Staff Member Spotlight: Barbara Wheeler, Wake Research Raleigh

This interview is the first part in an ongoing series featuring our amazing clinical staff members sharing with you the work they do for Wake Research’s site network, and why they chose a career in clinical research. 

Barbara (BJ) Wheeler, Senior Clinical Coordinator, Wake Research

  • What is your role at Wake Research?

I am a senior Clinical Coordinator at Wake Research in Raleigh, N.C.

  • What do you like about your job?

I love helping people, and what I love the most is the joy I see on my subjects’ faces – they all make my day special each day I see them. In research, it’s a team thing, so I also love working with the team. My motto is “teamwork makes the dream work!”

  • How did you get into clinical research?

Research started for me with mice, rats, and rabbits; I had a reaction to their dander and could no longer work with them [in a lab]. I moved to South Carolina, and while working at the hospital I saw an ad looking for a clinical research coordinator for allergy and asthma patients. I went for the interview, got the job, and have never looked back or regretted my career move.

  • What would you say to encourage more people to participate in clinical trials?

Clinical trials are important to help get new medications and vaccines out on the market. Clinical research helps people in need of care that otherwise they may not get without trials. Clinical research is important to improving people’s health — it may not be me or you, but down the road, it will help someone.

  • What would you tell patients who are concerned about the safety of trials?

When I talk to my subjects, the first thing I let them know is that they’re not a “guinea pig,” they are a human being and will always be treated as such.

  • Do you have any memorable stories that stand out as an example of the value of clinical research?

I remember working as a coordinator on a rheumatoid arthritis study, and I had several patients come in with their hands turned in and they were walking on canes. They got into the trial but had no hope. As part of the trial, I began to give them shots. It turned their life around. When this medication eventually came to the market, it was expensive. Since the subjects had been in the trial for 10 years, I wrote the company and asked that they give my patients free medication for a while for staying with the study so long. The company gave them two years of free medication! This made me feel good to be able to help. And when that drug came to market, I was happy to say I was part of the drug being put on the market.