Trusted Advisors: Up Close and Personal with… Chuck Johnston

As part of our Trusted Advisors series, our Web Editor meets with the Firm’s leadership for one-on-one interviews on their experience, expertise and professional journey. We’re happy to present the latest of these interviews with Chuck Johnston, NATIONAL Partner and AXON Clinical Trial Services Practice Lead. His frequent business travels may sometimes make him hard to catch, but this North Bay native nevertheless always finds a way to connect with colleagues across the network to ensure that the team, the office and the Firm always deliver the very best results to clients.

Chuck, on what type of mandates/projects do you mostly work?

The AXON Clinical Trial Services team develops and implements educational programs to help doctors and nurses who conduct clinical trials understand what to do and when. We also develop communications programs to help identify, recruit and retain patients for clinical trials.

What is the biggest misconception that clients have about your profession?

Developing and implementing successful patient recruitment and retention programs as well as investigator educational initiatives require careful planning. Approximately 80% of clinical trials don’t achieve their patient recruitment timelines.  However the common reaction for clients is to only involve the AXON CTS team when trials are failing or are in “rescue” mode. This makes it harder to achieve success and can be very expensive. Upfront planning with our team is the key to ensuring the right strategy is developed and executed to ensure the best possible result.

What part of your work are you most passionate about?

The CTS programs/strategies we develop and implement produce great results for our clients (e.g. clinical trials are completed on time, educational interventions increase knowledge acquisition). Perhaps even more importantly, our clients find that by working with AXON CTS they have benefited from the quality of our service and the innovative thinking we have brought to bear on their program. We bring next level thinking.

What is the greatest obstacle you have to face, and how do you find a solution to it? Can you share an example of a project you have worked on and which reflects common challenges in your area of expertise?

Conducting clinical trials is becoming more and more complex with the need for many more stakeholders to ensure their success. Keeping these stakeholders aligned and ensuring their communications are on message is a key to trial implementation. One of the current global trials we are working on has more than 15 key stakeholders (internal client staff and other vendors), which has resulted in several different opinions and approaches on how to best implement the trial and conduct educational programs for site staff. The AXON CTS team has worked hard to optimize communications and engagement among all of these stakeholders; this has resulted in a very successful launch of this global trial. 

How do you continually push the boundaries of your own creativity?

In addition to the creative thinking our team applies to developing the right solution, we now have the benefit of working with NATIONAL’s strategy and creative teams – they’ve brought our innovation and creativity to a new level.

Why do businesses need us? What added value do we bring them?

Our clients rely on us to provide practical and “best practices” solutions to their clinical trial communication challenges. Clients get the benefit of our collective experience from the more than 100 clinical trials we have worked on, combined with our creative thinking, communications acumen and rigorous project management. We get programs done on time at the highest possible quality.

Can you tell us about a project you’re particularly proud of and why?

AXON was asked by one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies to help turn around a global cardiovascular clinical trial that was struggling with poor morale and slow patient recruitment. Working closely with the client and other key vendors to develop and implement a series of innovative educational programs, AXON CTS launched online training programs as well as other site level engagement programs. The result was that despite a slow start, patient recruitment goals were achieved ahead of schedule. AXON CTS is now recognized by this client as one of the top agencies in this service area in the world. We are a preferred provider of patient recruitment and educational services for this client.


Fun facts about Chuck

I was born in: North Bay, Ontario, Canada.
Favourite movie: Good Will Hunting
Favourite book: John Updike’s “Rabbit” Series
If I didn’t work: I’d coach a hockey team (house league, certainly not top level).
If money and time didn’t matter: I’d become a politician (Mayor of a small town).
My number one travel destination is: California.
Most memorable vacation: So far, taking the family to Italy last spring.
If I could be any celebrity, I’d be: Jon Stewart.
Favourite past time: If I’m not in a hockey rink or at a soccer pitch watching my kids play, it would be Nordic skiing or doing adventure hikes with the family.
Person I most admired: My dad (World War 2 hero, business leader and family man).
First concert I ever went to is: Harmonium (amazing Quebec rock band in the late 70s).
Favourite musician: Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam)