Be on the Cutting-Edge of Biotechnology with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Translation Management

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Do you have a desire to be involved in the practical application of biomedical research for patient care? Are you interested in medical discoveries made in a laboratory setting and understanding the aspects of business required to take a product to market? There is a lot of complexity within the process of preparing treatments, medication and therapies for patient use. However, if you like a challenge, a career in translational management might be for you!

The University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX offers a Master in Clinical Translation Management (MCTM) degree that provides the foundation of what you need to know to develop a successful career in the field. The program provides a robust and well-rounded understanding of the biotechnology industry, regulatory compliance, business and marketing.  MCTM is ranked #7 nationally and enhanced with a curriculum that is condensed into a one-year format, completed primarily online. In addition, students receive opportunities for in-person training, networking and professional development. Graduates of the program can be considered qualified candidates for positions in clinical trial management, regulatory affairs, start-up companies and applied research. Furthermore, MCTM provides business acumen that allows students to create sound investment strategies within biotech.

We recently interviewed Kelly Hartman, Director of the MCTM Program at the University of St. Thomas. She explained the importance of clinical translation when it comes to making the connection between research and patient care.  Kelly also explained the benefits associated with being in the field of clinical translation management and how the MCTM Program supports students in achieving success. As an alumna of the program, her first-hand experience has provided an intimate understanding of MCTM and she has become the primary resource for information on this incredibly nuanced and unique program.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, before becoming Program Director?

I graduated from Ohio University in Athens, OH with a degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology before working in biomedical research. After almost three years in the laboratory, I moved into an administrative position within research academia and began working on my graduate degree with the Master in Clinical Translation Management (MCTM) Program. Shortly before graduating, the Director position opened up and I decided that I could use my experience as a student to perform the job. I applied and was lucky enough to secure the position in late May of 2020 just before completing the degree in June 2020.

What is clinical translation management?  Why did you decide to focus on it?

Clinical Translation Management is the act of bridging the gap between scientific laboratory research and the business side of the life sciences industry. There are so few individuals who can speak the languages of both the scientific and business worlds, therefore there can be issues with effective communication between both sides. In order to promote the rapid and safe development of potentially life-saving biotechnology, you need someone that understands the process as a whole, not just an isolated component. This is where Clinical Translation Management comes into play – our students learn the entire process of bringing a piece of technology successfully through pre-clinical and clinical stages to achieve successful commercialization of the final product.

What do you think are the primary differences between clinical translation management and other similar fields?

Defining similar fields alone is a challenge – this area is very unique and is still growing within the healthcare industry. There are many individuals that identify with the scientific side of biotech and many others with the business side, but very few that simultaneously identify with both. This is where we have found our niche, which is to produce students with a particularly rare collection of knowledge and a significant range of applications.

Have you noticed any new trends related to the field of clinical translation?

The United States creates a very competitive environment for the biotechnology and life sciences industries – it’s part of the reason why the field is so lucrative to those who find success. We could delve into the complications surrounding our healthcare policies and how this creates additional expense for patients, but part of the reason that the U.S. is able to turn out such advanced technology is the high stakes associated with the field of clinical translation. It’s early to gauge how the pandemic will affect this process moving forward – we have already seen the incredibly accelerated rates at which potential COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are being pushed through clinical trials, but this may not be sustainable in the long term. I do believe, however, that this pandemic has brought the life sciences industry into the mainstream and people are more interested than ever in the clinical translation process. I sincerely hope that this level of interest continues not only for a treatment for COVID-19, but for the many other products that we desperately need to get to patients.

What are some of the top benefits to selecting a career in clinical translation management?

The most universal benefit to selecting a career in clinical translation management is the idea that the work you are doing has the potential to improve the lives patients who are suffering previously incurable or untreatable illnesses and injuries. I believe there is something to be said for one’s work actively contributing toward a positive impact on the world and the field clinical translation management certainly aims to do this. A more specific example, particularly for those currently working in the research laboratory, is that it provides an opportunity to work with technology that already has gone through preliminary testing and shows significant promise to make it through the pre-clinical and clinical phases. Finally, as discussed previously, the field is quite lucrative for those who gain proficiency. According to a CBRE Report, the average annual salaries for clinical research professionals was around $82,000 and there is a lot of room for growth within the industry.

How does the MCTM Program support students in reaching their goals?  

The MCTM Program is very focused on its students on an individual level – particularly when it comes to career placement. Our cohorts are relatively small in comparison to other more common programs, but each individual has a personalized experience that lends itself to the advancement of their professional goals. First, the online and condensed structure of the program allows its students to earn their degree while continuing to work full time in just one short year. Second, the in-person residency periods provide ample opportunity for relationship building within the cohorts themselves and networking among industry professionals. Finally, the capstone projects that each student is expected to complete, involve hands-on work with a real product that is already in the process of clinical translation. These three aspects of MCTM combined result in graduates who have received thoroughly practical and well-rounded education in a very short span of time.

How competitive is it to enter the clinical translation field? 

The field is competitive to enter and even more so to find success – it’s certainly not the easiest or the most predictable path. Even our program is extremely selective with its students and we like to make absolutely sure that the fit is right before bringing them on board. It takes a certain amount of drive, enthusiasm for innovation and scientific aptitude to position yourself well in the field. The MCTM Program helps its students to overcome the competition by removing the barrier between education and professional experience and allowing students to gain first-hand knowledge of what a career within the clinical translation field would entail.

What advice would you give to aspiring clinical translation professionals?

Read as much as you can and try to stay as up to date as possible on newly developing technologies. Keep an eye on the ones that seem promising and pay attention to identifiable qualities that often have a positive or negative impact on a product’s reception. There is no formula for success, but there are measurable indicators that one product is more likely to succeed over its competitors – some are obvious, some are more nuanced. This is part of what the MCTM Program will help you to identify. Read the news from reliable sources (like BioSpace!), read books on biotechnology, healthcare economics, ethics and business acumen. Get involved with politics and understand fully how our leaders can influence the future of the industry with their support or neglect. Clinical translation is all about innovation and new ideas – you never want to be left behind while the next big idea goes over your head.

 

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. (https://www.fly-highcoaching.com) She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

Kelly Hartman (MCTM Program Director) is a professional biologist, researcher, and graduate-level academic administrator. She seeks to aid others in the advancement of their careers in the Life Sciences through higher education and career placement.

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