15 March 2023

My career story: Naomi McPartlan, Clinical Project Coordinator

We chatted to Naomi about her role, her career to date and what advice she has for anyone thinking of a career in clinical trials and health technology.

When did you join Cambridge Cognition and what is your role?

I started at the beginning of July 2022 as a Clinical Project Coordinator in the Operations Team.  I support the Clinical Project Managers and Directors in the delivery of clinical and academic projects, for example assisting with the training of site staff to administer CANTAB® tests. I’m also in regular contact with study sites to ensure our information on device shipments, training of staff and other site details are up to date in our system.

What was your career journey before you joined Cambridge Cognition?

From a young age I’ve always had a strong affinity for the sciences, particularly biology. By the time I was choosing A-level subjects I had decided on becoming a Biomedical Scientist. My knowledge of roles within healthcare was limited at the time, but I knew I wanted to help make a difference to patients’ lives in some capacity.

Initially, my chosen route was a degree apprenticeship which allowed me to work full time as a lab scientist, generating cell lines for novel biologics whilst distance learning for my degree.

This didn’t work out as I’d planned so on relocating to Cambridge, I began looking for jobs in the world of clinical trials, which had always intrigued me. I started working in a Clinical Trials Unit at the hospital, where I applied my aseptic technique skills in the preparation of drugs for early phase clinical trials. During my year there, I was introduced to more roles I had not considered previously and this prompted me to move out of the lab to a more operations related role.

Feeling that I can in some way contribute to changing people’s lives was always a motivating factor for me during my time in the lab, so to then find myself further along the process where potential new therapies had made it to first time in human (FTIH) trials was so exciting. As I see it, it’s the first point that the drug development and healthcare worlds meet.

What was your motivation for applying to the role at Cambridge Cognition?

I was looking to develop my interest in how clinical trials and projects are conducted and operations allows you to see all the different aspects come together. My previous experience in clinical trials was almost focused on clinical biomarkers and physical effects of investigational drugs so my idea of safety data was just that. But there is so much more to drug safety and efficacy. How does the treatment affect cognitive function? There is also abuse liability – is the drug likely to be addictive? My work at Cambridge Cognition opened my eyes to this whole other aspect of clinical research.

I’m also very passionate about mental health – psychology was my favourite subject at A Level. Whilst awareness and destigmatising of mental disorders has come a long way, there is still so much more to be done in this field. My role at Cambridge Cognition gives me the focus I wanted on cognitive function and mental health within the clinical trials field.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Currently my work is split between days in the office and days working from home. My job really varies from day to day – no two days are the same! There are some tasks I complete weekly such as sending out study tracker documents containing study details and compliance monitoring (making sure study participants are completing remote assessments). These are tasks I complete regularly but I also have ad-hoc requests, team meetings and collaboration with other teams in the company. For example, we work closely with the Logistics team to make sure that study hardware is sent and returned from various sites.

What do you find most enjoyable about the role?

I enjoy how multifaceted the role is, I’m able to see and be a part of so many different aspects of study delivery. I also really appreciate the teamwork involved. The whole process requires a team effort – there’s always something that crops up where you need to ask someone for their input, and everyone jumps in! It’s a very supportive environment.

Don’t let the subject of your degree, or lack of one, stop you from pursuing a job in clinical trials. Vocational training and experience can get you further than you might think!

What do you find to be most challenging about the role?

The nature of the clinical research is such that there are times when sensitive and difficult topics are discussed. For instance, participating in a trial for an investigational drug may be the last option for those with terminal or incurable disease. It’s important to understand how to communicate with sites conducting studies of this kind, as circumstances surrounding a patient’s enrolment/withdrawal can be delicate.

As challenging as is it is to think about, this is exactly why it’s vital these projects go ahead, so possible treatments for these conditions can be developed in the future.

What advice would you give others who are considering working in Clinical Trial coordination?

Don’t let the subject of your degree, or lack of one, stop you from pursuing a job in clinical trials. Vocational training and experience can get you further than you might think!

This role is the perfect way to start gaining a strong understanding of the clinical research world. Speak to as many different departments as you can and in as much depth as you can. Knowing where each piece fits in the puzzle makes it much easier to piece the big picture together.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I love writing songs, playing guitar and dancing to Taylor Swift as if I’m in rehearsals for the next stadium tour. I also enjoy going on walks with my yellow lab, Leo – he steals hearts but he’ll also steal your snacks. My partner and I love to travel so we’re always planning where to explore next!

Leo the yellow labrador

Interested in a career in Cambridge Cognition? Take a look at our current vacancies.

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