Profile: Michelle Dickey, MS, FNP-BC, PNP-BC, CCRC

Michelle Dickey, MS, FNP-BC, PNP-BC, CCRC Clinical Research Site Director Gamble Center for Vaccine Research Cincinnati Children's VTEU

How long have you been with the VTEU?

I have been with the VTEU for 25 years and have worked as a sub-investigator on more than 100 vaccine and treatment protocols.

Tell us about your path to clinical research.

After graduation from Auburn University School of Nursing, I worked in adult health; medical-surgical, cardiac step-down and maternal child health. Soon after we moved to Cincinnati in 1988, my son had to have eye surgery at Cincinnati Children’s. We had such a positive experience, I decided the next step in my nursing career would be in pediatrics. As luck would have it, Cincinnati Children’s had a position open as a research nurse in the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC). During my six years in the position, I became a Certified Pediatric and Family Nurse Practitioner and assisted numerous investigators in different areas of research. One of the investigators I met was Dr. David Bernstein. In 1995, he offered me a position in the Gamble Center for Vaccine Research (The Gamble) at Cincinnati Children's Medical Center (CCHMC) and the rest is history. I am currently the clinical research site director for The Gamble as well as serving as a sub-investigator on multiple research projects.     

Briefly describe the IDCRC-supported trials you’ve worked on this year.

Our site will be conducting the AstraZeneca (AZ), Sanofi and Janssen Pediatric COVID-19 trials. As of November 2020, we have begun enrollment for the AZ trial with the other still pending. We also completed the protocol for a trial to evaluate a vaccine against Campylobacter, a project that is scheduled to begin early 2021.

Of these trials, what has been the most impactful or highlight of the work?

As one may assume, over the past year, evaluating vaccines against COVID-19 has been very stressful but it also has been very rewarding. One challenge of COVID-19 vaccine trials is to ensure that the study population is a good representation of our community. I had the fortune of collaborating with the Community Engagement Core of our Center for Clinical & Translational Science & Training at CCHMC. I was able to be part of an outreach program that provided community education regarding the disease caused by COVID-19 as well as information about vaccines and treatment of the infection. Over the last 10 months, our group was able to build trust within the communities around CCHMC, particularly the African-American community which resulted in over 24% of our COVID-19 study participants being from diverse backgrounds. This success was extremely rewarding and I am hopeful that our work on COVID-19 vaccines will translate into increased participation among diverse populations for future vaccine trials conducted at CCHMC.  

What would you want others to know about clinical research or what is a popular misconception about clinical research?

I view clinical research as an extension of good clinical care. Identifying gaps in clinical care and then asking and answering questions to improve clinical care is highly rewarding for both my personal growth as well as the health of the community. I very much enjoy the personal interaction with the individual patient and the effect I can have on their health. However, the conduct of research allows me to effect change literally throughout the world. I know that one day soon, I will be able to look back on 2020 and feel great pride about how the work we conducted as part of the VTEU was instrumental in quelling COVID-19 and allowing society to return to normal.