Student gains clinical research experience with Allegheny Health Network

Woman Smiling

This summer, Penn State student Neila Raveen helped conduct clinical research at the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Research Institute. A partnership between Penn State Greater Allegheny and the AHN Research Institute helps provide students with the opportunity to gain hands-on clinical research experience.

Credit: Neila Raveen

MCKEESPORT, Pa. — With many health care companies in Allegheny County — including Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center — the need for experienced employees exists. As students complete their undergraduate programs, having real-world experience is crucial to enter a competitive job market. A partnership between Penn State Greater Allegheny and the AHN Research Institute helps provide students with the opportunity to gain hands-on clinical research experience. 

Neila Raveen, a transfer student from Toronto, Canada, and a fourth year biobehavioral health student, took advantage of the two-step partnership program. In her third year, Raveen enrolled in the Research Practice Course (HHD 497) with Kyle Bird, director of the AHN Research Institute. After completing the course, she entered the second part of the program, an internship with the AHN Research Institute. 

Raveen’s internship location assignment is at West Penn Hospital in Lawrenceville. She is working in the clinical research coordinators office of the Women’s Health Department.  

“Clinical research coordinators are the people who find those who are eligible for certain clinical trials, do subject outreach, onboard the subject(s), and then monitor their progress,” said Raveen. “They integrate all the different parts of the research team and make sure that the clinical side (such as the principal investigators or the clinician who is in charge of the trial) is following what the regulatory side is telling them.” 

Throughout Raveen’s internship, she has been involved with many active clinical trials focused on alleviating postpartum depression and stress urinary incontinence. 

“The most fascinating thing I have experienced is the wealth of people who make a clinical trial possible,” Raveen noted. “As a health sciences student, unless you have direct exposure to a course talking about clinical research, there is no way you would know how many people and how many departments are involved in a singular clinical trial. Even after doing my clinical research practices course, I was still shocked when I started my internship.” 

“The partnership with Allegheny Health Research Institute has broadened the career paths available to our students,” said Kristal Tucker, associate teaching professor of biology. “We provide both classroom and hands-on training in clinical research, which will allow participants to be qualified upon graduation for highly desirable positions in health care research all over the country.” 

Tucker refers to the partnership’s opportunities as amazing and unique, and Raveen agrees. 

“I would highly recommend this to students who are interested in the health care field, whether that be research, nursing, physician assistant or a physician,” said Raveen. “This [clinical research partnership] can help expose you to the hospital environment and help you learn what you are truly passionate about.” 

Penn State Greater Allegheny's mission is to inspire students to be greater by offering transformative educational experiences. The campus is a catalyst for individual and social change, committed to improving the community and the world around us. Click here to learn more about the campus and the biobehavioral health major