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Staff Spotlight: Erin Arbuckle

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Erin Arbuckle

Erin Arbuckle, clinical research coordinator II, was nominated for the Staff Spotlight by her supervisor, Jennifer Baker, RN, assistant research practice manager in the Division of Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant, who says:

Erin is a clinical research coordinator with the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program and the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures. She works on many protocols, but most recently, she has been crucial in transferring the process for thymus donor screening to our team. She is able to effectively communicate with multiple clinical teams throughout Pediatrics, including our lab, peds cardiac surgery and peds anesthesia. She has learned to navigate her way around the hospital and OR. She has worked for hours on end to sort out new and complicated logistics for our team. She often communicates with the outside vendor labs and has identified issues and offered innovative ideas for improvement. And she has done this with one of the most positive outlooks and attitudes that I have encountered in my 20+ years at Duke. She doesn’t get frustrated when things don’t go as planned. She doesn’t get upset when the hours are longer than anticipated. She is educated and informed and she shares her opinions in a way that people hear without eliciting confrontation. It is a pleasure to work with Erin. She is an influence for good--we are lucky to have her, on my team and at Duke.

Joanne Kurtzberg, MD, Jerome Harris Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures, says:

Erin coordinates highly complex research studies for the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures. She can take the most complicated study and seamlessly prepare it for implementation. She is also incredibly well-grounded, patient, and flexible. She has a wonderful attitude towards her work. Overall, she maximizes the success of our studies and is a critical member of our team.

In Erin's own words

What made you decide to come to Duke? How long have you been working here?
We moved to central North Carolina when my husband took a job at UNC Chapel Hill 5 years ago. At that time I decided to work at Duke, so there would be a little rivalry within the family--Go Duke! In all seriousness, I was drawn here because it’s important to me to work for an organization that’s driven by the desire to educate, heal, and improve the lives of others.

What are your responsibilities within the department?
If a physician wants to begin a new study, I submit it to the IRB and help to move it through the institutional approval process. Once a study has been approved, I help screen for possible participants, consent patients to the study, and organize their study visits. I submit study data to the sponsor and sometimes collect and ship blood or other biospecimens. Overall, my job involves a lot of communication, organization, and coordination between sponsors, investigators, patients, and Duke administrative offices. In addition to being a study coordinator within my unit, I help handle the IRB submissions for individual patient INDs, mainly within the Department of Pediatrics.

Can you tell us about an interesting/memorable day at work?
Recently, I’ve had the privilege of working on a thymus donation protocol under Dr. Louise Markert and Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg. I ask interested families whose children are about to undergo heart surgery if they’d be willing to donate thymus tissue removed during the procedure, rather than discarding it as medical waste. The thymus is either used for research or for transplant into a child with an immune deficiency. The parents are understandably anxious and exhausted prior to their child’s surgery, and their altruism warms my heart. Each time I work on this study I’m reminded of how many dedicated people, both on the patient and clinical side, work together to develop effective new therapies,.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
The thing I enjoy most is the people I work with. I’m so impressed by my colleagues’ dedication, depth of knowledge, and humor. I also love the fact that my work helps current and future patients, and I love having the opportunity to learn new things on a weekly basis.

What’s one thing about you that most people don’t know?
My early experiences in research all involved plants, and I never thought that I’d end up working in medical research. The first project I worked on was looking at genetic diversity in ferns that grow in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia, and the second was looking at the antimicrobial properties of the African Sausage Tree.

What was the best advice you ever received?
Long ago, when I worked on the fern project as an undergraduate, the professor who led the research, Dr. Charles Werth, acted as my mentor. He advised me on my final paper (i.e., tore it apart multiple times) and truly taught me how to write. I’ve been incredibly grateful ever since for the time he took in teaching me this skill.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the department?
Well, I’ll stick with the plant theme here. I love gardening and being outside in general, and I’m gradually working on transforming my backyard from an impenetrable patch of invasive plants into a productive and relaxing place of beauty.