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Leaping into Decentralized Clinical Trials

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Editor’s Note: Iman Mahoui is a first year medical student at the University of Rochester after graduating from IU in 2019 and joining the MIH Incubation Rotational program. She is passionate about clinical medicine, healthcare equity, and moonlights as a published writer when she isn't studying at all hours of the day and night.

My rotational experience in the newly formed Decentralized Trials Team can only be described as awe-inspiring. What started off as a slight interest in the clinical space would quickly become a career-defining experience for me and would spur my decision to enroll in medical school this Fall.

When I was in college, I thought I was certain that I wanted to be a doctor, but by the time I graduated with degrees in Neuroscience and International Studies, I wasn’t so sure. Going straight into medical school after graduating seemed like a decision that would throw away all the time and energy I had spent as a student, author, and advocate in the social justice space. When I learned of Eli Lilly’s rotational program and the incredible opportunity it offered to learn more about the pharmaceutical industry and the STEM industry at large, I knew I had to jump on it.

When I began my rotation at Eli Lilly in January 2020, I knew very little about the clinical space, and even less about decentralized trials (DCT). All I had to go on was a conversation with my soon-to-be supervisor, in which she spoke of social justice in healthcare, making access to clinical trials equitable, and targeting the structural and socioeconomic barriers that both patients and caregivers face when it comes to enrolling individuals in what could be a lifesaving clinical trial. I was immediately sold.

However, getting started wasn’t easy. In order to help change the very nature of how clinical trials are run at Lilly, I had to first understand how to run one at all, from start to finish. I have since developed an incredible appreciation for the thousands of individuals who dedicate their lives to getting just one clinical trial off the ground. My team taught me by example what a commitment to “creating medicines to make life better” actually looks like.

But right when I started to find my footing, the world was hit with a pandemic the likes of which my generation had never seen, and as those of us on the DCT team like to say, it was the “worst best thing to ever happen to Decentralized Trials here at Eli Lilly.” Through my time with the DCT team, I had the unique privilege of being part of a group of individuals that in the span of 6 months, went from being the crazy, innovative thinkers of tomorrow to the necessary leaders of today.

Our subject-matter experts led the entire company through a new world of telehealth, mobile nursing, direct-to-patient shipping, and remote monitoring to keep our clinical trials afloat through these difficult times. I am profoundly grateful to have been a part of and a witness to this transition, and I look forward to closely watching the amazing work that the DCT team will continue to accomplish during their long and fruitful time at Eli Lilly and Company. To tell a long story short, I decided to start medical school this fall because I hope to one day become a physician committed to playing even a small role in making sure every new medicine has a chance to make it to the finish line, and that every patient does too.

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