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Richardson brings relentless dedication to patient care

The Sandra Turner Excellence in Clinical Research Award was established in 2002 by Dr. William B. Fisher through the George and Sarah Jane Fisher Fund to honor the memory of Sandra Turner, the first executive director of Hoosier Cancer Research Network. Each year the organization selects individuals for the award who exemplify the qualities Sandra possessed and respected in others, such as sustained professional commitment, contribution to the progress of oncology care, and the unflinching touch of compassion.

Stacey Richardson, RN, BSN, was honored as a recipient of the Sandra Turner Excellence in Clinical Research Award in 2016. Richardson is a clinical research coordinator with Community Health Network. Her story illustrates how a spark of compassion becomes a flame.

Richardson became familiar with research while in nursing school. “I worked on the inpatient research unit at University Hospital,” she said. “I was working on some of the groundbreaking work of Dr. Larry Einhorn; I got to take care of my own patients. That is where I first fell in love with research.”

Richardson’s professional journey did not begin in the medical field. She had married her high school sweetheart and worked in the insurance industry for about seven years. While there, the seeds of her interest in research were planted. “I was really intrigued by the medical side of things, reading the reports. I’d always been a science-based person,” Richardson recalls. “There was a part of me that knew I needed to do something, and so I found it.”

The day-in day-out dedication she would bring to the world of medicine was being forged just to get there. “It took me seven years to get my bachelor’s degree; raising kids, and working full-time, sometimes part-time, she said.” Richardson succeeded and began her career in critical care, an experience that helped her compassion for patients grow more deeply.

“It is the smile on their face when I walk in the room; this is why I am here,” Richardson said. “I have developed personal relationships with patients — I call them my kids — at Riley. There was one family I got to be very close with and when I know when they are in town, especially if he is in the hospital, I come up and see him,” Richardson said. “They just become a part of you.”

While Richardson has worked in research for nearly a decade. “I love research. I love regulatory. I really do,” she laughs. “It is rare, and my partners think I am crazy. I like the rules, the regulations; for some reason I can really see the value. I try to apply it to my day-to-day patient care because ultimately, while we are giving them a novel treatment or a standard treatment in a different way, the research and the science behind it are important.”

Richardson knows that success in research depends upon many factors. Most importantly, she says, patients need to be offered the right studies for them, and their care providers need to realize that research depends upon the patient’s willingness to participate. “We can’t get there without them,” she said. “Patients are the key. I have been a big advocate for a number of years to get patients involved.”

Richardson is also relentless in her pursuit of better options for her patients. “I may not feel like I can intellectually talk about it, but I am going to stand there and poke and ask, ‘Why? Tell me why we cannot figure this out. I may not have the means to figure it out, but you do.’ My passion and my drive is to figure it out,” she said.

While Richardson thrives on science, perhaps more importantly, patient-centered science thrives in her. One story illustrates her dedication.

“I had a gentleman call me just the other day, out of the blue; he has been seeking a cure for 10 years,” she said. “He came to me as a coordinator and said, ‘I know you can do research. I know you can do this. I know you are an expert.’ He said these things and then said, ‘Don’t forget my name.’ … That is why I am poking.”

Richardson received the Sandra Turner Excellence in Clinical Research Award for her contribution to the progress of oncology care and her commitment to patients in the spirit of Sandra Turner. “I was blown away,” she recalls. “It is very humbling and exciting to be acknowledged for your work outside of your peer group.”

Richardson plans to use the award to further her professional development.

From her station at Community Health Network, Richardson appreciates working with Hoosier Cancer Research Network. “Staff are just very, very friendly. I do not feel like I have to start here and then keep working my way up; I can call a project manager,” she said. “You do not feel like it is a corporate sponsorship or a big huge CRO. It’s been a really good experience.”

About Hoosier Cancer Research Network:

Hoosier Cancer Research Network (formerly known as Hoosier Oncology Group) conducts innovative cancer research in partnership with academic and community physicians and scientists across the United States and internationally. The organization provides comprehensive clinical trial management and support, from conception through publication. Created in 1984 as a program of the Walther Cancer Institute, Hoosier Cancer Research Network became an independent nonprofit clinical research organization in 2007. Since its founding, Hoosier Cancer Research Network has initiated more than 160 trials in a variety of cancer types and supportive care, resulting in more than 350 publications. More than 5,000 subjects have participated in Hoosier Cancer Research Network clinical trials.