CTSA Profile: Connecting Questions with Answers in Duke’s Research World

Anita Brantley, Research Navigator

July 26, 2016

Anita Brantley thrives on variety, which makes her a natural for the job of a Research Navigator – someone researchers can call when they are searching for a resource at Duke but aren’t sure where to find it.

“I get to answer different questions each day and learn from everyone,” says Brantley, who has woven Duke in and out of her career over the last 20+ years. Her experience at Duke and in the corporate world of clinical trials gave her a solid grounding for answering many questions, but she says the learning curve never ends. “I’m learning to answer the complex questions by finding the right people to connect investigators to,” she says.

Here, in her own words, are Brantley’s reflections on that path that led her to this job.


What is your current job at Duke?

I’m currently a Research Navigator as part of the MyResearchNavigators team. I also help manage the Duke Translational Research Institute pilot program and manage the MyResearchProposal grant management system.


How long have you been at Duke?

Depends on how you count!

I came to Duke in 1994 to work in the Cardiac Cath Lab on the 7th floor of Duke Hospital. I took a four-year break from Duke to run my own business – an early childhood learning center in Oxford with 50 children age five weeks to preschool. Then I returned to work at Duke in the DCRI Clinical Operations area and became a clinical trials specialist. I left Duke again in the 2000s to work for a short time in the corporate world as a clinical research associate and regulatory start-up specialist. In 2010 I came back to work for what is now called the Duke Office of Clinical Research (DOCR). I started as a Research Navigator with the Duke Translational Research Institute in January of 2015.


What does a Research Navigator do?

I help you find what you need to best do your research and take your study from the bench to the bedside, or to find resources to help start a business, or connect you to anything else you need to get research done as effectively as possible. I get all sorts of questions, from the extremely simple to the extremely complex. I’ve answered questions about resources at Duke for writing papers, storing old research logs, regulatory requirements for printed posters, finding collaborators, and a whole lot more. If I don’t have the answer, I find a person to connect you to who does know the answer.


What’s the best part of your job as a Research Navigator?

I love working with people, and I like being able to wear multiple hats. That makes this job perfect because I do many different things with many different people.

I also like this job because I am constantly learning something new. The learning curve has no end. Duke is complicated, and changes too often for anyone to know it all. But I like doing something different each day that helps other people. I’ve always been like that. When I was in fifth grade, my teacher told my mother I was well ahead of the class because I wouldn’t quit trying to teach everyone else. It wasn’t just that I was always talking – I wanted to help everyone learn something new. I like that challenge!


What are your passions outside of work?

My children, music, and people in general.

When I’m not at work, I spend most of my time with my kids and grandbabies. I have three children: two girls aged 28 and 24, and an 18-year-old son. And I have two beautiful grandchildren: Hadley is 3 and Elliot is 1.

I also love music. I learned piano as a child and even did a classical competition at Duke when I was 13 or 14. But now I do more playing and singing of gospel music and I do most of that by ear. I love soul music.  


Are you a book reader?

Oh yes, I read a lot. Multiple books at a time. On my bedside right now I probably have books by Judy Blume, Danielle Steele, Nicholas Sparks, and J.D. Robb. And I usually have a book or two in the car, in case I get stuck waiting somewhere.


What would you like people to know about being a Research Navigator that they might not already know?

People sometimes say ‘we don’t need your services, we already have this,’ and we say ‘tell us what you already have so that we can let others know that it exists.’ We don’t want to take anyone’s place or step on any toes. We just want to learn as much about what is available at Duke so that we can help everyone.