Research is a vital part of advancing medical knowledge and finding better ways to treat, prevent, diagnose, and understand human disease. Many of the most important discoveries made at UT Southwestern Medical Center could not have happened without research volunteers.
Participate in Research
Clinical research is medical research that involves people like you. If you had an opportunity to help with the research process and play a role in the future of medicine, would you take it?
Why Do People Volunteer?
Different people have different reasons for becoming a research volunteer. Some possible reasons people participate in research studies are to:
- Help improve medical care
- Make a difference
- Improve their own health
- Access treatment options that might not be
available outside the research setting
Count Me In: I Am the Future of Medicine
UT Southwestern has created an opportunity for patients to enroll in our Research Participant Registry, a database that matches volunteers (in good health or with a particular condition) with research studies that need participants. These studies might be clinical trials to test new medicines or devices, or research that uses interviews or surveys to better understand health and behavior.
Enrollment in the Registry is completely voluntary. It simply informs our researchers of patients’ interest and allows them to access patient information if they have a study those patients might qualify for. Researchers will describe any future study to the patient, who can then choose whether to participate at that time.
Understanding Clinical Research
Clinical research is medical research that involves people who volunteer to participate in carefully conducted studies that ultimately uncover better ways to treat, prevent, diagnose, and understand human disease. Without volunteers, clinical research is not possible.
We conduct all types of clinical research at UT Southwestern, and we need volunteers for many different kinds of studies. Here are some important things to know about clinical research before participating.
Informed consent is an essential part of participating in clinical research. It is the process of learning the key facts about clinical research before deciding whether to participate.
If patients are interested in participating in a study, the research team will provide an informed consent document that includes details about the study, such as its purpose, duration, required procedures, potential risks, and whom to contact with questions or issues.
It is the responsibility of the research staff to help patients understand the information about the study and give them time to decide if they want to participate. Patients should feel comfortable discussing with the research team any concerns they might have. The process of informed consent (providing additional information) does not end when patients sign the informed consent document. It is a process that continues with ongoing conversations between the research staff before, during, and after the research study. If patients decide they do not want to participate in the study, they can withdraw at any time.
Are There Risks?
Protections are in place to ensure that each study is as safe as possible, but these methods of protection do not eliminate all possibility of risk. Patients should take the time to review the informed consent document carefully and decide if they feel comfortable with participating in the study. Our Institutional Review Board (IRB) oversees all clinical research at UT Southwestern. An IRB is an independent committee that consists of physicians, statisticians, and members of the community who ensure that clinical trials are ethical and that the rights of participants are protected.
Types of Clinical Research
In a clinical trial, participants receive specific interventions according to the research plan or protocol created by the investigators. These interventions might be medical products, such as drugs or devices; procedures; or changes to participants' behavior, such as diet. Clinical trials might compare a new medical approach to a standard one that is already available, a placebo that contains no active ingredients, or no intervention. Some clinical trials compare two or more interventions that are already available.
In an observational study, investigators assess health outcomes in groups of participants according to a research plan or protocol. Participants might receive interventions (which can include medical products such as drugs or devices) or undergo procedures as part of their routine medical care, but participants are not assigned to specific interventions by the investigator (as in a clinical trial). For example, investigators might observe a group of older adults to learn more about the effects of different lifestyles on cardiac health.