Thanking the heroes behind clinical trials

May 20, 2020

 Irene Watpool and Rebecca Porteus (Photo taken before COVID-19)COVID-19 has put a special focus on the importance of clinical trials in finding ways to diagnose, treat and prevent this new infection, but clinical trials have always been essential to improving care and saving lives at The Ottawa Hospital. Six clinical trials for COVID-19 are already underway at the hospital, with many more being planned.  

In honour of International Clinical Trials Day on May 20, the hospital would like to thank everyone who makes clinical trials possibleespecially the patients who choose to participate and the loved ones who support them 

Advances in care would not be possible without the patients who contribute their time and energy to clinical trials,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, Executive Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. Clinical trial participants are some of the most important heroes in health care. They are giving an enormous gift to future patients. 

COVID-19 is changing how clinical trials are done 

As hospitals continue to focus on preventing the spread of COVID-19, many patient visits are being done virtually, including consent and follow-up visits for patients participating in clinical trials. Many researchers believe that virtual technologies will play a bigger role in clinical trials, even once hospitals begin to resume normal activities.  

All of the lessons learned and ingenuity that clinical researchers are implementing now to adapt their practice to the pandemic will inform how clinical trials are done in the future,” said Dr. Dean Fergussonwho leads The Ottawa Hospital’s Clinical Epidemiology Program, its strategy for engaging patients in research activities, as well as the international Society for Clinical Trials. We continue to focus on engaging patients in the research planning, support and review process at The Ottawa Hospital, including patients who have recovered from COVID-19. 

Research ‘heroes’ go above and beyond to support COVID-19 clinical trials  

On top of their regular work as research coordinators in the Intensive Care Unit, Irene Watpool and Rebecca Porteus have volunteered to explain all of the hospital’s COVID-19 trials to patients and their families to ensure they can make informed decisions about participating. 

In addition to donning the necessary protective equipment before entering patient rooms, these research coordinators need to memorize the details of multiple studies because they can’t bring any written material into patient rooms. They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure that all patients have the chance to participate in research. 

Watpool notes that most COVID-19 positive patients have agreed to participate in research studies, despite the discomfort of extra tests, blood work or nasal swabs. 

“I feel privileged to be involved in this,” said Irene. “These patients are being very altruistic. You really have a sense they don’t wish the disease on anyone and they’re willing to help.” 

“It’s so important that we give our patients every opportunity to participate in research,” said Dr. Shane English, intensive care physician and associate scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa. “When we think of front-line heroes in this pandemic, we should definitely also think of people like Irene and Rebecca. They are making crucial research possible in very difficult circumstances.”  

Participating in research today improves care in the future 

Dr. Raphael Saginur and Dr. William Cameron are among many others at The Ottawa Hospital who are playing an important role in facilitating clinical trials, both related to COVID-19 and more generallyThey participate in the hospital’s COVID-19 Clinical Research Task Force and other related groups. 

We who are alive in 2020 all benefit from clinical research done on past generations of people in every area of health and disease,” they recently wrote in an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen. “At The Ottawa Hospital, some 50 COVID-related research projects are at various stages of development, often in partnership with other researchers in Ottawa and around the world. All of them will guide our understanding and likely some of them will bear fruit, giving future patients the benefit of the new knowledge.” 

People interested in taking part in a clinical trial should speak to their health-care provider and agree to be contacted for research purposes when registering for appointments. More information can be found on the hospital’s Ask me about our research page.  

Research at The Ottawa Hospital is possible because of generous donations to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.  

The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health, research and learning hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.  

Media Contact

Amelia Buchanan
Senior Communication Specialist
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Office: 613-798-5555 x 73687
Cell: 613-297-8315