Eleanor Howard – Being a Clinical Trial Specialist Apprentice at AstraZeneca

About me:

I am 20 years old and have just entered my second year of a five year degree apprenticeship with AstraZeneca. I am taking part in the Clinical Trial Specialist apprenticeship which is conducted in partnership with University of Kent. I work at AstraZeneca 4 days per week and spend 1 day per week studying for my degree via distance learning. I am studying BSc (Hons) Applied Bioscience with Clinical Research Operations.

What does my role involve?

My apprenticeship has started in Early Oncology, which involves working on early-phase clinical trials. I currently sit within the study management function, part of clinical operations, who manage the day-to-day running of our trials from a global level.

I currently work across two studies, one being an internal AstraZeneca study which is looking at a combination of treatments for non-small cell lung cancer, the other being outsourced to a CRO (clinical research organisation) and looking at ovarian cancer. Across these studies, particularly the non-small cell lung cancer study, I provide GSA (Global Study Associate) support to a team of Global Study Managers and Senior Global Study Manager.

Day-to-day the Study Management team work with other functional teams such as Data Management, Clinical Supply Chain, Patient Safety, Quantitative Clinical Pharmacology, Translational Medicine etc, with some of these being external vendors. The cross-functional teams work together to manage a trial.

Some of the activities I do within my role include sending weekly patient recruitment updates, maintaining the TMF (trial master file) and presenting metrics/updates for both of these areas in our Study Management Meetings, in which all of the functions meet. I also publish the bi-monthly study newsletter which gets sent to the Local Study Managers, Investigators and hospital site staff, providing an update on all key areas of the study.

As part of my rotation in study management I have attended country meetings between our Global Study Managers and Local Study Managers based in Spain, Japan and the USA. This has given me an insight into what happens on the trial at a country/site level. I also spent time shadowing Data Management and IWRS (Interactive Web Response Systems) – our system which allocates patients to their treatment cohorts and manages drug supply.

As my apprenticeship progresses it is likely I will rotate to other areas of the business to broaden my knowledge and increase my overall understanding of clinical trials.

What is it like to study while working? - Studying while working takes a great deal of commitment due to time restraints and the independence of degree-level study. This can also have great benefits though! For example, I find it useful to be able to study at my own pace. I have really enjoyed learning how to manage my time more effectively over the past year.

It’s very rewarding to study and work at the same time as the two go hand in hand. It’s motivating knowing that your degree will equip you well for the industry you are beginning your career in.

Naturally, there are areas of my degree that I have sometimes found more difficult and AstraZeneca have been brilliant in supporting me with this. You are surrounded by so many extremely knowledgeable scientists who are willing to help you. I know on a number of occasions that colleagues have given me a brilliant insight into aspects of my degree that I wouldn’t have otherwise received and I’m so grateful for that.

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