CISCRP is fueled by the energy, involvement, and dedication of our supporters and volunteers, without whom we could not provide the educational resources, programs, and initiatives that support our mission. We are very pleased to be spotlighting one of our long-standing supporters, Jennifer Byrne of PMG Research. Jennifer has over 25 years of experience in the clinical research site sector and is also co-founder of the non-profit organization Greater Gift initiative (GGI), whose mission is to provide life-savings vaccinations to children in developing countries.
Through both PMG Research and GGI, Jennifer has facilitated generous donations and support for CISCRP’s public education and awareness initiatives, including our annual USA Today Thank You to Medical Heroes, our free clinical research education AWARE for All events, our Medical Hero Appreciation 5K events, and the 2016 “Inspiring Hope” Ideathon. Jennifer also serves on CISCRP’s volunteer Advisory Board where she works to provide guidance and new ideas for our organization’s activities and programs.
Jennifer explains that her passion for clinical research started unknowingly at an early age, when her high school friend was diagnosed with advanced brain cancer. He was told that he had no chance of survival and that his death was imminent. However, despite this bleak prognosis, he enrolled in a clinical trial and he told Jennifer that this trial was his last hope. Jennifer reports that her friend not only graduated with their senior high class, but also married the love of his life, and that she plans to see him soon at their 35th class reunion! From this experience, Jennifer recognized that she wanted to pursue a career that would allow her to be part of promising this same hope to others.
Upon graduating from Texas A&M, Jennifer joined a small research site in Texas and began her career as a research coordinator. She shares that this first job taught her a great deal about the importance of listening to and learning from her patients, her colleagues, the physicians, and the trial monitors. After 3 years of experience as a coordinator, Jennifer connected with one of the original founders of PMG Research, Charles Hauser. Charles offered Jennifer the opportunity to move to Winston-Salem, NC and help grow the site beyond a staff of 6. Jennifer says, “I am forever grateful to Charles for seeing something in me that I did not see in myself, at that time and the energy and investment in pushing me to widen and deepen my abilities and grow to be more competently confident.”
At the end of March, Jennifer will be stepping down from her role as CEO of PMG Research to immerse herself in other clinical research enterprise initiatives. As Jennifer states, “this is not the end of my research journey, but rather a new chapter.” Jennifer’s passion for her work is fueled by both the patients and the professionals involved in clinical research. For patients, she has seen thousands of volunteers who leave clinical trials more informed and empowered about their medical condition, generally having a better understanding for the need to be an active partner in their own care. As for professionals, Jennifer believes that the research sector draws service-oriented clinicians who genuinely want to be contributors to making the world a better place. Working with both the patients and professionals has created a dynamic and inspiring environment for Jennifer to be a part of!
Over the course of her career, Jennifer has seen an amazing progression towards educating and engaging patients in the clinical research process. There are of course some challenges she hopes to see the industry continue to address: lack of trust for the pharmaceutical industry, improving the public image of clinical research, lack of understanding of the overall drug development process and how clinical research fits into that process, and the narrow view of the total value proposition of clinical research involvement and motivations. For this last one, Jennifer points out that often times it is viewed that people participate in clinical research for one reason or another, but she argues that most people participate for several reasons (ie. for better access to the newest treatments AND to improve the future of medicine and science). Expanding the value proposition of clinical research participation can help create a more receptive environment for both patients and the research community.
Jennifer recognizes that organizations like CISCRP have been successful in addressing many of these challenges and she feels optimistic that the entire enterprise will continue to move towards a more educated and informed public and clinical research community.
Jennifer is quick to comment that the highlight of her career has been the people – her colleagues, the patient volunteers, the researchers, the CROs, and the pharmaceutical companies. “I am most grateful for the long term bonds that have been created over the past 7500 trials conducted during my tenure at PMG.” She believes that it is team work and collaboration, built on a bedrock of high standards and discipline, which drives excellence and value for the clinical research system at large.
As for the next chapter of her career, Jennifer plans to devote more time to causes that she loves, such as CISCRP and GGI, advancing the visibility of clinical research and advancing efforts to better thank and acknowledge both patients and professionals dedicated to contributing to the advancement of human health. She also hopes to work alongside innovators to bring more value to the drug development process and create better partnerships between healthcare and life sciences.
We want to thank Jennifer, PMG Research, and GGI for their dedication to CISCRP’s mission! Supporters like Jennifer are the reason that we can continue to provide greater awareness and education around the importance of clinical trial participation.
We will spotlight a different volunteer in each Newsletter, so stay tuned for new features each quarter.