Ashley Sipocz, MPH, recruitment and retention services manager at Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute partners with research teams to provide the knowledge, tools and support needed to effectively engage participants and meet recruitment goals in clinical research.
Where are you originally from?
I’m from Glendale Heights, Ill. – a western suburb of Chicago.
What is your educational background?
My undergraduate degree is in psychology and I have a master’s in Public Health with an emphasis on health policy and promotion.
Please tell us about your professional background. (ie. other places you have worked prior to Northwestern, or, other jobs you’ve held at Northwestern.)
Before Northwestern, I worked as a strategic communication associate at the Health Communication Research Center (HCRC) based in The Missouri School of Journalism.
Most of my work was in research and evaluation where I developed survey instruments and managed qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis to evaluate health campaigns and programs in areas such as healthy eating in parks, smoke-free policies, bikable/walkable communities, food pantries and telehealth. I also developed content for our health communication campaigns and was the lead social media strategist on the team.
While also at the University of Missouri, I held an adjunct faculty position, teaching courses in School of Health Professions including Health Care in the United States (an intro course to how healthcare works in the U.S.) and Introduction to Research Methods.
Why did you choose to work at Northwestern?
I love to learn and to be challenged regularly, and in my career I’ve found academic environments to be the best places to fulfill that. Aside from exposure to its talented and renowned faculty and staff, I was very excited by Northwestern’s commitment to growth and improvement and encouragement of a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment.
NUCATS mission and vision particularly attracted me because it aligned with my personal and professional mission to make research more accessible to the general public. Research is most useful when it can be lived. Working for people and an organization who not only share that perspective but also have it embedded in the way they do things is incredibly fulfilling.
How do you help scientists and/ or research students at the medical school?
Situated within NUCATS’ Center for Clinical Research (CCR), the Recruitment & Retention Program partners with research teams to provide the knowledge, tools and support to effectively engage participants and meet recruitment goals on time and within budget. Increasing people’s access to research and connecting researchers to the resources they need to do that is the primary focus of my work.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I love that I get to collaborate with a lot of very talented, smart and kind people every day. My favorite moments are when we have people from a few different areas, or even other institutions, working on or sharing ideas on ways we can make research better. For example, in public health, the community is very much at the center of what you do. I’ve been lucky to collaborate with and learn from my colleagues in the Center for Community Health on a few projects since I started at NUCATS. I always find myself feeling inspired, motivated and enriched after those experiences. We get further by doing things together, and I’m happy and very grateful to work with people who value and enjoy working with others.
What exciting projects are you working on?
Aside from work we’re doing for specific studies to enhance participant engagement, we’re working on a few projects to develop more resources and tools (e.g., templates for different recruitment tactics) study teams can implement on their own to engage people around research at Northwestern. In particular, we’re working on a “where to go?” guide to help researchers and their study teams learn about and locate the people and tools available to help them reach their recruitment and retention goals.
We’re also working on a project in collaboration with the Center for Community Health to develop a tool to assist research teams in identifying concrete opportunities where community stakeholder engagement can inform and enhance the study to more effectively reach diverse populations in health literate and culturally responsive ways.
This project is still very much in the early stages, and we’ve gotten some exciting feedback from community stakeholders about it. We’re looking forward to gathering feedback from academic stakeholders to further enhance and refine the tool.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love Chicago, and one of the things I love about it is there’s always something new to explore or some new adventure to go on, whatever the mood you’re in. Insatiably curious, I’m on a regular nerd diet of books, podcasts, documentaries, Chicago’s great museum scene and its people to help keep me learning and “nerding” regularly. I love bringing people together and creating shared experiences, so I volunteer at the Chicago Children’s Museum, help put on live, intimate music events, or plan get-togethers for my friends.
Music is one of my favorite ways to connect with others and myself. If I’m not reading in a coffee shop or exploring the city by foot or bike, you can find me at one of this city’s amazing music venues. I volunteer for Sofar Sounds Chicago, which is a global community focused on enhancing the way people to experience live music and their city. I help out with putting on the live, intimate music gigs hosted all over the city.
Connect with Ashley on LinkedIn.