60 seconds with Sarah Pearson
Sarah is the Trial Management Director in the Oncology Clinical Trials Office (OCTO).
In this interview, Sarah describes her job and why there is never a dull day, sheds light on the backgrounds of the OCTO team, gives us an insight into her career motivations and reveals how her sporty children keep her on her toes!
What does your role entail?
My role as Trial Management Director is about leading a group of trial management professionals to deliver a portfolio of clinical trials translating Oxford science into the clinic. I’m responsible for ensuring that the resources and systems are in place to run the trials and collect data in compliance with applicable guidance and legal requirements. It’s essential that I keep up to date with current legislation, guidance and good practice. It involves working with many different people across the Department, University and collaborations with others such as pharma companies. There is something new or unexpected every single day which means it’s never dull!
Tell us more about your team
OCTO is currently 39 posts with staff working across a range of roles. Most are in trial management roles, but others have specialised into areas such as data management, pharmacovigilance, monitoring, and quality assurance. OCTO staff come from many backgrounds. We have those who have completed PhDs and post doc positions, others who joined as new graduates, some who trained as doctors and pharmacists, some from statistics, programming or sports science backgrounds, others have come to trial management from nursing, teaching, NHS administration, and archaeology.
Why is what you and your team do important? What are the implications of your work?
There are many legal requirements and a lot of published guidance applicable to the conduct of clinical trials. Navigating these in a compliant and efficient way, so that patients are safe and data is high quality requires specific knowledge and expertise. OCTO staff provide that knowledge and expertise so that investigators can take their science into the clinic for the benefit of patients now and in the future.
How did you get to this point in your career?
After a degree in Human Biology I started working on cancer epidemiology projects looking at potential links between population mixing and leukaemia, and assessing incidence of cancer in immunosuppressed renal transplant patients. A two year role working in an NHS clinical genetics department followed, supporting recruitment and data collection for projects on screening intervals for patients with family histories of cancer and the psychological impact of familial cancers. These were interesting projects but I wanted to work in an area of cancer research which had a more direct impact on patient care; I joined the Oncology Clinical Trials Office (OCTO) in 2004 and, via roles as a Trial Manager and Project Manager, became the group’s Trial Management Director in 2008.
I love working as part of a multi-disciplinary team in an organisation that is always looking to do something new. I feel fortunate to work within a department where the expertise of trial management staff is recognised, valued and supported.
When you aren't diligently dealing with work matters, what keeps you busy?
I’ve got two kids who do a lot of sport, so I spend a lot of time being their taxi driver. I help manage teams at their hockey club, though U10s hockey can feel like herding cats on a Sunday morning! I also volunteer as a primary school governor which – rather like my work life - is a fascinating but rewarding role.