Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Female-led Leadership Team is the Glue Behind Research Operations
The Office of Research Operations infrastructure is the glue that holds together the research mission. This office exists to support the 15 departments and centers where research is envisioned and administered.Susan Reeves, EdD, RN, CENP, Executive Vice President of DHMC
World-class clinical research is being performed in the Granite State and the team that underpins the endeavor shares one thing in common: they are all women.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) is New Hampshire’s only academic medical center. Susan Reeves, EdD, RN, CENP, Executive Vice President of DHMC, who oversees research operations, notes, “We only focus on hiring the best person for each job, and in this case, they were all women. This is an incredibly talented group who came into these roles from top research institutions around the country, as well as from Dartmouth-Hitchcock.”
In 2016, clinical research operation responsibilities moved from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth to Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H). Managing a high quality research program required D-H to construct a new Office of Research Operations.
“The Office of Research Operations infrastructure is the glue that holds together the research mission. This office exists to support the 15 departments and centers where research is envisioned and administered,” says Reeves. “The Office of Research Operations is the engine that makes it all run.”
A desire to take care of people is necessary for a career in health care, but a passion for math and science is also a must.
Jennifer Lopez, BA, CSSBB, CPB, is the director of Research Operations Finance. Her role is to understand the detailed financial flow involved with research operations. “I oversee anything that has a dollar sign tied to research,” says Lopez.
Kristen Katopol, MS, is the director of the Human Research Protection Program, the office that oversees the federally regulated Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB monitors all research studies involving human subjects for ethical and regulatory compliance and to make sure patient rights, safety and welfare are protected. “I’m the advocate for people enrolling in research studies,” says Katopol.
Jami Wilson, RN, is the director of Research Nursing and Director of the Clinical Research Units. She leads about 50 research nurses, many of whom migrated to the research environment after many years in the clinical area. Wilson makes sure they understand and enact the role of the nurse in the research setting.
Barb Moskalenko, BS, director of Research Operations, oversees research operations across several departments including the centralized Clinical Trials office, centralized research lab, and manages non-clinical research division managers, coordinators and regulatory staff across multiple research departments.
Protecting individuals who participate in research studies is essential. Abby Statler, PhD, MPH, director of Research Quality and Safety, makes sure every part of a research project conforms to established rules and regulations. “I also help champion policies and procedures that will harmonize research efforts and clinical care standards across our system of 15 multi-faceted research divisions, ” says Statler.
In March, as part of COVID-19 related work-from-home orders, the entire staff for research operations went remote, and clinical research was scaled back. Not surprisingly, D-H scientists recognized an opportunity to study COVID. “We were the only institution in New Hampshire to participate in early Remdesivir drug studies. Convalescent plasma and other medication studies have since been initiated here as well,” notes Reeves. “Not only did we have to figure out how to get all of the infrastructure built for trials specific to patients diagnosed with COVID-19, but we had to do this with unheard-of speed and with everyone working remotely. The Office of Research Operations leaders appreciated that their work could change the course of the disease for some patients and worked around the clock to get these studies open.”
The women leaders in the Office of Research Operations encourage young people to explore the endless opportunities in medical research. “In research administration, I’ve found that a lot of us just fell into our roles,” says Lopez. “I had a financial background already but found that applying it to the meaningful work that our clinicians and scientists are doing was so much more rewarding.” In fact, the leaders all agree that the reward of contributing their skills to the greater good of humankind is what drew them into medical research.
“For young people who have an interest in health care, research or highly technical jobs like informatics, now is the time,” notes Reeves. “The need for people with these skills is ballooning across the country.”
Research operations is a growing field that provides flexibility to travel to new places, see and experience new things. “Research is constantly evolving. The landscape is constantly moving and shifting. If you are a curious person and interested in learning, growing and being challenged, there are positions for you,” says Statler.
About Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (D-HH), New Hampshire’s only academic health system and the state’s largest private employer, serves a population of 1.9 million across northern New England. D-H provides access to more than 2,000 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH. DHMC was named again in 2020 as the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in 9 clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth-Hitchcock also includes the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of only 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation; the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the state’s only children’s hospital; affiliated member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene, and New London, NH, and Windsor, VT, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and 24 Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. The D-H system trains nearly 400 residents and fellows annually, and performs world-class research, in partnership with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT.