My Clinical Research Day Job: November 2019

Why I switched from full-time musician to clinical research professional, and how you can too! 

A little over a year ago, I moved from Seattle to Birmingham. My health had given out and I’d been unable to cope with the ever-increasing cost of living in the former. Although I arrived broke and broken, I made a vow to myself that I was going to get a project management job in a STEM field. My father – a physician, professor, and researcher – suggested I get into clinical research. It took a yearlong training montage of hard work and self-study, but I finally got and settled into a job as a clinical research professional!

I could be cynical and say I got tired of the brutally competitive, financially barren world of jazz musicianship (or really any job in the service industry…) I could note that the only people I saw making it in Seattle had jobs in tech, healthcare, or (bonus points!) both. But the truth is that I wanted to get into clinical research because I was curious, wanted to challenge myself, and longed to get back into researcher mode a la my dissertation days.

“My Clinical Research Day Job” posts will be monthly roundups of resources I used in the past (or am currently using) to teach myself clinical research, project management, regulatory affairs, etc. I draw from both free (think YouTube) and paid (think LinkedIn Learning) resources. My goal is to help others get into this rewarding and in-demand field!

Like my “Nanoversity of Jazz” series, I’ll stick to four modules each month. Here are this month’s recommendations for each module (each one representing a couple hours’ worth of work):

  1. Clinical Research | Even with my background in research, there was still a lot I had to learn about clinical research. A good starting point is this bookIntroduction to Clinical Research for Residents. Although it’s Saudi-authored, a lot of the same things apply to U.S.-based clinical research. Don’t worry if the statistics parts go over your head, we’ll cover that in the coming months.
  2. Medical Terminology | While you don’t need to be a medical doctor to handle regulatory affairs, it helps to know as much medical terminology as possible. I started out using the Crash Course Anatomy & Physiology Series on YouTube (see video below). It’s a fun, accessible overview of the topic!
  3. Project Management | A lot of what I do is basic project management. But before we dive into that topic, it’s important to get some time management basics down. A lot of people where I work use David Allen’s Getting Things Done System. Either read the book (I got a used copy of the original edition for $4), or watch this class on LinkedIn Learning. Next month, I’ll explain how I use the GTD System in Microsoft Outlook.
  4. Data Science | Full disclosure: If I could Matrix-style upload a body of knowledge into my brain, it’d be data science. So, even though my job doesn’t involve that much data management, I’m still convinced it’s a valuable skill to learn in any STEM field. When I asked my brother (a PhC in math) where to start with learning programming, he recommended I get really good at Microsoft Excel first. One of my favorite instructors on LinkedIn learning is Excel guru Oz du Soleil. In this course, “Excel: You Can Do This,” is an entertaining introduction to the software.