Hello, I’m Dr. Jeff Kingsley and welcome to another edition of Riding in Cars With Researchers. I was at the DIA conference in San Diego this year with a bunch of my colleagues. For those of you who don’t know, DIA is a massive, clinical research conference with thousands of attendees. We were sitting around talking after a long day and one of my colleagues asked me how did I do this? How did I get involved in research? How did I end up giving up my traditional medical career? How did it happen? I told the story and there were a lot of “wows” and “why haven’t you told this story online? People need to hear this story.” So that’s what I’m going to do now. I will tell the story of how I got into clinical research.
My Background as a Physician
I’m a family physician by training and I had witnessed some physicians doing clinical research when I was going through my family medicine training. Actually, I had participated in some pre-clinical research when I was in med school, but in residency training there were some influential physicians who I saw doing clinical research and it at least opened the door for me.
I had a regular medical practice, I was still delivering babies, doing obstetrics, I was making nursing home rounds, and seeing regular family medicine patients. I was faculty in a residency program, so I was teaching young physicians how to become good family medical physicians. I became medical director of the Family Medicine Department and then became medical director of an urgent care center. I didn’t have a lot of free time. I was also married with four kids. One day I was finished seeing patients and I was sitting in the physician’s lounge at the end of the day with a good friend of mine, Dr. Joe Surber. We were relaxing, having some coffee before heading home and Joe said, “what do you think about starting a clinical research company? Just something to do nights and weekends.”
My Interest is Piqued
And that was the end of the conversation. Just a quick little conversation, but it stuck with me. And so I began doing a little bit of research on research. How much research is going on in the world, what’s it like, how much research is going on in the city that I’m in? And I intrigued and I thought, you know what, this would be fun because it’d be a great way to give free healthcare to the community. We don’t need insurance, there’s no copays, there’s no nothing. All we have to do is do enough research that it pays the bills and supports an ability to give free healthcare to the community. Two weeks later I grabbed Joe, threw him in the car and we met up with some real estate agents. We leased 900 square feet: little tiny facility, two exam rooms, two offices, a reception area, and a bathroom. And we were off and running.
My First Trial
Two months later we convinced the first company to give us a research trial and it was a hard research trial. It was a Phase II randomized, double blind, intravenous antibiotic trial twice daily dosing. The investigational medication was a different color from the comparative drug. It required lots of extra staff. You had to have pharmacy staff for mixing. You had to be able to maintain the blind. You had to cover the IV bags, you had to cover the tubing. Somebody separate had to be able to hook things up so that you couldn’t break the blind. Very complicated trial and you’ve got patients that are having to get their doses at 7:00 in the morning and 7:00 at night. The dose is taken every couple of hours and that made for very long days. That was our first trial out of the box and we knocked it out of the park.
For that trial, we ended up being the 9th highest enrolling site in the world. I think we were maybe 2nd in the United States. We had patients all over the place. We were out of space in our facility. We had patients sitting in chairs in my personal office, getting their IV infusions, because we had no further space. And I was having a blast. I was having so much fun. Remember, I still had a medical practice. So how did that work? Well, I was seeing patients in my medical practice and my research practice was on the other side of town. I would get a call from my research practice that there was a patient that could screen for the trial. I would finish up with a patient in my medical practice and would say to my nurse, I’ll be right back. I would casually walk out of my office, run across the parking lot, jump in my car, drive across the city, run across the parking lot and run into my office, casually walk into the exam room and talk to a patient about the research trial. If the patient consented, we would begin all the screening activities. I would casually walk out of the office, run across the parking lot, jump in my car, drive across the city, run across the parking lot, walk into my office, and walk into the next exam room. All as if nothing had happened. I did that for six months
Why I Love Research
In my medical practice, I only have a few minutes to see each patient. That’s normal. There are too many other patients to be seen and the economic model doesn’t work for long visits. So I’m not able to teach as much in my medical practice. I have patients who can’t afford their copay. I have patients who have many medical conditions. I’m dealing with one medical condition today and then asking them to come back next month where we can focus on the next medical condition, but they’re not coming back next month because they couldn’t really afford their copay today. I’m writing prescriptions that I don’t really know if they are going to fill because I don’t know whether or not they can really afford this prescription. They say they’re taking their medicines, but do I really know if they’re taking all of their medications? It’s possible patients will take every other dose to help string their medications out so that they don’t have to purchase as much, because it’s a drain on their finances.
Meanwhile in my research practice, I don’t even ask them if they have insurance. There’s no copay, there’s no cash register, there’s no cash, there’s no checks, there’s nothing. I’m able to spend tremendous time with my research patients teaching, explaining why we think this antibiotic is going to be so much better than the gold standard for treating this type of infection. I’m able to give free healthcare, physical exams, EKGs, labs, cultures, blood cultures, the IV tubing, the IV antibiotics: everything for free, no copay. In fact, I’m paying the patients to compensate them for their time and effort in helping us learn more about this antibiotic. So what happened six months into this hobby (something to do nights and weekends) is I fell in love with it. And so six months in, I gave six month’s notice to the hospital to replace me in the faculty position and the two medical director positions. I turned over my medical practice patients to my colleagues. So there was a full 12 months of overlap, including my six month notice. And that was 14 years ago.
I just dedicated my career to research. My ability to teach is so enhanced, my ability to influence patients, give them free healthcare, compensate them for their time and effort, treat them with more respect than I ever could in my medical practice. It’s just a remarkable model. And then I began to think, well, how do I get other physicians to be able to do this? And so I designed my company to be a turn-key operation to make it so that other physicians can do this, too.
What are the reasons other physicians can’t do research? Well, I decided to tackle those reasons. Let me make it as easy as possible for other physicians to say yes and then to remain successful in research. That’s precisely what I’ve done. We have dozens and dozens of physicians that have successfully done research with us for well over a decade now. Physicians that had never done research before, we’ve set them up for success. They now have a decade of experience under their belt and are now seasoned researchers who can make great decisions. That’s what our industry needs.
So, there’s the story. There is how I got to where I am today, for whatever it’s worth. If you’re a patient, perhaps it will inspire you to talk to your physician about research. If you’re a physician, perhaps it will inspire you to start. If you’re doing research, perhaps it will inspire you to continue. If you have any questions, call me. I am completely open to it. I want to teach and I want to help other people be successful with clinical research. I will do whatever it takes to make that happen. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Thanks for riding along!
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