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Welcoming New Talent: Inside the ACCEL Program for Clinical Research Careers

Q&A with Allison Spain, Former ACCEL Associate

Entering the clinical research industry—whether you are an early career professional or looking to make a mid-career shift—can seem daunting. Between understanding industry terminology, research processes and practices, regulatory guidelines, and more, it can seem challenging trying to master all of this content on top of acquiring the skills that come with a particular job in the field.

The Advanced Clinical Careers Enhancing Lives (ACCEL) talent development program was designed to give individuals the opportunity to learn the industry and clinical research skills in a 52-week rotational program. The ACCEL program was launched in 2023 and the first cohort completed in March 2024, where seven associates were transitioned from the program and into roles across various functional teams within Advanced Clinical.

One of our ACCEL associates, Allison Spain, was interviewed about her experience in the program and how the program has set her up for success in her new role as Global Study Start-Up Associate.

Q: What initially drew you to the program?

A: I was coming off a contract with Advanced Clinical and my recruiter mentioned the program. I was always curious about clinical research, and I wanted to obtain a robust fundamental understanding of the industry. The ACCEL program really allowed for that through hands-on work experience.

 Q: Describe how the program was structured and how it ran throughout the year.

 A: The program was comprised of three rotational areas: project management, data management and clinical monitoring. Each experience was 16 weeks in duration and they were made up of both observational and study-specific responsibilities. So, we were able to learn through watching and then also by doing the work, actually participating in some of our studies with Sponsors. We also were assigned a mentor within the organization who we could check in with to discuss our experiences and so that we could draw on their expertise in the industry.

Q: What did you learn from being in the program?

A: Since we were hands on in the different functional areas, I was able to very quickly identify my areas of interest and then also the areas I was a little less interested in. I also was able to explore outside of the rotational areas by working with my mentor and the program lead to arrange for exposure to those areas as well. I was able to set my sights on different areas of the business that I wanted to better understand, which added greatly to my experience in the program and learning about the industry.

Q: How did the program get you ready for a more permanent role in clinical research, specifically the functional area you aligned most with?

A: Upon completion of the program, I was placed outside of the three defined rotational areas in Global Study Start-Up. For me, relationship building and networking was invaluable in setting me up for this new role. I was able to talk to people who were outside of the rotations. There were a lot of people who steered me in different directions that they thought might be a good match for my skillset. In the rotations, clinical monitoring most aligned with my experience and background, and my mentor entrusted me to do some higher-level work on one of her studies. That gave me some great insight into the whole study management process.

Q: Describe what it was like having a mentor for the program along with the functional leads. How did this internal support further help you along the journey?

A: The functional area leads made sure that our experiences met the defined objectives, whereas the mentors served as advocates. From my experience with my mentor, I used her as a sounding board, and she was vital in steering me in directions that I likely wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. I plan on continuing my relationship with my mentor and it was invaluable for my experience.

 I also can’t stress enough the impact I had talking to Kim Marzano, the leader of the ACCEL program. She was a great person to go to when I was feeling like I wasn’t gaining enough exposure to areas I wanted to learn more about.

Q: Was there anything else that really helped you throughout the program or specific events that have stuck with you?

A: I think having a broader understanding through rotating through the different areas was helpful. I did not have an understanding of data management prior to this experience. Their work was very behind the scenes from my perspective, and so doing data management work gave me insights that I would not have gained otherwise. Having this understanding allows me to better fulfill my roles in other areas. I obtained exposure to all the different areas within clinical research and learned a great deal.

Q: What advice do you have for future ACCEL associates or others looking to join talent development programs?

A: My advice for future ACCEL associates is to identify your skills and see how they can translate well to the different components of a study. I’d also encourage them to explore areas of interest that are outside of the defined rotations. It’s important to talk with your mentor and the program leads about arranging for exposure outside project management, data management and clinical monitoring. This was the most valuable lesson I learned from rotating through the program; it helped steer me into the role I was placed in upon program completion.


 
Learn more about the ACCEL Talent Development Program: 
✅  Brochure: ACCEL Talent Development Program