Donah Zack Crawford, MA, was a research coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania, focused on premenstrual syndrome and perimenopause, when her symptoms first started. “Someone suggested I see a rheumatologist,” she says, and not long after, Philadelphia-based physician Bruce Hoffman, MD, diagnosed her with rheumatoid arthritis.
It was the mid-1990s, and treatment options were limited. “I couldn’t go to work. I could hardly move,” says Ms. Crawford. “When I first got sick, I couldn’t do anything. I was walking around like a little old lady, but I had little kids.”
With time, her symptoms eased, and recognizing her passion for research, Dr. Hoffman suggested she get involved in a clinical study he was just getting started. Ms. Crawford quickly realized she was not eligible to be a participant; Dr. Hoffman asked if she would, instead, like to coordinate it.
That was 20 years ago, and today, Ms. Crawford is director of clinical trials at Arthritis Group PC, in Philadelphia, with Dr. Hoffman, James Udell, MD, and four other physicians. At any given time, she oversees 11 to 14 studies.
Introduction to the ACR/ARHP
Ms. Crawford has helped the practice grow, and she credits her success to the assistance of and services provided by the ACR and the ARHP. “The ARHP and ACR built our practice,” she says.
The ACR Annual Meeting took place in Philadelphia at the same time Ms. Crawford was getting started at the Arthritis Group (before the ACR and ARHP meetings were fully integrated), and Dr. Udell gave her a day pass. “He said, ‘Come with me,’ and he showed me around and said, ‘This is what’s happening; you should know about this stuff,” Ms. Crawford recalls.
He led her to the exhibit hall, where she handed out business cards and talked about the research side of the practice, including a new trial that was enrolling patients.
“Dr. Hoffman had three people in that one study, and Dr. Udell added 26 more,” Ms. Crawford says. “That’s how we got all of our additional studies, because of connections to all these people at the meeting.”
Helping facilitate research is her passion, and helping recruit patients into clinical trials is one of the most important things she’s ever done in her life, Ms. Crawford says. She has seen these trials lead to approval of therapies for rheumatology patients, and she never ceases to appreciate the contributions of patients willing to take part.
“I tell them: ‘You guys change the way medicine is practiced because of your willingness to be in a study,’” Ms. Crawford says. She reminds them that their contributions also trickle down to their children and grandchildren.