Clinical trials are essential for the advancement of science: An interview with Veena Joshi

by Megan Frame, membership coordinator

Welcome to another installment of our featured member interviews where we will continue to introduce you to more of our members—individuals who work to advance ethical research on a daily basis. Please read on to learn more about their professional experiences, how membership helps connect them to a larger community, and what goes on behind-the-scenes in their lives! Today we’d like to introduce you to Veena Joshi, MSc, PhD, deputy director at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital and Research Centre in Pune, India.  

Megan Frame (MF): When and why did you join this field?
Veena Joshi (VJ): In 2005, I was working for the National Kidney Foundation, Singapore (NKFS) as a senior biostatistician and it was decided that NKFS needed to start an ethics committee. I was sent to attend a basic course on clinical trials as well as other relevant courses on Good Clinical Practice guidelines, accreditation, and reviewing research proposals. I quickly realized how important it was to provide all study-related information to research participants. The courses I attended also stressed the importance of providing adequate protection of research participants, ensuring respect for the participants, performing a detailed risk-benefit analysis, and providing proper reimbursement and compensation to participants. These experiences left an impression on me, and I was fully convinced that all ethical issues must be properly addressed before undertaking any clinical trials. Medical science cannot advance without clinical trials, and the public at large cannot feel confident about clinical trials unless they know that all ethical issues have been addressed.

MF: What skills are particularly helpful in a job like yours?
VJ: My roles as deputy director of the research department and a member of the ethics committee at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital and Research Centre require multitasking. Besides administration (promotion, facilitation, and regulation), I also need to stay up to date on what is new in the field in order to ensure that research participants are not being put at any undue risk. It is a huge help when all of your colleagues join you in working as one successful team.

MF: Tell us about one or more articles, books, documents that have influenced your professional life.
VJ: One book I really enjoyed was the biography of Louis Pasteur, The Life of Pasteur, by René Vallery-Radot. I also liked Gifted Hands by Ben Carson and Cecil Murphey, which tells the story of Carson’s battle to become a renowned neurosurgeon.

MF: Is there anyone, living or dead, who has inspired you in your career and/or in life? 
VJ: First and foremost, I am inspired by my husband. His advice on understanding basic concepts, logical writing style, and ability to adjust to compromises at home allowed me to grow. Without his support it would not have been possible for me to pursue a professional life.

My supervisor at NKFS, Dr. Sylvia Remierez, inspired me to become a researcher, and not justa data crunching machine. She impressed upon me the importance of community engagement research for improving health outcomes. I was stunned by her ability to write very clear and succinct technical reports and manuscripts in a very short time. She also encouraged me to become a technical writer and to present valuable results at conferences.

My supervisor at Singapore Health Services Pte Ltd., Dr. Jeremy Lim, influenced me through his belief in networking and collaboration to enhance dissemination of projects. He encouraged me to work on different types of projects and learn new research tools such as longitudinal analysis, process models in healthcare, systems thinking, and sequential equations using Amos.

MF: Have there been any PRIM&R events or talks that you have attended that have had a significant impact on your approach to your work? If so what were they and how did they influence you?
VJ: I had an opportunity to attend the Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference  in December 2012. The way the entire conference was organized left an impression on me. All of the organizers and volunteers were very courteous, and the planning was meticulous. The experience helped me when I later had to arrange a conference for my department, titled Emerging Issues in Ethics and Regulation in Medical Research. It was a great success thanks to the valuable experience I gained at PRIM&R.

I also really enjoyed a moderated discussion on community engagement that took place at the conference. The various presenters’ dedication and passion for involving the community in research was impressive. I have since started working towards forming a group composed of all the ethics committees in Pune, India, with the objective of capacity building and fostering an improved understanding and better implementation of ethical review of behavioral and biomedical research.

MF: What is your proudest achievement?
VJ: I was the winner of the Women’s Team Championship and runner-up in Women’s Doubles at the National Table Tennis Tournament in 1970.

MF: What is the thing you wish “the man or woman on the street” knew about your work?
VF: Clinical trials are essential for the advancement of science, which will, in turn, benefit humanity. However, these trials should be conducted ethically. Further public awareness about the importance and purpose of clinical trials will support the ethical conduct of the trials themselves.

We’re glad you found the 2012 AER Conference so beneficial, Veena. We hope that you will be able to join us in Baltimore this December for the 2014 AER Conference. Thanks for sharing your story!

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a member, please visit our website today.