On Dec. 9, 2023, Lezly Collins was awarded her Bachelor of Science degree in clinical research science, a program that trains students how to manage and monitor clinical trials.
The clinical research sciences program originated in 2017 when recently appointed chancellor, Johnson O. Akinleye, Ph.D., said that he wished NCCU could create such a program. Professor Ping-An Andy Li, Ph.D., M.D., then the chair of the department of pharmaceutical sciences, consulted with Durham Technical Community College – which offers an associate degree in the field – and with Duke University Clinical Research Institute – where most students in the program now undertake their internships.
He met with the North Carolina Biotech Center Clinical Research Association, which offered feedback on what businesses sought: communication skills and much longer student internships.
Li also attended a national clinical research conference, where he noted that there were few African American attendees.
With the support of Carlton Wilson, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, the University of North Carolina System approved the program in 2019. NCCU started by offering a certificate in the field to nine students.
“All of them got employed,” Li said. “Some of them secured a position before graduation.”
In August 2020, students began enrolling in the bachelor’s degree program. Among them was Collins, originally from Fayetteville, who had been taking courses at Durham Tech while still in high school.
Three members of Collins extended family worked in clinical research.
“I knew I didn’t want to be a full-blown doctor, but I wanted to work in medicine,” Collins said.
Collins was impressed by her internship in the emergency department at Duke University Hospital. She also enjoyed her NCCU teachers, although she would have liked to have had more of them.
“The major was so new, it was hard finding classes,” Collins said.
There are currently 20 students enrolled in the bachelor’s degree program and 17 in the certificate program, said Tracie Lockear, Ph.D., program director and research assistant professor.
“I would love to grow it,” Locklear said. “We look forward to having more graduations, stronger partnership and strengthening the workforce pipeline into industry. We have not had any trouble placing students in jobs.”
Li is not surprised.
“Locally, we have more than 200 companies doing clinical research management,” he said.