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International Clinical Trials

Industry Interview

ICT: What was your entry point into the clinical trials industry?

Rahlyn Gossen: I started as a clinical research coordinator and remained in that role for fi ve years. Much of my work focused on Alzheimer’s trials, although I was involved in trials for several other indications as well. What part of your current role do you most enjoy? I love technology, so being exposed to new solutions is a nice perk of my job. However, ultimately I see technology as merely a means to an end, which is to improve people’s lives. Right now we have a huge opportunity to do just that, not only in clinical trials, but also in healthcare generally. It’s exciting to work in healthcare during such a pivotal and transformative time.

Which part is the most challenging?

As a research coordinator, I abided by fairly established practices and processes. For what I’m doing now, there’s no established playbook. The digital media landscape is quite complex and it changes rapidly. Those characteristics, combined with the unique regulatory aspects of clinical trials, ensure that I am always challenged. And I like it that way. The opportunity to come up with new and creative solutions is undoubtedly one of the more satisfying aspects of my job.

How would you describe your business philosophy?

“Create more value than you capture.” Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, coined that phrase, and it really resonates with me. I think that if you live by this business philosophy, everything else tends to fall into place, though it sometimes takes longer. Plus, I just find it a more satisfying way to do business. I’ve found my company blog to be a great tool in creating such value.

What has been your proudest moment?

Winning the state soccer championship in middle school. I could certainly point to proud moments in my adult life, but this moment was particularly special because it was the first time I had experienced the satisfaction of triumph after working really hard at something I loved.

And your greatest disappointment?

In hindsight I don’t have any major disappointments. Though disappointments are frustrating at the time,they are great learning opportunities. And by shutting one door, you often become more receptive to other (better) options. When I was in college, I took a semester away from school to work for the Al Gore US Presidential election campaign. I put everything I had into my job, and I felt crushed by the ensuing defeat. But looking back now, it was easily one of the most valuable experiences of my life.

When are you happiest?

I’m happiest when in New Orleans, spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy more solitary pursuits. I’m often at my most satisfied right after a nice solo run through my neighbourhood.

What keeps you awake at night?

Any items on my to-do list that pose a challenge. Those challenges creep into my consciousness at all hours as I attempt to mentally work through them.

What do you think the clinical trials sector needs to focus on in 2013?

Doing more calculated experiments that deviate from the way we’ve always done things. Experimentation is essential to progress, and given the challenges we face in this industry, that’s something we desperately need.

How do you think the industry will change over the next 10 years?

The industry will change far more in the next 10 years than it changed in the last decade. I think technology will enable us to create a clinical trial model that is vastly different from the one we have today. I don’t know exactly what that model will look like, though I have some ideas, but it will certainly be more efficient. The industry is ripe for what Clayton Christensen calls “disruptive innovation”.


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Rahlyn Gossen is the founder of Rebar Interactive, a digital strategy and patient recruitment company serving clinical trial sites and sponsors. She was previously a clinical research coordinator. Rahlyn holds a BA in Sociology from Grinnell College.
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