Health care is an ever-evolving environment. New innovations are being introduced every day, and clinical research often plays a big part in those discoveries. Successful clinical trials have led to vaccines for illnesses like polio and chicken pox, as well as medical therapies for major clinical indications from diabetes and arthritis to coronary heart disease and cancer. Without the difficult and demanding work performed in this field, many of the medications that people depend on today would not be available. Clinical research lays the foundation to save lives and sets the future for standard of care. In honor of National Clinical Trials Day today, we would like to celebrate the work of our very own Springfield Clinic Clinical Research Department.  

For more than 50 years, Springfield Clinic has been involved in clinical research. The physicians and administration at the Clinic understand that in order to stay on the forefront of medical technology and best care practices, this work is vital to the organization, and to health care at large.  

In 2003, Springfield Clinic officially created a dedicated Clinical Research Department and hired a small staff of researchers to focus on new health care innovations. The current Clinical Research team, led by Daniel Fox, MPH, PhD, includes several staff members who have been with the department since its inception. The wealth of knowledge and experience they offer, along with the dedication to the study of new therapies and drug trials, makes them an invaluable resource for Springfield Clinic. 

“I feel clinical research is a very important branch of health care,” stated Tonya Reddy, director of advanced practitioners, “that helps determine the safety and effectiveness of medications, processes, devices and treatments that affect all health care clinicians and the patients we care for. Research and quality improvement are a basic need in today’s health care setting.

“Our research department is always willing to go the extra mile to support our clinicians,” she added. “SC is very fortunate to have Dr. Fox and his research team!”

With only eight individuals on staff, the Clinical Research Department works hard every day to move health care forward by supporting physicians in their projects and collaborating with them to offer patients the opportunity to take part in important clinical trials. On average, the team is involved with 35 to 40 clinical trials at any given time, and they are still always willing to find the time to assist any provider in the organization with clinical research or a new project.  

According to Dr. Fox, his team’s willingness to do whatever it takes to help a project move forward is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to running a successful clinical trial. Along with these dedicated professionals on the frontline running the trials, you also need physicians who are willing to put their name on the line, to be the medical investigators, to set aside their time to work with the researchers and the patients. And, last but not least, you need patients who are brave enough to step forward and be a part of the trials so that health care can progress. “Without these three groups,” said Dr. Fox, “we wouldn’t be able to advance in research.”  

Dr. Chaitanya Mamillapalli of Springfield Clinic’s Endocrinology Department has worked closely with the Clinical Research team on several projects. These include: A machine-learning model to predict diabetes mellitus diagnosis, which won third place at the 2019 American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists’ Annual Scientific & Clinical Congress; An AI validation study that develops machine-learning technologies with a company partner; and a ground-breaking computational model to predict the response to neoadjuvant therapy in breast cancer, the abstract of which was recently published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). 

Through projects like these, Dr. Mamillapalli has experienced firsthand just how critical clinical research can be, and how vital the work of our research team is to moving health care forward. “Clinical research provides key information about disease patterns, risk factors and treatment efficacies that can provide guidance in the management of millions of patients,” said Dr. Mamillapalli. “Our Clinical Research Department shoulders the burden of the administrative responsibilities of research, taking stress away from clinicians, which has helped me and my colleagues participate in research despite our busy clinical schedules. Dr. Fox leads an excellent research team and will continue to bring great laurels to Springfield Clinic.”