13 Jul Team Spotlight: Kristen Mahaffey
Kristen Mahaffey is the Program Manager for our Central Monitoring Service (CMS).
PLEASE SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOUR PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY. HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT YOUR CURRENT POSITION?
My health care career began in high school. I started as an evening receptionist at a local nursing home and never looked back. From there, I worked in various administrative health care roles until a job posting for Clinical Trials caught my eye. The idea of being involved in any way with pioneering treatments aimed at advancing health care options deeply excited me. I continued applying until I was finally hired into the Clinical Trials department at Kaiser Permanente. That was over 11 years ago, and I am still as passionate and excited about my career as I was that first day.
WHAT MOTIVATIONS FUELED YOUR CAREER PATH?
My motivation is and always will be the participants who take part in the Clinical Trials. While some end up receiving groundbreaking treatments, ultimately, their motive for participation is to enhance health options for future patients. My passion is to ensure that their altruism is treated with utmost respect by making sure the research in which they participate is done in a compliant and ethical manner.
WHAT ARE SOME PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TOOLS OR RESOURCES THAT YOU WOULD RECOMMEND TO OTHERS IN YOUR POSITION/FIELD?
There are multiple courses/certification programs available to promote education in the Clinical Research field. In order to be successful, I recommend a variety of courses as well as hands on experience.
HOW IS SUCCESS DEFINED IN YOUR FIELD?
Success in my role is the product of failing and making mistakes myself over the years. I know firsthand how to resolve compliance issues because I faced them myself in various other roles I’ve had within the world of Clinical Trials. Admitting to mistakes and seeking guidance the moment issues arise is the key to compliance in clinical research. Having the expectation of not making mistakes will not go far in this field, it is a process of constant learning.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR ROLE?
The best thing about my role is honestly getting to see firsthand the amazing medical advancements being made by our local investigators every day. Knowing that I get to help them do that, is truly an amazing feeling. I love being able to provide solutions to compliance issues that could potentially derail a sound research project.
WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES YOU FACE IN YOUR ROLE?
The challenges in my role are very much tied to what I like best about the role. Solving complex compliance issues can be challenging but also rewarding. Uncovering the root of the issue can be like solving a mystery and most of the time I find a minor tweak is all it takes to stop the issue going forward.
HAVE ANY MENTORS IMPACTED YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT? HOW DID YOU DEVELOP THESE RELATIONSHIPS?
I definitely have mentors who have impacted my professional development and I would not be where I am without them. I developed these relationships by first pestering them until they hired me and then eagerly listened to every bit of teaching advice they gave me. Even after leaving that position, I kept in touch. I still rely on my mentoring network to this day.
Mentors can come in surprising places. Sometimes, they are bosses, other times, they are fellow peers, be open to learning opportunities from all roles on your team.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER PATH?
When I started down this career path, I really did not know that it would be my career. I knew the field interested me, and I knew I loved science. As a kid, I always dreamed of being a scientist, but I did not know there were ways of being involved in the field of science without having to mix potions or study worms. Now, I get to read scientific protocols while sitting at the safety of my desk.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE PURSUING A SIMILAR CAREER PATH TODAY?
Patience goes a long way. I’d say it takes at least two years before the work becomes familiar and even after that, the unpredictability will continually creep up. Even today, I see things I’ve never encountered before. My advice would be to rely on your network and relationships with those who are more experienced (there will always be someone with more experience than you) to help solve tricky problems.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT WORKING WITHIN THE UW CLINICAL RESEARCH COMMUNITY?
The innovation, brilliance, and excitement. The researchers at UW are some of the most passionate I’ve witnessed. I see passion everywhere I go from the PI’s to the lab staff, to the coordinators. I feel that there is a strong desire of the research community to put the participants first and to do the right thing. There is also an atmosphere of respect. In every meeting I attend, I see the physicians commending their staff and recognizing the hard work of all staff members.