What are Clinical Trials? A Student’s Perspective

By: Colton Little

To the private citizen, the world of clean, white lab coats and modern medicine can seem as intimidating as an old schoolyard bully. This lifestyle and this profession is one that often goes unnoticed in the medical worlds as one of the most crucial and difficult jobs to obtain and do successfully. Recently, I have been fortunate enough to have this opportunity.

When I looked at myself in the mirror as a broke but optimistic young college student in search of a summer job to occupy myself during my break, working at one of the most prestigious dermatological clinics in the country never came to my mind. My background is not as “medical” as most people might assume when they might see me dart around the office and room patients, fill out charts, and ask about medications with names longer than the line for Chick-fil-A during lunch. However, during my time here so far, I have been pleased to learn that a vast majority of what I had assumed about this line of work, and what I had heard from the outside looking in, could not be more wrong; and it made me as fascinated as I could be.

I am currently attending Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Arkansas, and have been doing so for a full year. My intended field of study is Broadcast Journalism, Communication, and Public Relations, which to some might seem like the furthest thing from what we do here at Hull Dermatology and Aesthetics (and to those few, you are absolutely correct). Yet, since starting my employment, I have learned that people of many different backgrounds often find themselves working in this field, and that makes me feel a lot more comfortable than I was going in.

One of the aspects of Dermatology and Aesthetics that I have learned about so far on my crash course has been that all of the medicine and treatments we prescribe to our patients have to be fully tested and studied to ensure their safety and effectiveness. This is where our Clinical Trials division comes into play. The Northwest Arkansas Clinical Trials Center (NWACTC) is located here on the campus of Hull Dermatology and Aesthetics and works hand in hand with us to make sure our patients are receiving the absolute best care they can from our professionals. When I first started, I knew less about clinical trials than I did about anything else, and in my young mind I put it off as “pointless” and “time-consuming.” It was not until I sat down and interviewed Linda Yoder, Clinical Research Coordinator, who has more than 10 years of clinical trials experience in multiple therapeutic areas, that I realized I was wrong about everything.

Linda told me that clinical trials are the first step into getting a new drug out into the market to be used by patients. All of the medicines we use every day have to be tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before any person can use them, so the Clinical Trials team at NWACTC initiates this. People volunteer to try and test the effects of these drugs on given skin conditions. I learned that there are usually 3 phases of testing that the medicines must go through before they are approved. These studies are monitored and triple checked countless times to ensure the safety during each phase until the FDA allows the drug to be on the shelves. When you volunteer to take part in these studies, you are compensated for your time and your participation—it comes at no cost to you, and for those who cannot afford it, it acts as free healthcare for any qualifying skin problem you might have. Each study is paid for by the drug company, and you are paid to partake in the clinical research. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? These trials are 100% safe and all of the medicines being tested are tested on animals first. As a patient, your privacy is not compromised, and none of your personal information is seen by the FDA or any physicians. Your identity is unknown to the company whose drugs you are using for our clinical trials.

“…it comes at no cost to you, and for those who cannot afford it, it acts as free healthcare for any qualifying skin problem you might have.”

These trials are very beneficial to the medical and dermatological community, as they allow us to choose the best possible medicines, and ultimately for us to grant you the best treatments we have to offer for various conditions. Some of the current studies that are happening right now include medication that can treat psoriasis, rosacea, acne, warts, alopecia, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), and vitiligo. When I joined the Hull team, I expected that these people volunteering were almost like lab rats with people stumbling out of metal doors sprouting three legs and one eye, but the safety, effectiveness, and importance of the trials is now very clear to me. I believe more people should get involved to help research new treatments to make the world—and everyone’s skin—a better place.

Visit our Clinical Trials website here.

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