Cindi (Patterson ’86) Nellis had a full-circle moment when she received her COVID-19 vaccine in December.
The inoculation represented her work since April as senior director of marketing and recruitment at Clinical Trials of Texas (CTT), one of the many groups conducting patient trials for the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine.
“It was really a moving moment,” Nellis said. “There was a feeling of pride, to actually get vaccinated with something you helped to develop.”
Nellis, the 2009 recipient of ACU’s journalism and mass communication Gutenberg award, excelled in the media industry as fashion editor at About.com for 15 years. In 2015, however, she took on a new role as marketing and recruitment director for CTT.
“I was re-evaluating my career, and I wanted to work somewhere making a real difference,” Nellis said. “It sounds cliché but it was true.
The opportunity at CTT, a woman-owned company in San Antonio, really appealed to me.”
At that time, she had no way to know the intensity and publicity that would spotlight clinical trials when CTT became part of the vaccine development process for Pfizer and Moderna, among others, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Her journalistic experience came in handy as she used media and public relations strategies to recruit participants for clinical trials and to communicate to the general public about vaccine science and safety.
The speed of development meant Nellis and her colleagues took responsibility for whatever needed to be done at any given time.
“I worked at the front desk, worked as a runner in the hall to be sure patients and doctors were getting vials, sterilized rooms,” she said. “Marketing team members trained patients on electronic diaries. Even our chief data officer, who is a nurse, was seeing patients. We all pitched in. It was really great.”
Nellis said her work with clinical trials provided a unique perspective during a challenging year.
“I was hopeful we’d find a solution,” she said. “I saw a lot of the early activity and a lot of optimistic things about the process, so things never felt hopeless to me. It was a cool moment when we got the vaccine as health care workers; it really closed the circle. But this is by no means the end.”
CTT is involved in ongoing COVID-19 vaccine trial work with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.