Iro organization

2 emerging researchers share their journey to clinical research

A conversation with Richard Bernstein, MD, and Thomas Moriarity, MD

There is an urgent need to initiate more physicians into clinical research and train the next generation of researchers to reach more patients with opportunities for participation. This is crucial, not only to address the shortage of doctors needed for successful clinical trials, but also to ensure that patients have access to all available care options. By introducing patients to clinical research through their trusted provider, the clinical trial journey becomes an organic and integral part of their overall healthcare experience. Additionally, it ensures that the industry has access to more diverse patients, which increases the quality and applicability of the data generated.

Relying heavily on highly experienced researchers is an unsustainable trend that hampers the progress of clinical research. Expanding the pool to include investigators like Richard Bernstein, MD, and Thomas Moriarity, MD, is an essential step in meeting this challenge. Bernstein and Moriarity are deeply committed, highly committed, and enthusiastic about bringing the benefits of trial participation to their patients. Both members of the physician-led Privia Medical Group, Bernstein practices at Annapolis Allergy and Health in Annapolis, MD, and Moriarity at SouthCoast Health in Savannah, GA. They partner with Javara, an IRO (integrated research organization), to help integrate clinical research into their daily medical practices.

What originally motivated you to get involved in clinical research?

Thomas Moriarity, MD

MORIARITY: During my 15 years of private practice, I have always been curious to get into clinical research. Before, I never really knew how to go about it. I was caring for many COVID patients in the hospital; therefore, I was eager to get involved in research on COVID treatments and vaccines. I wanted to help in the fight against the virus.

BERNSTEIN: In more than 30 years of practice, I have always had research in my sights. I believe that if you’re not on the front line, you’re behind. It is partly for this reason that I am in favor of the idea of ​​involving physicians in other avenues.

Richard Bernstein, MD

Medicine today is changing rapidly; we are living in a Renaissance, and keeping abreast of advancements has never been more imperative. A great benefit of participating in clinical research is that it puts you at the forefront of these advances. I believe that if you don’t maintain your thirst for learning, you can’t be a good doctor. Clinical research is interesting because it stimulates intellectual curiosity.

In addition, we cannot always provide patients with the treatments we would like. Through clinical research, we have the opportunity to involve patients in studies who might not otherwise have access to certain drugs or a high standard of care.

But more than that, I consider myself a small cog in the wheel – clinical research is really more important than an individual in studies. By working as a team, we can have a huge impact on the quality of care.

Pharmaceutical companies often seek investigators with established professional experience; however, there is currently a trend to include new researchers. Why is this so critical?

BERNSTEIN: If the goal is to provide access to a large and diverse patient population, you need lots of different doctors from different backgrounds because, in reality, people trust their doctor. If a patient’s doctor thinks it’s a good idea for them to join a trial, they’re much more likely to do so than to respond to an ad. Medicine evolves and I think that clinical research must evolve to adapt to trends.

MORIARITY: When physicians who are part of independent local practices get involved, it allows for a more diverse patient population. This means more opportunities and more sites to complete clinical trials, which is essential in the years to come to meet the needs of all new drugs, vaccines and therapies trying to come to market.

What was your experience with the training process when you started?

MORIARITY: I’m brand new to clinical research, so our research partner was essential for the onboarding I needed. Fantastic Educating Physicians also play a key role. There was online and in-person training where I had all my questions answered. In fact, it was a much better and easier experience than I expected.

BERNSTEIN: It was very reassuring to be told, “Basically, you just want to be a good doctor. A great partner will provide support to ensure interviewers have everything they need to feel comfortable. They take the drudgery out so the doctor can do their job, follow protocols, and listen to patients. The team with which a new researcher partners is critical to their success.

For the COVID vaccine trials we participated in, the scope was huge, involving more resources than we would have expected. Our research partner ensured that we could adapt and continue to carry out such a large trial in a professional manner. Together, we have continuously performed at the highest level in studies in terms of enrolled patients and sponsor satisfaction. Even with new investigators, we performed at a very high level compared to what the pharmaceutical industry is looking for, which we can be proud of.

What types of support do you think are needed to ensure the success of new researchers?

MORIARITY: Initially, I was somewhat intimidated by the steps required to get started in research. Working with an outstanding research partner has certainly made this process very easy for me. They have been extremely helpful, providing the clinical research staff and support I need to be successful, as well as helping me train and become qualified.

My main concern initially was the time commitment and how I could fit it into my busy practice—I’m going to the hospital; I see 25 patients a day. I was surprised and relieved to have received excellent support to put in place the processes that would help me integrate clinical research into my office practice. It was seamless. I was able to marry the studies with my own interests and ensure that the right patient population was involved.

BERNSTEIN: I am involved in clinical research at two levels, as a medical director and as an individual investigator. Important to this success is a research partner’s top-down culture – their leadership, passion and desire to improve patient care.

It is imperative that researchers work with partners who share the same values, such as seeing clinical research as bigger than the individual researcher, the importance of helping those less fortunate, and integrating the need to be philanthropic.

A critical factor is attention to detail and the ability to have the necessary foresight to achieve set goals while mitigating disruptions. At the same time, a good partner will have the ability to look back and say, “What do we need to do to be better? »

Because we don’t have a large multi-specialty office, we had to figure out how to integrate clinical research into small groups of physicians. This in itself poses challenges as we grow our clinical practice in this area, and we needed to ensure that we found the best partner for this situation.

Parting thoughts?

MORIARITY: A hugely rewarding part of clinical research is the fact that your efforts can potentially help hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people to prevent or treat disease. I think any interested doctor should give it a try. It’s a lot easier to incorporate into your practice than you might think. Patients really appreciate having a physician involved in clinical research, and our patients have provided wonderful feedback regarding their experience.

BERNSTEIN: Patients often do not have access to treatment. We know that the social determinants of health are a better predictor of outcomes than the precise diagnosis and treatment of disease. We always see patients who cannot afford the drugs we would like to prescribe for them. Clinical research offers an avenue to help provide support. It enhances our ability to provide better, lower cost care for our patients in general.

Bernstein’s and Moriarity’s experiences confirm the benefits of empowering emerging researchers to successfully integrate clinical research into their practices. While these researchers may be “research naïve,” their positions as trusted community physicians bring a wealth of experience and invaluable knowledge to the table. With unwavering support and powerful mentorship, physicians willing and motivated to participate in research will help fill the urgent need for researchers who can help usher in new innovations through development. These people play a crucial role not only in the pipeline of drug advancement, but also in ensuring that patients continue to have access to clinical care.