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Advocating for Research Participants

Barbara Hammack, PhD

Written by Wendy Meyer on March 9, 2023

This month, Barbara Hammack, PhD is retiring after dedicating 23 years to clinical research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. After receiving her PhD in theoretical biophysics, she took a fellowship in the Department of Neurology, investigating Multiple Sclerosis and its causes. A few years later, she worked on studies related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and complications from shingles.

In 2006, she took the position of Research Subject Advocate at what was then called the General Clinical Research Center and later became the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI). She never looked back. “My background is biochemistry, so I brought the scientist role to my work as the Research Subject Advocate,” said Hammack. “I have helped investigators with their safety and data monitoring plan, helping them make sure it is appropriate for their study. With junior investigators, I helped them develop their protocol, study design, hypothesis, specific aims, methodology and safety oversight.”

“Dr. Hammack has played an invaluable role at CU Anschutz, ensuring the safety of clinical trials for research participants and providing essential guidance and expertise for investigators,” said Ronald Sokol, MD, director of the CCTSI.

Outside of her work as the Research Subject Advocate, Hammack was a primary reviewer for adult and pediatric panels of the Colorado Multiple Institutional Review Board (COMIRB). She served on the research ethics committee where she would participate in consults with investigators who needed help dealing with a particular ethical issue. For a decade, she helped plan the annual CCTSI Research Ethics Conference, and for eight years she taught a graduate level course called Conducting Clinical Trials for Investigators.

“Dr. Hammack has worked at the national level to develop best practices around Data Safety and Monitoring Boards (DSMBs) for clinical trials, and locally with research teams to put appropriate DSMBs in place,” said Tim Lockie, MS, MBA, CCTSI administration and finance director. She was a contributor and editor for the Data Safety Monitoring Board Training Manual, a project of the Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA) program of the NIH.

“I am very proud of that accomplishment,” Hammack said. She said she is also proud and happy to see junior investigators she worked with go on to win grants, publish and ultimately advance science. She added, “That is a good feeling.”

She said the constantly changing landscape of research can be challenging, but it is also stimulating and exciting. And though she is looking forward to her retirement where she plans to travel extensively and volunteer for some of her favorite not-for-profit organizations, she looks forward to keeping tabs on the work of a few key investigators. “I have worked closely with Huntington Potter and Joaquin Espinosa on their DSMBs, and I told them I would keep up with them from afar.”

In the meantime, you are likely to find Hammack with her beloved golden retriever Annie around town or on a boat somewhere, sharing her love of sailing with the younger members of her family.

“We will all miss Barbara, and wish her the very best,” Sokol said.

Photo at top: Dr. Hammack (second from left) at the annual CCTSI Research Ethics Conference.