60 seconds with Maxine Gauntlett
Maxine is a Clinical Trial Administrator in the Oncology Clinical Trials Office (OCTO) and the Department’s newest Harassment Advisor. In this interview, Maxine talks about life as a Clinical Trial Administrator, gives us an insight into her career path and discusses her motivations to train as a Harassment Advisor.
Tell us a little about your role…
I work as a Clinical Trial Administrator in the Oncology Clinical Trials Office (OCTO). OCTO’s purpose as a team is to transform future treatments for patients by delivering innovative cancer research into the clinic. I contribute to this effort by supporting the Chief Investigator, Trial Manager and any other member of the trial management team in delivering the various day to day aspects of a clinical trial.
Can you share with us what the most satisfying and the most difficult aspects of your job are?
The most satisfying aspects of my job is actively supporting the development of an interesting research question into a fully formed protocol that can then be implemented in a clinical setting for patients. The knowledge that my work is providing patients with the opportunity to participate in research is really rewarding.
A slightly difficult aspect of my role is building and maintaining a good working relationship with site teams. Most of our trials are delivered at various NHS sites across the country, the roles and responsibilities of site staff can differ greatly between institutions and their workload can often be extremely heavy. Therefore, it is important in my role to ensure an appropriate level of monitoring of site activities without being too cumbersome or detrimental to site activity.
What’s a typical day like for you?
The role of a Clinical Trial Administrator is extremely varied and can differ greatly depending on the stage of the trial.
One of my responsibilities is providing support to participating trial sites. I monitor trial progress and supplies by maintaining regular contact with site personnel. I often receive various routine and clinical queries from study sites, it is important to ensure any queries or issues are resolved with a reasonable timeframe. If I am unable to resolve a query myself, I refer to an appropriate member of the trial management team for confirmation. Furthermore, under the guidance of the Trial Manager and Portfolio Lead, I often tackle any practical difficulties reported by site teams.
I support the trial application process for submission to the Health Research Authority (HRA), Research Ethics Committee (REC) and MHRA if applicable. When approved, I assist with setting up the trial at different study sites which includes constructing and disseminating important trial documentation such as Investigator Site Files (ISF) and Sample Handling Manuals. I’m also required to obtain documentation confirming appropriate training of site personnel such as Good Clinical Practice (GCP). I play a huge role in coordinating Site Initiation Visits (SIV); these visits provide trial specific training to all site staff prior to them opening the trial for recruitment.
Additionally, I process and review patient registrations. It is my responsibility to ensure the correct documentation has been used (i.e. latest version of consent form) and that an appropriately delegated person has performed the relevant research task.
My role also involves ensuring that the collection of trial data is complete, accurate and up-to-date for analysis. I carry out checks on the data for missing, inconsistent and/or incorrect information. If required, I raise data queries for resolution and work with site Data Managers to ensure understanding of queries raised so we can develop future consistency of data entry. It is also my responsibility to ensure data queries are brought to a satisfactory conclusion within a reasonable timescale.
How did you get to this point in your career?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time studying for my undergraduate degree in Biology. However, when I graduated I knew straight away that pursuing a career in a lab really wasn’t for me. During my time at university, I had a part-time job as an Over-the-Counter Healthcare assistant in a Pharmacy. I really enjoyed the role as it provided me an opportunity to utilise some of my biological knowledge in a practical setting. Therefore, decided to pursue a career as a Pharmacy Technician within the NHS.
Working in NHS Pharmacies, I realised clinical research was being undertaken within the NHS - until this point I had no idea this was an area of work I could get involved in. I started assisting the Clinical Trials Pharmacy team with trial set-ups and dispensing tasks so I could build a greater understanding of the research & development work happening within the Trust.
I then moved onto a brand-new position within the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust as an Oncology Clinical Research Practitioner, working alongside clinicians and nursing teams to consent patients on to studies and promote research to patients. After being in this role for over a year, I decided to pursue a role in OCTO to gain further experience managing more complex studies across a wider range of sites. My hope was to use the experience I had delivering research at a site level to help influence some of the decisions made at trial management level.
As well as being a Clinical Trial Administrator, you’re also one of the Department’s newest Harassment Advisors. What motivated you to take on this role?
I saw in one of the departmental newsletters last year that there was a desire to diversify the pool of Harassment Advisors in the department (e.g. individuals from different ethnic backgrounds). Therefore, I thought as a young, black female who has previously experienced ageism, gender and racial bias in the workplace, I’d like to get involved. I feel it is extremely important for me to actively contribute to building a working environment where everyone treats each other with dignity and respect.
Being a Harassment Advisor provides me with the opportunity to support both staff and/or students who feel they are the subject of harassment. I want to discourage any form of harassment by making it clear that such behaviour is unacceptable and help support the department with their efforts to ensure this behaviour is prevented.
What do you like to do to relax?
My favourite way to relax is to hang out with my friends and family which will usually involve us eating out somewhere nice (usually eating way too much food) or going to a music gig which I absolutely love doing!