DEGREES: B.S. in biology; M.D., University of Connecticut School of Medicine; M.P.H. with concentration in epidemiology/biostatistics, Boston University; M.S. in bioethics with concentration in research ethics, Union Graduate College (now Clarkson University)
JOB TITLE: Chief medical officer, WIRB-Copernicus Group (WCG)
FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORY: Movies at Cinestudio, staying at dinner in Mather as long as possible to avoid a return to studying, and continually forgetting the combination to the outside doors (that may not be a favorite, but it was memorable).
How did you get started in your field?
While training to be a surgeon after medical school, I did a fellowship in which I ran a research study looking at arm function in women who had breast cancer, and at the same time, I was on the hospital committee that reviewed the ethical conduct of research within the hospital (the Institutional Review Board). When it was time to complete my surgical training, I realized that I liked research better than clinical practice. I worked as a medical director at biopharma companies for several years designing the clinical development pathways and clinical trials for new drugs and providing medical oversight of the clinical trials. During those years, I continued to teach and speak about ethics in research and the protection of the rights of research participants. In 2013, I was recruited to be the chief medical officer for WCG, where I get to combine both the science and the ethics of clinical trials.
What do you do in your role as CMO?
My company provides the ethical and regulatory review of research that involves human participants before the research can begin. I’m responsible for the oversight and training of the 60-plus physicians who sit on our review boards. I also work with researchers and biopharma companies to help them design their research studies in a way that is scientifically valid and also meets ethical and regulatory standards and to help them develop internal polices for ethical research conduct. I also do a lot of writing and speaking at conferences about related topics such as social media and clinical trials, as well as the ethics of compassionate use of unapproved medications.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The variety and the challenges, especially as we develop new therapies and new technologies. For example, it has long been a general rule that new medicines are tested in adults before they are tested in children. But some of the new gene-replacement therapies are being developed for babies who will die of their disease very young, so there are no adults to test first; how do we do clinical trials of a brand new medicine in a weeks-old baby, with terrified parents, in a way that is ethical and appropriate and that advances our understanding of the disease and treatment?
How did your experience at Trinity help prepare you for what you do now?
My experience at Trinity gave me a very solid base for my continuing education. When I got to medical school, I had already learned much of the first-year curriculum in my Trinity biology and biochemistry classes, which gave me a great start. But I also had the opportunity to take a variety of courses outside science, which also helped me. My English classes trained me well for the writing I do now, and my theater classes prepared me for public speaking and teaching.
What was the most memorable course you took at Trinity? Why?
“Animal Physiology,” which I took early as a sophomore and thought I would ace — and I got a 54 on the midterm. I was shocked, and it made me realize that I needed to change the way I studied, the way I thought, and the way I learned. It wasn’t about memorization anymore; it was about understanding concepts and being able to integrate and explain them. That recognition set me up well for every course I took in grad school.