CTSI Profile: Sabrena Mervin-Blake

May 8, 2018

Sabrena Mervin-Blake works with CTSI as the Director of the Recruitment Innovation Center (RIC). In her role, Sabrena provides consultation services for research teams to help develop recruitment and retention plans for studies throughout the project lifecycle, with an emphasis on protocol design.

An aspect of Sabrena’s work is helping study teams expand their thinking when it comes to recruitment planning. Oftentimes, she will work with researchers who tend to look at their potential participants clinically only, but it’s important to also think about a target population’s daily life, attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs. That shift in focus helps produce more strategic and effective recruitment and retention plans.

“When the study team begins to see research participants as people with lives and not just a number to enroll, that’s when we can form the best strategies,” Sabrena said.

Since 2016, Sabrena has worked in the RIC to improve recruitment planning and strategies for research teams at Duke. She formerly worked for the Duke Early Phase Clinical Research Unit, and served as the Assistant Director of Recruitment for the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS). What drives her is the desire to take away the stigma associated with research participation, and working with the CTSI in its focus on education and community outreach is imperative in helping achieve that goal.

“I love getting to work on a team that has one common goal,” Sabrena said. “Everybody is working on different projects, but we are all working together to improve the health of our community and beyond.”

Along with the RIC, Sabrena works closely with the CTSI’s Community Engagement team to help bring awareness of clinical and health research to the Durham community. She enjoys educating people on the importance of research and research participation, and she hopes one day this work will help community members see research participation as a norm.

Throughout her work in research recruitment, Sabrena has seen how her passion for education and outreach goes hand in hand with enrollment initiatives. “I would be pleased to help create a local community that's comfortable with research participation, with members who can become advocates for participation in the discovery of new interventions to improve community,” she said.