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Connecting the Dots

CRA Academy offers professional opportunity for those with diverse clinical experience.

Although many contract research organizations (CROs) only hire experienced professionals with at least two years of previous monitoring experience, PPD makes a point to also hire entry-level CRAs to develop high-potential professionals and expand our CRA talent pool.

Many CRAs at PPD first started as project assistants or remote site monitors before applying to and accepting a CRA I position.

Laura Bingert, CRA I, having recently completed her master’s in public health first started as a project assistant with PPD before quickly progressing to a remote site monitor position. More than a year ago, she made the next step into a CRA I position with PPD’s CRA Academy.

Before making the leap to her current role, Laura spent time talking to others in the field to understand the challenges and rewards of the position and recommends anyone considering this career path do the same.

When CRAs begin at PPD, they enroll in the CRA Academy, an internal, seven-week training program that incorporates a variety of learning formats to provide attendees a solid knowledge in monitoring and a network of resources. The academy also helps to ease their transition into their new roles at PPD.

“I thought that the group sessions, including mock visits and report writing were the most helpful,” says Laura. “I learned the most from those sections as I could work with the other CRAs in the academy and understand how they would deal with certain situations, while also learning from the instructors about best practices.” 

For years Enoh Ughanze was a clinical research coordinator, but she was missing the complete picture of clinical research.

“I am an international medical graduate and I have a master’s degree in public health. I also had bench research experience at a university before becoming a clinical research coordinator. The underlying thread has been seizing the opportunity to learn something new and the challenge to consolidate knowledge and skill.”

Then Enoh joined the CRA Academy and became a clinical research associate (CRA) more than a year ago. Her understanding of clinical research has expanded and clarified.

“At the end of the academy, I was more grounded in the knowledge and application of clinical research tenets, could identify my strengths and weaknesses, and felt empowered to reach out to the trainers and peers,” says Enoh. “Though it has been more than a year since graduating from the academy, I still refer to some of those lessons and remember to apply those skills in my daily interactions.”

Enoh enjoys the flexibility her CRA schedule provides. Her previous position had her commuting three hours each day. Now if she’s not at a site or traveling, she’s working from home, as most CRAs do at PPD. This allows her to schedule personal appointments more easily and work in more time with her family.

Working from home can sound isolating, but Laura and Enoh connect regularly with their teammates and classmates from the CRA Academy. CRAs also get together periodically at “hub meetings” where they rally at a nearby city.

“I still talk to my peers from the CRA Academy and call them for questions. My project team members and peers are a wealth of resources, readily sharing information or a project tool,” says Enoh. “I have wonderful role models and believe that what is gladly received should be doubly shared. In the end, it’s the patients who really benefit!”

Considering making the leap to clinical research associate? Explore current CRA openings with PPD on our careers site.