The other side of the table

For more than 20 years, I had been overseeing clinical trials and had enrolled hundreds of patients into research studies. However, I had never personally participated in a trial myself to see how it felt to be a study participant.

A research study volunteer undergoes Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for a study related to knee injuries.

So a couple of years ago, I volunteered for a research study for people who had suffered knee injuries (by the way, you should not just assume that some things you did at 20 you can do at 50 – flag football is one of those things).

As I worked with the research study nurse, it occurred to me how much I had been missing through all those years of being a researcher, sitting on the other side of the table.

What really stuck out to me was that my nurse was really enthusiastic and made me feel good about myself for volunteering. She was also very familiar with knee arthritis and, while this was only an observational trial (no treatment), she offered me some useful information and a few great suggestions that turned out to really help me.

During my first research visit, I asked to see my knee x-ray and was told it was not a regular x-ray and that it would not be clinically useful.

To my surprise, on my next visit I was given a copy of my x-ray. When I asked why, my nurse told me the research team discussed my request and decided it was my right to have the x-ray because it just might be useful in the future, and volunteers should have it just in case it was.

I was impressed that a national research team took a volunteer’s suggestion and implemented it just because it might be helpful to them down the road.

Being a volunteer has taught me a lot about being a better researcher. Looking back, I regret that it took me so long to benefit both personally and professionally from being a research study volunteer.


Dr. Michael Para physician and scientist

Read more posts from Dr. Para

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Categories: The Researcher's Point of View

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