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A workgroup led by NC TraCS and comprised of leadership from the UNC School of Medicine and UNC’s Office of Research is working to establish a new Clinical Research Support Office, which will be charged with advancing clinical research process improvement – a major priority of the Research Imperative within Forward Together, the School of Medicine’s Strategic Plan.

During the workgroup’s first meeting on June 14, preliminary steps were set in place to create the CRSO, which will focus on reducing inefficiencies and increasing capacity in order to diversify the School of Medicine’s clinical research portfolio. Specifically, the office will create a more efficient and streamlined clinical research process for School of Medicine units, and work to increase the number of research studies, participants, investigators, and institutional performance as measured by data quality and financial contribution.

According to John Buse, MD, PhD, academic medical centers across the country are adapting to financial pressures and societal changes; forming the CRSO to carry-out its specific work is the UNC School of Medicine’s direct response to these challenges.

“Clinical research is a major contributor to our institutional reputation. It’s what makes us attractive to many patients and a draw for excellent clinicians to practice here. This initiative allows us to do things more efficiently in the face of static or declining resources,” Buse said.

Andy Johns, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, agrees that the need for process improvement in clinical research is great.

“Nationally it takes far too long to get clinical research studies started. That is true at UNC as well. In addition, we have great potential to grow our clinical research portfolio but must become more nimble and support our faculty better. Through process improvement and changes in our support infrastructure, we can accomplish that,” Johns said.

Buse says the work of the CRSO will likely benefit everyone directly involved.

“In addition to benefiting patients and providers, the work of the CRSO will also improve the work experience and career development opportunities for staff, and possibly play a role in reducing turnover.”

“Being able to offer more clinical trials that are managed in an efficient manner to our patients is a core mission of UNC,” said Melina Kibbe, MD.

Like the other five Forward Together SOM strategic plan imperatives: Education, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Administration, Service, and Faculty, and each of their various initiatives, this work will be most effective if done collaboratively.

Primary ways to get involved in the clinical research process, Buse says, are to participate in a research study, or refer patients to trials in your area of clinical engagement.

If you have questions about the work of the CRSO or would like to be involved, contact Vice Dean for Research, Blossom Damania, PhD.

Expect to see new workflows and trainings disseminated by departments over the next year.