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Indiana CTSI Clinical Research Center educates undergraduates in clinical research

Apr. 4, 2013

For the past five years, the Indiana Clinical and Translation Sciences Institute Clinical Research Center, located at Indiana University Hospital, has been helping undergraduate students learn the basics of clinical research administration through a partnership with the IU School of Medicine Life-Health Sciences Internship Program. 

Sharon Cromer and students

Sharon Cromer, administrative manager at the Indiana CTSI Clinical Research Center, with Life-Health Science Program interns Sandeep Dhadwal (left) and Emily Jones.

Mentoring two students a year, Sharon Cromer, administrative manager at the Indiana CTSI Clinical Research Center, aims to broaden the horizons of her interns -- whose majors range from nursing to forensics -- by opening their eyes to the role of clinical research in health care, including the many careers available in the field. 

“It really gives the students a step up because they are in the middle of research; they're not just going through a textbook,” said Cromer. “It’s not a classroom; no one’s standing there telling them what is going to happen. They’re here in the day-to-day workings of clinical research itself and that is something that is very important for future health care professionals to understand.” 

The Indiana CTSI Clinical Research Center, which supports and conducts academic- and industry-sponsored clinical research studies for both inpatient and outpatient visits, has a reputation for good research practices and innovation, she added. Although the internship focuses primarily on administrative aspects of research, Cromer points out that the center’s connection to other research entities on campus gives students the opportunity to see first-hand each of the steps involved in the clinical research process -- an important experience for anyone planning to work in the health care industry. 

student interns

Sandeep Dhadwal and Emily Jones work next to a crash cart at the Clinical Research Center at IU Health University Hospital.

“This Life-Health Sciences Internship experience has done a tremendous job at opening my eyes to clinical research,” said Sandeep Dhadwal, a Life-Health Sciences Internship program participant at the Indiana CTSI Clinical Research Center majoring in health sciences. “I’ve gotten to see how studies progress and the amount of effort put into them, which I would never have been able to do without the program.” 

With a background in teaching, Cromer took full advantage of the opportunity to mentor undergraduate students the moment she heard about its creation in 2007. Starting with one student the first three years, she says she decided two years ago that she wanted to start providing guidance to a second student. 

“All the students participating in the program will have a big head start into their career path,” said Cromer,who builds a foundation for the intern' experience with projects on specific administrative aspects of clinical research, including monthly, quarterly and annual reports, and entering and reconciling research subjects' activity and protocol data. 

“I’ve come to expect a great deal of accountability and specificity,” she said. “They need to understand that everything related to research in medicine is very detail-oriented.” 

This past year in particular, she said the student have played a vital role in the day-to-day activity at the center due to an absence at the outpatient receptionist area. The interns rotate in and out of the position, which involves greeting clinical research participants, summoning the appropriate study coordinator and tracking the time in and out of research subjects. 

Sharon Cromer and intern

Sharon Cromer works with Sandeep Dhadwal, an intern at the Indiana CTSI Clinical Research Center.

The internship provides real insight into how much effort goes into carrying out clinical research, added Dhadwal, who once never imagined working in clinical research. However, since starting the internship, she said she has become more interested in potentially pursuing a career in the field. 

Cromer added that many Life-Health Science Internship participants at the Indiana CTSI Clinical Research Center have gone on to great success, including two selected for IUPUI’s Top 100 Award and several others who chose to enroll in dental or medical school. 

”We really take great pride in our interns,” Cromer said. “I really think that the Life-Health Sciences Internship Program is an outstanding program.” 

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