Physicians interested in leaving clinical medicine and pursuing non-clinical careers are now looking to contract research organizations (CROs) for new opportunities.

Dr. Laura McKain will be speaking on CROs at the SEAK National Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference to be held October 22-23, 216 in Chicago.

Here is a recent interview with Dr. McKain:

Q:  Dr. McKain, what are contract research organizations (CROs) and what functions do they perform?

A CRO is an independent organization that supports pharmaceutical and device manufacturers in the development of new products and also in meeting the regulatory obligations associated with approved products.   CROs offer a broad range of services from running clinical trials to providing all of the downstream services such as medical and clinical monitoring, data management, statistical analysis, report writing, and a multitude of other functions. As independent companies, they offer an objective assessment of a new product in the clinical setting and, because they partner with many companies, typically offer broader experience than if the sponsor company organized the trials themselves.

Q:  What qualifications, traits, certifications and experience are CROs looking for when they interview physicians?

Typically, they look for physicians with a depth of knowledge in one or more therapeutic areas. Both primary care and specialty physicians are in demand. They definitely prefer licensed and board certified physicians who have strong clinical experience and at least some familiarity or experience with clinical research. An academic background is not required. Also important are good computer skills, the ability to present effectively, strong writing skills, and the ability to make decisions.

Q:  How prevalent are work from home positions in CROs and how do they work logistically?

Work from home positions are fairly common, however, CRO employers often require new physicians to spend a period of time training at the corporate office initially. Reliable telephone and internet access is essential in the day to day activities of a CRO physician. Travel, both domestic and international, is often required so easy access to an airport is important. Note that the amount of travel required is highly variable.

Q:  What is the one piece of advice you would give to physicians who want to obtain a position at a CRO?

Become familiar with the drug development process, particularly the development of products in your specialty. There are many resources available through the FDA website as well as

Laura McKain, MD, FACOG is a medical director at PPD, a global contract research organization (CRO) with over 12,000 employees. She serves PPD as a medical monitor/safety physician and as a product development consultant. Previous to this, Dr. McKain was Medical Director, Registries and Epidemiology, Late Phase with Kendle International, Inc. Prior to transitioning to non-clinical work, Dr. McKain practiced obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. McKain received both her BS and MD from Georgetown University.