Program Managers: The Go-To People at CPIC

Large research studies like those run by the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) have a lot of moving parts, and it typically it’s up to the program managers at to keep track of them. Studies at CPIC involve hundreds or thousands of participants, and can involve surveying people with different preferences around paper or internet based forms, collecting blood samples from far-flung locales and getting them to a laboratory in time for them to be processed properly, and many other complex tasks. With responsibilities that include creating and managing budgets for grant proposals and studies, helping to develop survey instruments, managing and problem-solving for staff working in the field, serving as a liaison between CPIC and other institutions, staying on top of the latest web-based survey tools, writing newsletters, co-authoring papers, mentoring other staff, and coordinating with study participants, clearly the life of a CPIC program manager is never boring.

“You just become this person that is a go-to for everything,” said Christine Duffy, program manager for the California Teachers Study. “It’s a great job.” 

Working as part of the California Teachers Study (CTS) with Senior Research Scientist Pamela L. Horn-Ross, Ph.D., has been incredibly rewarding for Christine. “Working on long-term studies means there are challenges we continually face: finding creative ways to keep study participants active and committed to a research project, managing field staff and staff turnover, overseeing the magnitude of data we are collecting and making sure we have the best data possible is critical,” she said. “At the end of the day, though, the impact it can have and the results that come out of the project really show that the work we are doing has a benefit in terms of cancer prevention.” 

And for Enid Satariano, a 15-year veteran at CPIC and program manager for the Family Registry for Breast Cancer (FRBC) it’s all that and more. “Truthfully, I like working with really smart people, and I get that at CPIC, I like what the organization does, and I love working on FRBC.” 

Involved with the FRBC since its inception, Enid works closely with Senior Research Scientist Esther John, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., who heads the FRBC. “Now we’ve branched into the LEGACY Girls Study, including the daughters of our participants and other girls to study how lifestyle, environment, and biology affect the growth and development of young girls and teens; bringing all that expertise to look at a new generation. This work is both challenging and incredibly satisfying.”    

And common sense expertise is something all the program managers at CPIC have in abundance. Most come with a master’s degree in Public Health, Epidemiology, or related fields, or with considerable research experience. “A familiarity with research methodologies, being technically savvy, being people oriented, and having a desire to learn new things, these are all part of being a program manager here,” Enid said. 

Mai Tran, the newest of the half dozen or more staff working as program managers at CPIC, brings not only a background in public administration, but also experience in a clinical research environment. As the program manager for Research Scientist Bang Nguyen, Dr.P.H., she has learned a lot in the seven months she’s been at CPIC. “I’m part of a smaller group than some of the other program managers,” she said, “so one of my goals is to seek out collaborations and partnerships within the broader cancer community as well as with the other program managers at CPIC.”

That internal network of support is essential. “We bounce ideas off of one another all the time and share information,” Christine explained, “and we also have regular meetings where we discuss a relevant topic that we all need to know about as managers or we discuss best practices and study protocol for new projects. We definitely tap into one another quite frequently.”

“I believe in our mission,” Christine added. “The work is stimulating, I am valued by my peers, the research scientists and others within the organization and that’s important to doing my work and working effectively and efficiently. I could not have asked for a better place to work over the last 14 years.”