Kathleen S. Mieras
What kind of background do you have?
For many years, my career goals included earning a college degree. When the opportunity came along to take a program specifically designed for research coordinators, I became really motivated. After obtaining my AAS degree, I went on and earned my (long-awaited!) bachelor's of applied health degree.
My professional background is primarily in research, with several years prior to that in clinical care. For a while, I worked as a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health instructor for spirometry, and I've also worked as a technician in the pulmonary function and blood gases laboratories at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Rose Medical Center in Denver.
I currently supervise the Pulmonary Clinical Research Unit at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and have certifications from the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SoCRA) and the National Board for Respiratory Care, as well as national credentialing for phlebotomy.
What's your favorite part about working in clinical research coordination?
Some people say that clinical research coordination is all about organization and meticulous record keeping, while others say it's all about having compassion for patients or being passionate about research. Still others say it's about education and being an effective liaison — being able to explain and comply with complex regulations.
The fact is that the role of clinical research coordinator involves all these tasks and more. Serving, healing, leading, educating and innovating are all in a day's work. These are all my favorite parts of being a clinical research coordinator. I like the never-ending challenges and the thrill of being a part of cutting-edge medicine, but mostly I enjoy the patient interaction and the chance to play a small part in something that may help people.
How did you first get involved in research?
I first became interested in research in 1986 during a visit with a former boss and mentor who was involved with a large National Institutes of Health grant related to lung function testing.
Since I had been doing clinical lung function testing for more than 10 years, I thought that getting involved in lung-related research would be an interesting career change. When the opportunity arose for me to join his research group, I took it.
From there, how did you make your way to the Clinical Research Coordination (CRC) Program at Mayo Clinic?
When I began in research, there wasn't much support or direction available. I basically learned in the "school of hard knocks." Regardless, this career shift has given me great satisfaction, and I've had many opportunities for advancement.
As I advanced in my career, it became more apparent that there was a need for formal education for clinical research coordinators so that they wouldn't have to learn as I did. So, I was excited when I first learned about the CRC Program at Mayo and felt I owed it to myself to be one of the first students.
What would you share with prospective CRC Program students?
When most people in health care hear the word "research," they often feel that they need to run as fast as they can in the other direction. There have been days I felt the very same way, though my feelings about research changed tremendously during the CRC Program.
This program gave me the opportunity to do hands-on work instead of just learn from a textbook. It was a great way to get a full understanding of what a clinical research coordinator really does and develop a network of colleagues who can help with your projects and increase your knowledge of all aspects of research.
The CRC Program has pushed me to continue my education, and I now know that I'll continue in this kind of role until I retire. Research is not only about the science but also about the knowledge we learn and can share.
Overall, the program was a great experience — I feel it has been a tremendous asset for those of us who were already in the field, as well as those new to research coordination.