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Faye Pagdonsolan

SFU Student Undergraduate
Health Sciences | Arts + Social Sciences › Psychology
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

Experience Faculty
My first hands-on experience in clinical research has ignited a newfound passion and interest in respiratory health.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation
Previous Experience

Before I applied for this position, I already had over 2 years of experience within a hospital setting. As a former hospital volunteer, I developed interpersonal skills that are essential in conducting on-site patient visits for clinical trials. I also worked as a Data Entry Clerk, which has helped me develop detail-oriented skills that are vital in the collection and maintenance of long-term patient data.

A coloured poster showing different types of inhaled medications and inhalation devices.
A poster showing different types of inhaled medications and inhalation devices.
During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

The first week of the work term mostly consisted of going through training modules. It was essential to complete these training modules before I started my role as a Research Assistant. The information in the training modules emphasized the importance of participant safety, research ethics, Good Clinical Practices (GCP), and compliance in clinical trials.

It also gave me the opportunity to meet other people such as physicians, nurses, and respiratory technicians, who worked in the office. Aside from offering respiratory research, the clinic also offers services such as clinical care for respiratory patients, airway and asthma/COPD education, pulmonary function testing, and skin testing for aeroallergens.

Day to Day

In my first work term, I focused on recruiting participants with respiratory symptoms including shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and persistent coughing, but had no official respiratory diagnosis.  My position and daily activities were dependent on the recruitment of participants to bring in for on-site study assessments. This required making telephone calls daily and ensuring that potential participants met the study inclusion/exclusion requirements that were outlined in the study protocol. They were invited to enroll in the study and attend an on-site visit if they qualify based on the screening questions.

During the visit, I was responsible for ensuring the participant was informed about the study and collecting informed consent as per GCP requirements and the institutional Standard Operating Procedures for the informed consent process. Once enrolled, participants were asked to complete some patient-reported outcome questionnaires, and I conducted breathing tests called spirometry to assess for undiagnosed asthma and/or COPD. I was responsible for scheduling and managing the visits, as well as preparing the source documents for the required data collection variables, before the scheduled visits.

When I am not actively recruiting patients for studies, I am helping out with other aspects of the studies. This includes working on tasks such as creating site source documents, entering and auditing data from the patient-reported outcome questionnaires, filing and maintaining source documents, and performing serial dilutions for methacholine challenge tests and allergy inhalation tests.

Learning and Adaptation

Given that this was my first hands-on experience within the clinical research field, the first few weeks on the job felt quite overwhelming. There were so many aspects of the job that I had to learn, and I wanted to make sure that I was able to understand and apply everything that was being taught to me. However, my supervisor and colleagues were incredibly supportive, understanding, and helpful. I am glad that I started out with a solid foundation of knowledge with this team. It has helped me stay motivated as I slowly became more confident and was able to adapt seamlessly to my role as a Research Assistant.

Accomplishments and Challenges

Recruiting participants for studies can be quite challenging, especially when you have to make cold calls. Some potential participants forgot that they received an automated phone call about the study, while some were simply too difficult to follow up due to their limited availability.

Despite these challenges, I was able to recruit 20 participants for the main study that I was working on. This means that these participants had the respiratory symptoms that were outlined above. However, they were not given an official respiratory diagnosis due to the results of their spirometry test.

I also recruited 1 participant for our randomized controlled trial. This means that this participant had the respiratory symptoms that were outlined above. They were also formally diagnosed with a respiratory diagnosis based on the results of their spirometry test.

Reflection & Tips
Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

Through my Co-op experience, I realized my interest in pursuing a career in this field. It felt great that I was able to work closely with a team while still having some independence. I also enjoyed the balance of patient interactions, basic lab work, and administrative work. Being able to work on these three components has allowed me to gain and develop a variety of skills that have helped me become a much more versatile employee.


Faye Pagdonsolan

SFU Student Undergraduate
Health Sciences | Arts + Social Sciences › Psychology
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

Faye is an undergraduate student pursuing a BA degree in Health Sciences and Minor in Psychology. She is a Clinical Research Assistant at the UBC Division of Respiratory Medicine. You can find Faye on LinkedIn if you are interested in connecting with her.

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Apr 7, 2023