VCU welcomes new clinical research services executive director
Fredika A. Robertson, Ph.D., has joined Virginia Commonwealth University as its new executive director of Clinical Research Services (CRS) for the Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR). She is also a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine in the VCU School of Medicine and a member of the Developmental Therapeutics research program at VCU Massey Cancer Center.
Robertson was previously a professor in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center where she also served as co-director of the Experimental Therapeutics Academic Program and director of the Breast Cancer Translational Research Laboratory.
Prior to her work at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Robertson was professor in the Department of Microbiology, Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics in The Ohio State University College of Medicine and director of the Analytical Cytometry Core Laboratory at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital.
As an expert in translational research, Robertson has been principal investigator of numerous National Institutes of Health-funded grants and holds a number of patents for her discoveries of novel therapeutics and treatment strategies for breast cancer metastasis.
She has served as chair of the National Cancer Institute’s chemical pathology study section, chair of the California Breast Cancer Program Review Panel, has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and has been an invited speaker at numerous meetings both nationally and internationally.
Robertson received her Ph.D. degree in experimental therapeutics from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
We sat down with Robertson to learn more about her role, her goals and why she came to VCU.
Describe your new role as executive director of CRS.
My role as executive director of the CRS is to oversee the centralization of the administration and conduct of clinical trials across the entire VCU enterprise. Additionally, I am dedicated to ensuring the excellence of the facilities of the Clinical Research Services Unit in order to provide outstanding clinical trial resources for investigators and their study teams who are engaged in clinical research at VCU.
What are your short- and long-term goals for the CRS?
One of my first goals was to organize a Clinical Research Advisory Board, which consists of administrative leaders within the School of Medicine, VCU Massey Cancer Center and other administrative units who participate in clinical research. The members of the Clinical Research Advisory Board are working together to develop policies and procedures that will guide the oversight of clinical research activity across the entire institution.
There are multiple aspects of clinical trial activity that the Clinical Research Advisory Board will focus on, such as ensuring that all clinical trial activity at VCU can be accurately tracked, that clinical trial enrollment and accrual can be quantitated and that VCU is in compliance with federal regulations with respect to such critically important areas as clinical trial billing and auditing/monitoring of clinical trials. Multiple working groups have been formed from the Clinical Research Advisory Board that are working on aspects of centralization of clinical trials at VCU, such as defining how the clinical trial data management system, OnCore, will be used on an institutionwide basis.
Do you see an expanded role for clinical trials? Why is this important for clinical research at VCU? For the community?
We live in a very exciting time in that the ability to develop novel treatments for human disease has accelerated with the advancements in personalized medicine approaches and the development of innovative, targeted therapies. VCU has multiple opportunities in the area of clinical research and my goal is to centralize the clinical trial administration to amplify the existing supportive environment that VCU has as a center of innovative clinical research.
The significance of clinical research to the community is evident in that the community served by VCU is quite diverse and includes those patients who have challenging health issues who can directly benefit from involvement in clinical trials.
What are the primary factors that led you to VCU?
One of the primary factors that led me to VCU was what I think of as a culture of kindness. The staff and faculty of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research and the CRS who I met during the interview process and continue to interact with on a daily basis respect each other, they are kind, and, importantly, dedicated to the success of clinical research.
Another determining factor in my decision to join VCU was the outstanding staff of the Clinical Research Services Unit. I continue to be impressed each day by the dedication of the CRS nursing staff, clinical coordinators, CRS laboratory staff, bionutritionists, those staff members in the budgeting and billing offices and the administrative staff members who facilitate multiple aspects of clinical trials for VCU investigators and their study teams. Their dedication and the respect that they show to their colleagues and to the study patients are critically important traits to achieving the goal of the CRS being the model of a Center of Excellence in Clinical Research at VCU.