60 seconds with Steve Davis
Steve is a Trial Manager in the Oncology Clinical Trials Office (OCTO). Here, Steve gives us an insight into his role, talks about his career path moving from research labs into clinical trials, discusses his motivation to be part of Athena SWAN and tells us about life outside of work.
What does your role entail?
Being a Trial Manager within the Oncology Clinical Trials Office (OCTO) is a varied role and one that sees you working across the whole life cycle of a clinical trial. I am responsible for the day to day running of 3 different trials and the range of activities I have to undertake can vary a lot depending on the stage at which the trial is at. Essentially, it is the trial managers job to ensure that day to day the trial is running effectively to ensure that the research questions are able to be answered. This ranges from protocol development and obtaining regulatory approvals at the beginning of the trial, setting up research sites and meeting key trial milestones throughout the recruitment phase and organising final analysis, publication and archiving at the end. A large portion of a Trial Managers time is spent working with the research sites to ensure they have everything in place to be able to run the trial according to the protocol, and then to also help out if things go wrong!
As well as this, at the forefront of all of our trials is patient safety and ensuring we are running the trial to strict regulatory and ethical guidelines is another big part of the role.
Trial Managers work very closely will all of the different roles within OCTO and have Clinical Trial Support Officers and Clinical Trial Administrators to help support them.
And why is what you do/your team does important?
Ultimately, the overall aim of what we do in OCTO is to improve the care and treatment of cancer patients. Although patient safety is one of the most important things whilst running a trial, ensuring we have a reliable and accurate dataset at the end ensures we are able to answer the research questions, which is the whole point of a clinical trial. OCTO is also keen to help facilitate moving novel treatments that have been developed here in the department into the clinic and this has been seen in a number of our trials.
Tell us about your career path so far….
I haven’t taken a direct path into trial management (if such a thing exists) and only became aware of the different roles through working in a sample handling lab that dealt with clinical trial samples.
I started out by completing an undergraduate degree in Forensic Science which led onto a masters in Forensic Toxicology and my first role out of uni followed this path where I worked as a Forensic Toxicologist. Next came my introduction to trials working in a sample handling lab in the Churchill, and at that point I was keen to stay working in research labs which led onto a variety of research technician roles, both here in Oxford and London, and after deciding it was then time to leave the lab I moved into trial management. I wanted to remain in research and felt that it gave me a good mix of still being involved in interesting research alongside slightly more stable career progression. I joined UCLs Cancer Trials Centre in 2015 as a Data Manager and then moved to Trial Manager before moving back to Oxford to join OCTO where I have been for just over 2 years.
As well as being a Trial Manager, you’re also a member of the Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team. What motivates you to be a part of the Athena SWAN initiative?
I’ve always had a big appreciation for what the Athena SWAN initiative does and having mainly worked in academic institutes throughout my career I have always been aware of the initiative, but I think like many, never fully understood or appreciated what it did. When I had the opportunity to join the Self-Assessment Team I was really keen to learn more and help out the department with this important initiative.
Over the last year, it has been a real eye opener to see how the self-assessment team works and the tangible changes they are making throughout the department to ensure that the fundamentals of the initiative are being met. I feel that it should always be at the forefront of any organisation to ensure that equality and opportunity is maintained across all members of staff and I am excited that I am able to contribute towards this.
What’s life like outside work?
Life outside of work has changed quite a bit over the last 18 months as I became a dad for the first time. Having a daughter to look after has been amazing and getting out and about and planning things like hiking holidays with my family has become a bit more challenging when you have a toddler to contend with, but a challenge that I am enjoying!
I like to try and keep active and regularly play football and go running and have recently started Judo after a very long pause. I also like to try and see some live music every now and then if I get the chance.
We are a very sociable bunch in OCTO and there is normally always something going on, thanks to our very hard working social secretaries!