[English summary of the announcement released by the Pharmaceutical Information Centre on 25 Oct 2018]
For the fifth time in a row, the Investigator, Study Nurse and CRA (Clinical Research Associate) of the Year were nominated by Finnish clinical research professionals. In a clinical drug trial, the investigator, study nurse and CRA form a study team, each of them playing a significant role in terms of a safe and successful drug trial. This year’s winners were nominated and awarded with diplomas during the Clinical Trials Forum organized by the Pharmaceutical Information Centre in Helsinki on 25 October 2018.
The Investigator of the Year award was presented to Johanna Mäenpää (Tampere University / Tampere University Hospital), Essi Roine (Turku University Hospital) was awarded as the Study Nurse of the Year and the CRA of the Year is Maria Sokka (Crown CRO).
The winners were nominated among candidates proposed by clinical research professionals. The voters consisted of professionals working both in pharmaceutical companies and at study sites in the health care sector.
The Investigator of the Year award was presented to Johanna Mäenpää, D.Med. Sc., Specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Gynaecological Oncology. She is the Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Tampere University and the Chief Physician of the Women’s Hospital at Tampere University Hospital. Professor Mäenpää was described as a rock-solid professional in clinical drug trials. She is an excellent Principal Investigator and Person in Charge and does an outstanding job in recruiting patients. Co-operation with her is always smooth, prompt and enjoyable.
The winner of the Study Nurse of the Year award is Essi Roine from Turku University Hospital. She was characterized as a professional study nurse who works with precision. Her input makes the CRA’s work easy and the required documentation is always up to date and available.
Maria Sokka from Crown CRO Oy was awarded as the CRA of the Year. Maria has been working with clinical drug trials since 2005 and she was described as quick, precise, widely skilled, friendly, positive and very professional.
Finnish high-end expertise in drug research
The aim of the award is to showcase the Finnish expertise in drug research and lift the profile of clinical drug and device trials. The conduct of drug trials is a very demanding task with its strict regulations requiring continuous training and in-depth knowledge of good clinical practice. The role of trials in healthcare is also significant.
The Clinical Trials Forum, organized for the 14th time this year, is a networking and training event intended for all professionals working with clinical trials. One important aspect of the event is to hear the voice of patients who have participated in clinical trials. The event gathers together about 130 participants from the drug and device industry, study sites and public health care sector.
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We asked the award-winners to share their ideas about research: What is it about research that motivates and inspires you? How do you see the current status of clinical research in Finland – what needs to be done to ensure that good clinical research can continue to be carried out in Finland in the future?
Maria Sokka started her work in the pharmaceutical industry in 2001, initially working with pharmacovigilance and registration. She became familiar with the life cycle of drug development and found the job interesting. However, her previous hospital experience which she had enjoyed made her miss the “fieldwork” and the cooperation with study sites. Since 2005, Maria has been working in different roles in clinical research for different sponsors. She has been working for Crown CRO since 2014. Her work has included a variety of roles from monitoring to project management. Maria enjoys her work and wishes to continue with clinical drug trials in the future.
In terms of CRA work, she is motivated by the chance to consistently challenge herself and by the versatility of the work. Besides expertise, the job necessitates the ability to meet different kinds of people and act as a sort of link between the study sites and the pharmaceutical company. The job requires constant training, e.g. when the therapeutic area at hand changes.
Maria comments on the current status of clinical research in Finland: “The claim that Finland is an expensive country to conduct studies in is brought up at every turn. It would of course be great if this could be fixed. But I think that there is no point in bemoaning this in the long run as we do have many good things worth promoting.”
“First of all, the authorities review the studies quite efficiently compared to many other countries and, secondly, the research environment is modern. Thirdly, the people working with trials are highly professional. Working as a CRA, it is always great to see that a multi-professional team wants to work together to promote smooth workflow. These are the things that will also be important in the future.”
Maria would also like see young people being inspired and engaged to the field:
“To inspire young people about the possibilities of clinical research summer jobs and perhaps also other forms of short-term employment should be made available. Of course, no one can run before they can walk, but possibilities for different kinds of career paths should be created at the outset.”