Keeping the conversations going: Staff members of MCHRI practice social distancing while still staying connected

Staff members of the Stanford Maternal and Child Health Research Institute practice social distancing while using virtual tools to stay connected with colleagues and researchers. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

While many Stanford employees practice social distancing to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the administration and clinical research teams at the Maternal and Child Health Research Institute (MCHRI) have adopted flexible working arrangements and the use of virtual tools to stay connected and productive with colleagues and researchers.

“We are all proud to be part of this Stanford research community,” said Mary Chen, MS, MBA, Executive Director of MCHRI and Assistant Dean of Maternal and Child Health Research at Stanford School of Medicine. “It is incredible how we continue to support research through virtual interactions and online meetings while making sure our colleagues are safe and healthy.” 

It is incredible how we continue to support research through virtual interactions and online meetings while making sure our colleagues are safe and healthy.

According to recent guidance regarding the pause of non-essential activities for clinical trials and clinical research at Stanford, studies that can be conducted virtually may continue with approval from the Stanford Institutional Review Board (IRB).

In response to this, Melissa Major, Assistant Clinical Research Coordinator for the Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center and the Clinical and Translational Research Program, and her study’s principal investigator (PI) identified a way to collect consent forms remotely via phone and email. While they ultimately decided to pause their study, Melissa and her PI had found a solution that would have enabled them to continue their minimal-risk survey study remotely with their collaborators.

For other team members at MCHRI, staying connected at a distance has led to the first of large-group virtual meetings. Earlier this month, Kimberly Stern, Associate Program Manager for MCHRI, conducted our first online review panel using video conferencing to discuss grant applications submitted for the Clinical Trainee (MD) Support Program. Reviewers play a critical role in helping MCHRI adjudicate its funding programs, including evaluating proposals and contributing to larger panel discussions.

“The panel co-chairs for the Clinical Trainee (MD) Support Program, Drs. Dan Bernstein and Gerry Grant, did an excellent job at facilitating the virtual review meeting,” said Kim. Thanks to the 12 panelists and MCHRI representatives coming together and collaborating virtually during these complex times, they reviewed 27 grant applications for this cycle.

Providing resources and services to Stanford investigators is critical for a strong infrastructure in maternal and pediatric research. In place of face-to-face meetings, the MCHRI team is using virtual collaboration to ensure research and innovation keeps moving forward.

Roxanna Van Norman is the marketing manager for the Stanford Maternal and Child Health Research Institute.