Designing Clinical Trials with Heart

Alum Amy Meadowcroft keeps patients at the center of her clinical trial work – and pushes the next generation to do the same

Story by Ryan McDaniel | Photo by Jafar Fallahi | Published April 18, 2023

Two people smile at the camera in a formal ballroom

In a reception room at The Carolina Inn, at the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the DPET Fellowship Program, Amy Meadowcroft, BSPhar ’93, PharmD ’95, takes the podium. For the next ten minutes, she delights the crowd with stories from her time as a Drug Development Fellow. Amy’s anecdotes are filled with energy and nostalgia, but one point she makes stands out above the rest: we do what we do for the patients – for the people we aim to help.

This lesson hit home for Amy while she was in her fellowship, working at the Heart Failure Clinic at UNC Hospitals. One patient, enrolled in the clinical trial she was working on, passed away from their condition. “That was hard for me,” she recalls. “It really resonated with me through that experience that we need to see things from the patients’ perspectives. They have a whole life outside of the interactions we have with them in the clinic; other health conditions, families to care for, jobs, hobbies, etc. We have to keep clinical trials as uncomplicated as we can for the patients.”

Amy has been practicing exactly that for her entire career of nearly 25 years. Currently the Senior Director for Clinical Development at GlaxoSmithKline, she got her start with the company through her fellowship at the UNC School of Pharmacy. The DPET Fellowship Program, established in 1980, starts with a year of research, coursework, and seminars at the School followed by a year of hands-on experience with the industry sponsor. Amy’s fellowship in drug development brought her to Glaxo Wellcome, now GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

“I had the pleasure of serving as Amy’s Co-Preceptor (with Dr. John Pieper) during her fellowship,” recalls Herb Patterson, Professor Emeritus. “You knew Amy was going to be very successful no matter what she did so my job was to give her the environment and resources for her to achieve that success.”

Amy recalls that those resources used to only be found through the fellowship program. “When I was at the School, the curriculum was very retail and hospital pharmacy centric,” she says. “My fellowship experience was my first true introduction to industry. It’s good to see that the curriculum has expanded to include many more aspects of the pharmacy profession.”

Indeed, many students in recent years have expressed interest in exploring what industry pharmacy has to offer. The School’s curriculum and co-curricular activities have evolved to include opportunities for students interested in these career paths. Every chance she gets, Amy reminds students – and others in industry – to keep the patients top of mind.

“Challenge the number and frequency of study assessments,” she advises. “Challenge study assessments that require patients to change their routine, such as fasting or taking their study drug at a non-usual time. Get patient and/or study coordinator input on protocol design to help consider challenges to study conduction.”

Passing on this wisdom and more to students has kept Amy connected with the School. At GSK she has precepted both students and fellows, and met informally with DPET Fellows in other fellowship areas outside clinical development. She has mentored pharmacy students and attended research presentations for those in programs like the Research and Scholarship in Pharmacy (RASP) pathway.

Her old mentor, Herb Patterson, has followed Amy’s career and service to the School. “She epitomizes our guiding principle – ‘Everything we do begins and ends with a patient in mind,’” he says. “Obviously, she has done that and made us all very proud of her accomplishments.”