Staff Spotlight: Kristina Balderson
Kristina Balderson is the focus of our staff spotlight interview this week. Balderson currently works as a clinical research coordinator where she selects individuals for inpatient clinical trials and monitors their progress. In this interview she discusses how different and exciting her job can be and her interest in healthcare. She is currently finishing up her Master’s in Health Administration and will be soon traveling to Austria to study its healthcare system with her husband.
How long have you been at Duke? How long have you been with the Neurology Department?
Almost 11 years. I started at Duke Neurology when I was an undergraduate at UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall of 2006. I was offered a full time position after I graduated and started August 1, 2010.
What are your responsibilities within the Department? What does your average work day look like?
I currently lead the day-to-day operations of inpatient clinical research for the department. I work closely with Lisa Gauger to determine feasibility of potential inpatient clinical trials. I also offer maestro care support for the clinical research unit, but primarily I run inpatient studies in the stroke and neurocritical care division.
We predominantly cover acute stroke, hemorrhage, and traumatic brain injury trials. Once enrollment opens we actively look for and take phone calls for potential subjects. Once we find a subject who is eligible, we work with the investigator to complete consent and screening. After the patient is screened they are randomized and scales, labs, and exams are completed based off of the schedule outlined in the protocol. Our role is to ensure that each event happens within its time frame. In our trials we normally have less than twelve hours since last known normal to give the patient study drug/device.
What’s the toughest part of your job? What do you enjoy most about your work?
The toughest part of my position here is prioritizing study activities for the various “customers.” The inpatient group covers seven actively enrolling inpatient trials, six outpatient studies that take place in 1L, and we have three trials in the start-up phase. Every investigator and sponsor has things that they would like completed immediately, and the inpatient team is working to get those requests completed as efficiently and effectively as possible.
I enjoy that every day is different and exciting. I never know when my next enrollment will happen or who I may meet or get to work with. Working through the puzzle of getting everything completed within the window is the most exciting part of sponsor protocols. Our trials require a component of being on call because we do not know who or when a patient that is eligible for any given trial will show up at the hospital.
What did you want to be growing up? If you could have your dream job anywhere in the world, what would it be?
When I was little I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. I thought wearing a star everyday would be so much fun. If I could travel anywhere in the world to work, I think I would be a wedding planner in Costa Rica for destination weddings (reduced daily bridezilla drama).
What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
Currently I am working on my master’s degree (a Master of Health Administration) so I do not have a lot of time for hobbies. However, I like to spend time outside with my husband and our adorable chocolate lab Thor. We spend a lot of time playing fetch. We also spend as much time as possible with my niece and nephew who live in Wilmington, NC.
I’ll finally get my MHA in August. It has provided me with a broader understanding of our U.S. healthcare system, as well as the specifics surrounding healthcare as a business. I decided to get an MHA because it seemed most applicable to the work that I am currently doing. The best perk of the program is that we study international healthcare, so my husband and I are leaving for Austria this weekend to learn about their healthcare system.
Balderson poses with her husband and her dog Thor.