Clinical trials manager: Marian Lieschke

Expanding Australia's clinical trial activity calls for a highly trained workforce. The VCCC, with the Parkville Cancer Clinical Trials Unit, has created a clinical trial pipeline to train Clinical Trial Assistants and Study Coordinators, providing a path into key roles.

Involving a consumer in the selection of candidates – and on the interview panel – for the annual program provides benefits for the candidates and future employers of clinical trials staff.

Marian Lieschke
Manager Parkville Cancer Clinical Trials Unit
Chair VCCC Building Workforce Capacity Committee

To build workforce capacity in clinical trials, the VCCC and the Parkville Cancer Clinical Trial Unit initiated a new internship program to assist scientists wanting to move into the sector. In 2019 the programs involved 18 interns.  As part of their commitment to involve consumers the VCCC required a consumer be involved in the interview process for internships – a process that I was initially unhappy with because I thought it was a tick box exercise. However, the value of the right person for the right job became extremely evident during this process.

Mr Les Leckie was appointed to the interview panel: his experience in the pharmaceutical industry and Government, his knowledge of healthcare issues, his experiences as both as a patient and family member and his understanding of his role as a consumer adviser were invaluable. 

No axe to grind

Les took the time to make enquiries about the clinical trial operations at Peter MacCallum and across the Parkville Precinct and this enhanced the questions he subsequently put to the candidates.

He was aware that many people applying had limited knowledge of the extent of trials or the roles that were on offer. He also had no preconceived ideas of “the perfect clinical staff member” – so approached each candidate with an openness that enabled them to give illuminating answers. Because the internship programs are wider than Peter Mac and even the Parkville Precinct, Les was also able to consider each candidate without bias towards any one institution.

Time commitment

In total, we did over 30 interviews over several days: a huge time commitment by any standards. But Les not only attended every interview but arrived prepared, having read all the CVs and cover letters. He took the role very seriously and the other panellists really appreciated this. Les has also remained involved in the journeys of the interns, attending their orientation and their final presentations, including being a judge for the prize giving. He has provided a constancy during our first year of this program that has been amazing.

Working with Consumers as part of the team

My experience working with Les changed how I view the value of consumer engagement. Our panel was so lucky to have such a highly skilled and thoughtful person involved. I have since had consumer involvement in other projects – again finding someone with the right skill base for the project. I believe that where the skills that the consumer brings matches the role being asked of them, there can be fabulous outcomes