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A Dream Realised – A Conversation with Senkaya Senkaiahliyan

Senkaya BioPharma Services

Since elementary school, Senkaya Senkaiahliyan has known that she wanted to pursue a career in clinical research. It was this interest that led her to complete a degree in Life Sciences with a specialization in Human Biology at the University of Toronto. Having completed various internships during her undergraduate studies, Senkaya turned to LinkedIn following graduation to decide how she might put her knowledge to use. A position at BioPharma Services beckoned and Senkaya joined the team as a Clinical Research Recruiter (CRR) in March 2019.

We met on a balmy Toronto afternoon to talk about Senkaya’s career so far and her future aspirations.

Tell us why you decided to apply for a position with a Contract Research Organization (CRO).

After completing my studies, I spent some time looking at my friends’ profiles on LinkedIn. Many of them work in clinical research and they suggested that a role as a Recruiter is the best opportunity to get a foot in the door with a CRO.

Working as a Recruiter really helped me to understand what clinical research is all about. It was great exposure to the clinical research process, as you are the first contact the volunteer has with the organization. We conduct telephone eligibility screening of potential volunteers, book appointments for onsite screening and assign volunteers to studies based on the results of medical screening visits.

I had spent a year learning the role when I happened to see an ad for the Clinical Research Coordinator Associate (CRCA) position at BioPharma Services. The job description sounded really interesting as it would allow me to explore the next steps in the clinical research process and I knew that I had the knowledge, skills and ability to perform my duties. I started working as a CRCA in June 2020.

What’s a typical day in the life of a CRCA?

At the start my shift, I review the study that I’ve been assigned for that day, prepare documents for the dosing of subjects and answer any questions the clinic staff might have. I then monitor the drug administration to make sure everything is being executed as per the study protocol. It has been a lot of learning as I have to be up to speed on the Study Initiation Process and I’m in direct contact with all the subjects. That’s actually a part of the role that I really like. I enjoy interacting with the volunteers and enjoy answering their questions about procedures. I appreciate that I’m now able to see more of the clinical research process. I even get to see how Project Managers work with Sponsors, as well as the QC and QA process.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in either role?

Timing is always crucial. Whether it’s making sure that we panel a study as a Recruiter or that dosing time points are adhered to in order to avoid deviations, timing is key. We are always aiming to avoid having any issues which could have an impact on the study and sponsors. Getting documents prepared on time is sometimes challenging as well.

Occasionally, working directly with the subjects can be challenging too. But I’ve found that if you’re able to address their concerns in a calm, direct way, most people are reasonable. I do have to be firm and to the point at times but that’s just part of the job.

It’s often noted that girls’ interest in STEM is not nurtured. Did you ever encounter this?

On the contrary, I was always encouraged to follow this career path even when I was in elementary school. I really wanted to get into sciences as I believe that there’s always something new to learn. You can never be done gaining knowledge about science when there are so many diverse areas whether it’s related to biology, chemistry or physics – it’s such a huge field! It really is a case of lifetime learning.

What do you like about working at BioPharma Services?

I’m grateful that BioPharma has given me the opportunity to learn and advance. I really like the small community feel at the company and that there are personal connections. Everyone is so friendly. For example, I know and talk to the CEO (he’s always smiling!) and it’s not unusual for the CFO to spend time with the team in the lunchroom sharing his experiences of life. It makes you aspire to be like them.

What are your interests outside of work?
I enjoy spending time with my family and I practice yoga every day. I find that it helps to release tension and connects me to the world and nature. It helps keep me sane!

How do you see yourself growing further with BioPharma?

Well right now, I’m still in training as a CRCA. I’d like to become a CRC (Clinical Research Coordinator) and I could see myself being a CRSM (Clinical Research Study Manager) some day.

Senkaya Senkaiahliyan was in conversation with Carol Estwick, Marketing Manager, BioPharma Services Inc.

About BioPharma Services Inc.

BioPharma Services Inc. is a contract research organization that conducts research studies across all medical disciplines. Our offices and study sites are located in Toronto, Ontario and St. Louis, Missouri. For our current research studies visit our Volunteer Hub today.

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