Astrid Schut, Managing Director of WCN


In the Holland Heart House, right in the center of Utrecht, you’ll find the Dutch Network for Cardiovascular Research (WCN). This is a networking organization of non-academic cardiology partnerships in 60 locations. WCN supports these partnerships in designing and carrying out clinical studies. Managing Director Astrid Schut shares the importance of Good Clinical Practice and how the WCN will focus more attention to this over the coming years.

What does the WCN do?

“WCN was founded in 1988, when a group of cardiologists joined forces in the interest of good data and better patient care, and to facilitate international cardiological research in the Netherlands. Now, there are more than 50 partnerships connected through this organization. Our goal is to facilitate research, for both pharmaceutical and academic research groups, as well as our members. We look at the feasibility of specific studies in the Netherlands, set up contracts between members and pharmaceutical companies, arrange the legal aspects, ensure that the studies are fairly distributed among the partnerships, and assist in the mediation and communication between pharmaceutical and social partners. Everything in the interest of good data and better patient care.”

Why are you investing in new GCP training?

“If you want international attention, then you need to deliver high quality. You need to do what you promise and practice your art according to the rules. This is why WCN wants to put more even emphasis on training and education. This is what members are requesting as well. The research professionals and people in these partnerships are entrepreneurs, and the research world is their ‘shop.’ They want to take their place in the international landscape, and in publications as well. The fun of entrepreneurship is pushing forward, focusing on innovation and delivering your very best to your patients.

“‘Quality’ is a word used perhaps too easily. It is often confused with ‘checking boxes.’ One of those boxes to check is a GCP training. But if you have one day of training every three years, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can deliver quality. I want to move away from checking boxes. It doesn’t have to be: ‘Yay! Learning about laws and regulations!’ But we do need to talk about why we do what we do, and how we can do that as well as possible. A well-trained professional thinks about what they do. You need that to deliver good data. After all, we’re talking about the treatments of the future.”

What made WCN decide to work with GCP Central?

“At first we offered a classic training, but then often only 15 or so people came. It became apparent that it was difficult for people to take a day off. Furthermore, many people do their training through the hospital or pharmaceutical company where they do their research. Now we’re going to work with GCP Central, which offers a combination of classic and online training, a so-called blended training. The online aspect is, I think, advantageous for many of our members, because then you can learn whenever it works for you, fitting the training into your schedule piece by piece. The GCP Central training also appealed to us because it is more tailor-made. You can build on what you already know and do cases that fit your role.”

How did you guys make this decision?

“It didn’t happen overnight. It took a year: weighing whether it was worth the investment, consulting with the members and the board. We also did a pilot first to see how it was received. The survey that followed received a lot of responses, which I already took as a good sign, and the reactions were generally enthusiastic. We now have 100 licenses for cardiologists and research professionals.”

How do you plan to implement this, and solve any problems that arise?

“We will launch it with kick-off meetings and messages to members. As we go, we’ll see where support is needed. Additionally, we’ll jump in when something happens. GCP Central is looking into that with us: what works for the user? How can we improve the offering? I expect to see more research professionals participating, because they’re busy with this every day. For cardiologists, I think the flexibility is a plus. That fact that the training is accredited also helps enormously. So participants can more easily collect their training points.”

What would make it a success?

“It’s a success if it changes how we approach learning. If our members really make use of it – not just once, but more frequently. That they indeed continue learning and not stop after one module, coming back to it only three years later. A big advantage is, I’d say, the flexibility – but that’s a pitfall at the same time. Maybe the freedom there is too great.

“Aside from usage, it’s a success if people start setting the bar higher. Data quality and patient safety is the basis of good research, and thus for how we can better treat patients with heart and vascular diseases in the future. Everyone involved in the research is a cog in the wheel. However small or large your role is, everyone adds something important of value. Knowledge empowers people. Gets you out of your corner, so that you can see the big picture and the importance of everyone’s place in it. This is what GCP should be about: that you ask yourself what is good for your patients, and that you understand what role you play in that, and what you can contribute to the treatment of our patients in the future.”

Download the interview and use it as inspiration for how your organization can also take advantage of the possibilities of online and blended WMO/GCP training.