Associate Professor Rebecca Dent shares about the passion she has as a clinical trialist, and why she is looking forward to the newly launched Clinical Trialist Development Programme (CTDP).

Refining Standard Care with Clinical Trials

Associate Professor Rebecca Dent, Head & Senior Consultant, Division of Medical Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore, has been involved in clinical trials almost as long as she has been a doctor. In fact, she says that from as early as medical school in Canada, she participated in research work and clinical trials.

“I think I got very excited by my mentors who were designing their own clinical trials and asking questions like: “Why do we do things this way and could or should we do it in another way?”

“Oncology is such a dynamic field, where standards of care are constantly evolving. It is part of being a medical oncologist to be engaged on some level in clinical trials.”

Indeed, as the number of clinical trials continues to grow in all fields of medicine, Assoc Prof Dent observes a common public misconception – that being involved in a clinical trial is akin to being a guinea pig and that the standard of care received will be lower.

“The truth, however, is that patients receive optimal care in a clinical trial because you are monitored very closely, and everyone is watching out for any side effects. Clinical Trialists are always refining what standard treatment is and offering patients potentially something better, so it is a win-win. The new mindset is opt out, not in, especially in our academic medical centre (AMC), where the constant focus is on next improvements.”

Better Support for Clinical Trialists

Aside from changing the public perception about clinical trials, Assoc Prof Dent also feels that institutions also need to start to recognise that being involved in clinical trials requires substantial time and effort outside of the usual clinician’s tasks to deliver the next generation of improved treatments as well as novel trial designs to accelerate novel treatments for patients.

To this end, she believes that CTDP, which is the first such programme of its kind, could not have come at a better time. With the protected time that eligible clinicians will receive, they will be better able to focus on researching solutions to patient’s needs through optimised clinical trial design, delivery and cost-effectiveness.

Additionally, Assoc Prof Dent also sees CTDP as a way in which to raise the profile of CTs. She explains: “While recognition of CTs has grown over the years, I believe there is still more that can be done. With this programme, more prominence can be given to the work of CTs, which will in turn attract other clinicians to get involved.”

A Worthwhile Endeavour

Just as Assoc Prof Dent was inspired by her mentors to be more proactive about getting involved in finding solutions through research and clinical trial work, she too wants the next generation who have yet to be involved to consider its many merits.

“If you want to improve clinical care and provide better care, then you need to challenge the status quo, and ask if we can do something better, and what’s the next step.

The real advantage of being in an AMC is that we get to be involved in this kind of exciting research, and to be part of developing new treatments. This is the difference we have, and certainly something I’m very passionate about.”

Find out more about the details of the Clinical Trialist Development Programme (CTDP), and learn how you can be a part of it by visiting


This article originally appeared on SingHealth Duke-NUS Joint Office of Academic Medicine's website.