What is Clinical Research?

Carly Lovelett,
Clinical Research Manager, St. Lawrence Health System

 Clinical research is a branch of healthcare that focuses on studying the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses in humans, with the intention of developing new medications, medical devices, diagnostic tools, and knowledge to improve the health of our patients.

 Many people think clinical trials happen exclusively in larger metropolitan areas, but participation in clinical research is very important to our area.

 We believe that living in a rural community should not limit our patients’ healthcare options, and it is important for rural areas to also have access to the benefits of clinical research.

 By conducting clinical research in the North Country, we are contributing to the medical and scientific community, furthering the development of new treatment options, and identifying ways to improve the delivery of healthcare in rural areas.

 The Clinical and Rural Health Research Department through St. Lawrence Health System is primarily involved in two different types of clinical research.

 The first is industry-sponsored clinical trials, where we partner with pharmaceutical companies working to develop or refine a drug for a certain medical indication. The pharmaceutical company provides detailed instructions on their investigational drug, the patients who might qualify for the clinical trial, and how to treat and follow-up with the volunteers who do qualify. Through this partnership, we are able to offer our patients the opportunity to potentially receive cutting-edge treatment for their medical condition, while also contributing to a bigger scientific mission that may benefit people like them in the future.

 The second branch of research we conduct is called Investigator Initiated Research. In this division, doctors within the health system come to the Research Department with a research topic or question they are interested in, and we assist them in the research process, helping them find out more information by using various data collection and analysis tools. Our providers are particularly interested in rural health, so many of the projects we support pertain to identifying and studying the gaps in rural healthcare and how we can address them.

 From a patient’s perspective, involvement in a clinical trial is completely voluntary, and a patient may choose to stop participating at any time. Before being considered for a trial, patients meet with the research team members to discuss how the drug is expected to work in the human body, what participating in the trial would entail, as well as the potential risks and benefits of participating in the trial.

 After taking time to consider the opportunity and to ask any questions, if they are still interested, they sign the consent form and are screened for participation. If they qualify, we follow up with them at scheduled doctor visits, which typically look just like normal doctor visits, but sometimes require additional blood work and patient questionnaires.

 This information helps track how patients are responding, their overall well-being, and any symptoms they may be experiencing over the course of their involvement.

 Typically, the pharmaceutical company sponsoring the trial will provide the drug itself, as well as the research-related doctor appointments at no cost to the patient. Some even cover costs associated with the patient’s travel to research appointments.

 Those who are interested in learning more or would like to participate in a clinical trial, may visit https://www.stlawrencehealthsystem.org/clinical-research, or speak with their healthcare provider about active clinical trials they qualify for.


 About St. Lawrence Health System

St. Lawrence Health System was established in December, 2013 with the mission to improve health, to expand access, and to lower costs through coordination and integration of services. Encompassing several corporations, including Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, NY, and Gouverneur Hospital, Gouverneur, NY, St. Lawrence Health System also operates extension outpatient facilities in Antwerp, Brasher Falls, Canton, Colton, DeKalb Junction, Edwards, Gouverneur, Massena, Norfolk, and Potsdam. The largest employer in St. Lawrence County, with just over 1,400 employees, St. Lawrence Health System has 130 full-time medical staff members and annual net operating revenues of $180 million.