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The Summer Internship Experience at BioPharma Services as a Clinical Research Assistant

The Summer Internship Experience at BioPharma Services as a Clinical Research Assistant blog image.

To introduce myself, my name is Sean Hayden John, and currently I am going into my second year of Queen’s Health Sciences through the Queen’s Accelerated Route to Medical School (QuARMS) pathway. During my first year of university, thanks to both my program’s core courses and accelerated curriculum, my eyes were opened to the world of clinical research. 

Particularly, in my first-year pharmacology course, I became extremely intrigued by the clinical phases of drug development and their importance to our pharmaceutical industry. Then in presentations as a part of my QuARMS pathway, healthcare professionals such as clinician-scientists changed my perspective on paths in medicine as I came to realize, physicians play an equally critical role in clinical research settings as in patient care. 

Altogether, these combined experiences motivated me to pursue a summer student position as a Clinical Research Assistant at BioPharma Services. To better understand my experience and whether this would be of interest to you, I plan to share my summer highlights, enhanced transferable skills, and major takeaways from this summer position. 

My Summer Highlights

Summer highlights to familiarize you with what the role of student Clinical Research Assistant entails, it will be best to share some of the many highlights of my summer here at BioPharma Services. Once onboarded, my employment began with many preliminary steps, including, online training and standard operating procedures (SOP) readings which were pivotal to me being competent in aspects such as Good Clinical Practice (GCP) as well as the countless common study procedures. 

My learning progressively became hands-on, as I began to shadow members of both the technician and safety team during studies and put my SOP knowledge into practice in procedural training. Finally, all of these steps culminated in me being delegated on June 5th, which marks my first summer highlight, as I could now be an active member of the clinical research team. 

In terms of what a typical day for me involved? I could honestly not give you an answer which ultimately made my position so enjoyable. Over the course of this summer, I have been involved in every part of a study, ranging from the initial check-in, to dosing, to sample processing, to meal distributions, to exit procedures, to return visits, and even the compilation phase with the Study Preparation Unit (SPU). Ultimately, the constant variation in my days has definitely been another major highlight of the summer.

On top of the work experience I have gained working in the research clinic; BioPharma Services has provided me with many additional opportunities. This includes certifications in Phlebotomy and Basic Life Support (HCP), as well as hands-on training on the use of medical and laboratory equipment such as ECG’s, pupillometers, and automated pipettes. Moreover, I must note how thankful I am to have been embraced by the medical team, as all the Principal and Sub-Investigators were incredibly helpful in furthering my knowledge of the role of a physician in Clinical Research. I even got to shadow our consulting anesthesiologist who performed a Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) extraction.

 Lastly, it would be a disservice to BioPharma Services to not recognize the many team engagement activities I participated in. For example, I took on the role of a coach for the Clinical Research Coordinators team-building beach volleyball day and attended the company-wide BioPharma Services Employee Barbecue. Both events marked amazing moments where I truly felt the embrace of the BioPharma Services family. As for one of the most exciting experiences in my role, travelling to our St. Louis location to support their clinical research team in sample processing was one of the most memorable weeks of the summer. 

An Amazing Skill-building Opportunity 

As previously mentioned, with the constant variation in my roles and responsibilities, one of the greatest assets I have gained from this summer is the development of skill transferability. Over the course of any given week, I developed participant-care skills by interacting with study participants, laboratory skills in supporting sample processing such as urine screening and blood plasma extraction as well as administrative skills in carrying out end of study data compilation with the SPU team. 

On a broader scale, I believe the two most essential skills that I had to exercise constantly were communication and collaboration. To meet the demands of any given study protocol, an all hands-on deck approach is required and for a research clinical assistant such as myself. Communicating with subjects and co-workers was always essential to ensure study procedures and safety measures were maintained.

My Biggest Takeaways 

Like Medicine, the critical softer aspects of Clinical Research are often overlooked. Even for myself, I initially believed adherence to study protocols was the be all and end all to success in Clinical Research. However, with the more time I spent in the research clinic, I quickly realized the importance of team camaraderie between both colleagues and participants. In the long run, not only does this ensure subject retention, but more importantly, through the family-like essence I found in BioPharma Services’ staff members, this healthy work environment plays an equally vital role in BioPharma Services success. 

To continue, I have gained insight into the potential role of a physician as an investigator, and this is truly something I am eager to build upon in my future. It would be an honour to one day possess the responsibility of ensuring the safety of study participants in Phase 1 clinical trials, which sets the foundation for the future of drug development. 

Next Steps and Takeaways

If anything from this blog has resonated with you so far, I highly recommend that you look into pursuing a student position with BioPharma Services. Even if you are uncertain of whether clinical research is of interest to you, I can attest that as a Clinical Research Assistant I have now gained exposure to a wide-array of departments and am now able to confidently say that I look forward to continuing to explore Clinical Research as I pursue my medical education. I will be forever grateful for what this experience has given me; from the clinical training to the investment from the all teams and physicians to the countless skills I can now apply in my future endeavours. 

Thank you BioPharma Services, until we meet again. Don’t forget to read about my colleagues’ internship experience in the bioanalytical lab.

The Summer Internship Experience at BioPharma Services as a Clinical Research Assistant group blog image

BioPharma Services, Inc., a Think Research Corporation and clinical trial services company, is a full-service Contract Clinical Research Organization (CRO) based in Toronto, Canada, specializing in Phase 1 clinical trials 1/2a and Bioequivalence clinical trials for international pharmaceutical companies worldwide. BioPharma has clinical facilities both in the USA and Canada with access to healthy volunteers and special populations.

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