Talking Research with Katie Keeley, Part 1

In the world of healthcare, research is the base for all discoveries. And that research leads to changes in the medical field and in everyday life. At Lurie Children's, our research is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine, and ensuring healthier futures.

Katie Keeley always knew she wanted to do research. In college, she had a hand in some research projects, but not in a hospital setting. However, once she learned about clinical research in hospitals, she was immediately hooked.

Katie has been part of the Lurie Children's team since January 2016. Currently, she is a Clinical Research Coordinator II. When she first started her career at Lurie Children's, Katie joined in an administrative role where she learned the backend of all of the processes used in clinical research. But, her managers and teammates knew from the start that being a clinical researcher was her goal - that's why they supported her and helped her develop in her career.

Recently, we sat down with Katie to find out what she's working on now, and how the clinical research department at Lurie operates.

How did your managers push you to reach your goal?

"I originally applied for a research coordinator role out of college, but I didn’t have the experience, so Lurie Children's thought I’d be a great fit for the administrative role. I accepted the position in the administrative role, but the team and my managers understood I wanted to move up to clinical research. They were very helpful in allowing me to explore the clinical research world and always keeping me in contact with the clinical research team. Eventually when a position opened, I applied and interviewed. When I got the job, they would always allow me to go to trainings and workshops to make the transition easier."

What’s an average day like?

"I can give you two days because my days are always different here. A typical day would be checking up on emails in the morning, screening clinics for the coming week, or endoscopies. Because weeks differ so much, in the afternoons we have clinic, which is followed by data entry. So that’s more of a standard day. I’ll also give you an example of a more fun day, which occurred a lot in the past because we’ve been working closely with the FDA to reach a goal. We were heavily recruiting kids into this study called the String Study. An average day in the String Study would start out super early, so I’m seeing these kids before endoscopies which usually occur early in the morning based off of kids not being able to eat and the OR schedule always starting early."

What is the String Study?

"The GI research department here is really big, and there are so many subgroups within GI that there’s a research coordinator for all specific diseases. The specific disease that I work with is Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE). The String Study is a replacement to endoscopies. I see kids two hours before their scheduled endoscopy time, so we do a lot of legwork before to set this all up. An endoscopy is when a camera goes down the patient’s throat to the top of their small intestines, then it’ll take biopsies and use this to assess their diseases at different stages. I’m there before that all starts to perform the String Study, so I go into the preop room where the patient is and I have them swallow a pill with a string attached. I hold the end of the string while the kids swallow the pills. The purpose of the study is to see if it’s a feasible way to replace an endoscopy.

So, the child will swallow the pill with a string attached, and it goes all the way down their throat to their top intestines and we’ll leave it there for an hour. After that, I pull the string and cut it up into different segments based off of height and other factors. Once that’s completed, I send it off to the lab and then it comes back to Lurie the next day. I also go into the endoscopies for whenever they’re scheduled, I get some extra biopsies, collect those, send them to the lab, and then those make it to Lurie the next day as well. At the lab, they’re testing what we find on the string to see if it matches what the endoscopy results are. It’s a very exciting time, parents love participating in this research study because kids with EoE could have 3-4 endoscopies a year."

If you’re ready for a career full of possibilities and endless discovery, apply today to join the Katie and the research team at Lurie Children’s!