Event Highlights the Value of Clinical Research

Bill Balke, MD, delivers the opening presentation at a recent event at UCSF.

Bill Balke, MD, director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute's Clinical Research Services program, which is preparing to launch the UCSF Participant Recruitment Service, delivers the opening presentation at an event designed to emphasize the importance of clinical trials to advance medicine.

Although the vast majority of Americans (94 percent) understand the importance of taking part in clinical research to advance medical science, according to the online resource CenterWatch, three in four adults have little to no knowledge about how clinical research works or how to participate.

Looking to bridge that information gap, UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) supported and coordinated AWARE for ALL Clinical Research Education Day on Nov. 5. The event, which happens in major cities across the U.S., was held in San Francisco for the first time. It attracted hundreds of attendees and brought together more than a dozen community partners who provided health-related information and free health screenings, such as glucose and blood pressure checks, chiropractic evaluations and flu shots, among other services.

“Volunteers are really the engine of clinical research, and without them there is no research,” said Bill Balke, MD, director of CTSI’s Clinical Research Services (CRS) program, which is preparing to launch the UCSF Participant Recruitment Service (PRS). The PRS, which was responsible for the event, provides services to support UCSF and affiliate researchers in recruiting study participants.

Balke led off the event with the presentation, "What Clinical Research Means to You," and was one of several physicians, nurses, and other health professionals on hand to address topics ranging from cancer supportive care to maintaining memory. More than 12 UCSF programs and departments joined in the event providing speakers, free health screenings or recruiting for studies.

Attendees had a wide range of experience with and understanding about clinical studies, and expressed varying reasons for attending the event:

  • “I don’t know anything about [clinical research], but my friends and I are here to learn.”
  • “I’m interested in learning more about studies. It’s the ‘clinical’ I don’t understand.”
  • “There is some valuable information and it is good to hear from the experts.”
  • “I would volunteer for a study, but I’ve never been asked.”

“This was a great opportunity to connect researchers and clinicians with potential research volunteers, and to hopefully dispel some myths about clinical research,” said Nariman Nasser, director of the UCSF Participant Recruitment Service. “And considering that more than 80 percent of clinical trials are delayed due to recruitment problems, we as a scientific community have a lot to learn by hearing directly from the community in order to gain a better understanding of the barriers to study recruitment.”

Other co-sponsors included the Stanford Cancer Institute, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, BreastCancerTrials.org, Biogen Idec, and EMD Serono. AWARE for ALL, which provides clinical research education events nationwide, is a project of the Center for Information & Study of Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP).

CTSI at UCSF, a member of the national, National Institutes of Health-funded Clinical and Translational Science Awards network focusing on accelerating research to improve health, provides services for researchers at every stage through its Accelerate, and promotes online collaboration and networking through UCSF Profiles.