the importance of putting that patient first and thinking about their needs is really what’s going to be transformative for the industry going forward. Thank you so much for your time today. And thank you for being part of our WoW content program.
Kim: Thank you very much for having me, Taren. As always, it’s a pleasure to chat with you.
Thanks for listening to this episode of WoW, the Woman of the Week podcast. For more WoW episodes, visit pharmavoice.com.