Have you ever wanted to switch gears in your professional career just to see what other opportunities may hold? Missy Hansen knows what it’s like to leave a lifelong field in pursuit of professional growth.
Missy always tells her two daughters to be open to new opportunities—you just never know when they might lead to something great. After 17 years as a pediatric nurse practitioner at a hematology oncology clinic, she decided to take her own advice and accept a new role: Pediatric Strategy Liaison for PRA’s Center for Pediatric Development.
Her new role at PRA checked all the boxes she was curious and excited to explore, including a focusing on pediatrics, oncology, and knowledge of trials. Best of all, it capitalizes on her experience as a care provider.
Below, Missy shares some insight into what she’s seen from the CRO side.
What’s the biggest challenge we face today in our industry?
A repeat theme I’ve faced is the difficulty of bringing trials to pediatrics. Just 40-50 years ago, the most vulnerable individuals, such as children and pregnant women, were subjected to therapies with no historical clinical knowledge to back up their effectiveness. To make matters more concerning, there was also little knowledge of the harm these therapies could cause.
Many children and pregnant women suffered damaging effects from the drugs they received. After that, investigators went to the other extreme, and drugs were even less likely to be studied in these populations for fear of harm. Of course, that left them without advancement and knowledge on how to prevent and treat debilitating conditions.
Recently, the industry has started to recognize the importance of bringing trials to pediatric patients in order to advance the treatment and cures for special patient populations.
Why did you become involved in clinical research?
I was ready to leave bedside/clinical care of pediatric oncology patients. The timing was right—I had enough time left in my career to still make an impact. When I became aware of my current position, what intrigued me most is that it would capitalize on my past experience while still being and feeling connected with the pediatric patient population.
What is the biggest misconception people have about clinical trials?
One thing that I personally didn’t know before joining PRA was all the thought, time, and effort that goes into trial development. I’m so honored to be a part of the Center for Pediatric Clinical Development that thinks so intently about how every aspect of a trial impacts the pediatric patient and family. Maybe that’s not a misconception, but thinking from the perspective of a provider or even as a family member, people may not appreciate how getting the right trial in the right way to the patient is a priority.
What advice would you give to the next generation of researchers?
Keep trying to further research and make it better!
Many treatments and therapies are now virtual or local visits rather than visits to the trial site. These changes limit the patient and family from travelling to and from the hospital. With these changes, we may also see improved quality of life for the trial participant and family. If we find that the integrity of the trial isn’t negatively impacted, it may be a win/win for everybody involved.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, which would you choose?
Responsible, compassionate, and passionate (for pediatrics care—especially oncology).
If you think back, at what point could you have chosen a different career path and what would it have been?
I wouldn’t do anything differently!
If you were to write a self-help book, what would the topic be?
I would write about always doing your best. Don’t beat yourself up about your mistakes or your desire for do-overs. We all have them. You can only move forward.
Mark Sorrentino, MD, MS, VP, Center for Vaccine Research and Center for Pediatric Clinical Development
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