with Tracy Chavez PA-C, BHS, MMS, the Sub-Investigator
on many of HCRC’s research studies.
By Bill Arnold
BA: Tracy, thank you for taking the time to speak with me about clinical research. To start could you tell me a little
about your profession and medical background?
TC: I am a Physician’s Assistant. PAs are trained in the physician model to practice medicine. They have a four
year undergrad degree with an additional 24 month training period in a PA program and most PAs today are
coming out of the PA program with Master’s degrees as well. I started in the medical field as a medical assistant in a
multi-practice clinic. I worked there for about two years before beginning the PA program. Then after graduating as
a Physician Assistant I worked at a sports and orthopedic rehabilitation clinic. I did that for close to a year before I
obtained my current position at an Internal Medicine practice where I have been now for a little over a year.
BA: What areas of medicine do you have experience in?
TC: The clinic I worked at as a Medical Assistant was a family practice during the week and we saw a lot of patients
with many different health conditions. On the weekends it was an urgent care clinic and we had attending
physicians from Family Practice, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine and Women’s Health so I worked with patients in all
those areas of health care. As a Physician Assistant at the sports and orthopedic rehabilitation clinic I worked with a
lot of patients with acute and chronic orthopedic issues. At the internal medicine clinic where I am now we see
adults from 18 to over 100 in some cases and we take care of their general medical needs and acute issues such
as illnesses, injuries and all sorts of different things. In internal medicine you have to know a little bit about almost
BA: When did you first become involved with clinical research?
TC: That was in April of 2008 so just a year ago.
BA: What exactly is your role in research?
TC: I do a lot of the same things as I would as a PA in terms of performing physical exams and doing assessments.
In research my role is as a Sub-Investigator and I substitute for the Principle Investigator when he or she is not
available. Therefore, I do a lot of the same things that the Principal Investigator does in terms of examining patients
and assessing whether or not they qualify for different studies. I also assess how they are responding to the study
treatment and evaluate any potential adverse events. I would say though that of all my responsibilities seeing to the
welfare and safety of the patient is my most important.
BA: What type of studies have you been the Sub-Investigator on in the past year?
TC: I have been the Sub-Investigator on an Acute Low Back pain study, a Chronic low back pain study, a woman’s
overactive bladder study, a breast pain study, a high cholesterol study, several dermatological studies for eczema,
psoriases and actinic Keratosis and now a type 2 diabetes study which is just starting.
BA: Have you seen many success stories during those studies?
TC: Yes, I have seen success stories in really all of the studies except the high cholesterol study where we are
blinded from the results. I have seen patients with excellent improvements with their overactive bladder symptoms,
their back pain in both the acute and chronic low back pain studies as well as improvements in skin conditions in all
of the dermatological studies, so really I have seen successes in pretty much all of the studies.
BA: What is it that interests you about research?
TC: Well, there are several things about research that interests me, but I think it’s wonderful to have the opportunity
to be involved in something that will ultimately help patients in terms of developing new treatments as well as
developing affordable treatments. Some of these studies are testing generic medications, which will bring the cost
of these treatments within reach of far more people. On a personal note, my husband is also involved in research
through his job at a biopharmaceutical company and it is nice to have that common thread in our jobs.
BA: What are some of the potential benefits for someone to participate in a research study?
TC: Well, as I just mentioned bringing new or more affordable medications to market is not only an important benefit
to society but also to each study participant that helps make that happen. There are probably also some patients
who don’t have insurance or access to health care so they have the potential to receive care and possibly
treatment for whatever condition they are coming in for.
BA: Are there any reasons why someone shouldn’t participate in a research study?
TC: I think that if someone’s motivation is to either help them selfs out with a medical problem or to help with
science and research then participating in a study is a good thing, but if their motivation is for financial reasons
then that’s probably not a good candidate to be in a research study. I also think that if a person has a severe
condition that is already being benefited by a treatment then it may not be a good idea to be in a study. With a
research study there is the possibility that the study medication would not work as well as the current treatment and
also there is usually some chance of receiving a placebo. Also it is usually necessary for patients who are on a
medication to stop that medication for a washout period before starting in a study and of course during that time
the patient receives no treatment. So I really think that participating in a study for someone with a severe condition
who is already under a successful treatment is not a good idea.
BA: Is there any advice you would like to give potential study participants?
TC: I think patients should always make sure they understand what the treatment is and what the requirements of
the study are before agreeing to participate. They should make sure they have all their questions answered and be
sure that they can meet the study schedule of visits as well as carry out the directions for taking the study
medication. The closer a participant adheres to the study requirements the better it is for them and the more
valuable their participation is in terms of giving good information for the study.
BA: Thank you Tracy for taking some time from your busy day to answer my questions. I am sure that your input will
help clarify what resesarch is all about for anyone who may be interested in participating in a study.