Alicia Nelson, MPH, MSW is a clinical research coordinator with the Center. With a background in both public health and social work, she brings a unique and valuable perspective to our research.
1. Before joining the Center’s research team, what kind of work did you do?
I worked with Duke’s Department of Family and Community Medicine doing case management, health education and study coordination of community based studies.
Before that, I worked at the Durham Public Health Department.
2. How does your background in social work help when it comes to human subjects research?
I think having a background in social work really helps me relate to people and see the larger picture. When I meet a patient I also envision their environment such as their family, their neighborhood, their support systems and try to understand how that impacts their health, their health decisions and their ability to not only engage in the research but hopefully see the benefits and gain something from the research we are doing.
3. You are the primary coordinator on several interesting studies here at the Center. Tell us about your personal favorite.
It’s so hard to pick one, they are all really interesting in their own way. I do enjoy working on the Skin Microbiome study as I get to meet lots of people and learn about their lives and the surgeries they are going to have. This study looks at changes in the skin microbiome as a patient goes through surgery. We do bacteria swabs at their clinic appointment, their pre-op, the surgeons do a swab at wound closure, we swab again when their operative dressing comes off and again at their 4-6 week follow-up appointments. It will be very interesting to see how the bacteria on their skin may change during this time. It is also very cool to see the benefits the patients gain from their orthopedic and neurosurgery procedures.
4. What advice do you have for someone who is just starting out in clinical research? What are the top skills you look for in applicants to research coordinator roles?
The advice I always give myself is to be more organized, so I think this is the advice I would give others. Having everything together and accessible is key to a successful study. Also, take the time to learn about and from your coworkers; they have a wealth of knowledge to offer.
5. What are your favorite summer activities to do in Durham, NC?
I like to go swimming at the beach, local pools or at the Eno River. I think it is important to be close to a body of water inNorth Carolina in the summer as it gets so hot. I also like to go to The Parlour [in downtown Durham] for ice cream or Pelican’s for shaved ice to keep cool.