March 1, 2021

How one nurse is using her own COVID-19 experience to advance clinical research

By: Joan Chambers | Senior Director, Marketing & Outreach


Katie Klatt is a lot of things: an athlete, a nurse, and a student working on a master’s degree in public health. But her new “role” last year—as a COVID-19 patient—changed her life and sharpened her focus. Now fully recovered, Klatt is a patient participant in a COVID-19 antibody clinical study. This is her story.

Klatt, a pediatric intensive-care nurse who started a public health program at the Harvard Chan School in January, got sick during the early days of the pandemic. She still isn’t sure how she contracted the coronavirus.

“Lockdown happened a few days before I got symptoms, so I could have literally gotten it from anywhere, because I was still doing all the normal things in the community before everything closed,” she says.

Klatt’s symptoms included a bad headache, light-sensitivity, and body aches. She also had a body rash and a fever of 103°F for 10 days.

At first, Klatt saw her doctor via virtual appointments. But a week into her illness, her doctor advised her to go to the hospital. She did not own a car, so she walked 40 minutes to the emergency room. She did not want to expose anyone on public transportation or in a car service.

At the hospital, doctors diagnosed her with COVID-19, a sinus infection, and possibly pneumonia. They gave her a prescription for an antibiotic to treat the sinus infection and sent her home. She isolated herself from her roommates and, four days later, she started to feel better. Slowly, the Australian and Gaelic football leagues athlete started to gain her strength back.

Nurse: study thyself

Klatt’s next mission was to help further the medical community’s understanding of the coronavirus. She connected with researchers who had started studying COVID-19.

“The only way that the COVID-19 pandemic will get better is if we know more about it and know how to handle it,” Klatt reasons. “What’s a better way to figure it out than being able to study how it works in your own body?”

“There’s so much misinformation out there about COVID-19, and there’s so much we don’t know”

Klatt has been a patient participant in a COVID-19 antibody clinical study since April 2020. She does monthly blood draws to check her antibody levels. She also signed up for a COVID-19 dermatology study, given that she had that full-body rash. Participating in the research studies has been easy for Klatt, and she encourages other people who’ve had COVID-19 to take part in research, too.

“The more people that join studies, the better the knowledge is going to be, and the more accurate we can be when we’re making estimates,” she says.

After joining those studies, contacted Boston Emergency Medical Services and started working as a nurse on the provider’s COVID-19 infection control team.

“This experience made me realize the importance of preparedness and planning for emergencies,” says Klatt, who will graduate in the spring and plans to work in the field of emergency management.

Why clinical trial participants are medical heroes

During this pandemic, we hear news every day about the many promising therapies and vaccines in development. Media coverage has made us all the more aware of the importance of clinical trials play in protecting and advancing public health.

The success of these medical innovations and the availability of the thousands of drugs and interventions for all types of diseases depend entirely on the people who participate in clinical trials. We call these brave participants medical heroes.

Their decision to be a clinical trial volunteer is a selfless act because it always carries risk but may not result in any direct personal benefit.

Even with all the media attention, most people still know very little about what it means to be a clinical trial volunteer. Most people look at clinical trials in earnest only when they’re faced with the sudden prospect of a serious and debilitating illness for which no adequate medication is available.

My non-profit organization, CISCRP (Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation), provides outreach and education to all people and their support networks considering joining clinical trials.

Learn more about how you can make a difference.

At Oracle, we celebrate the medical heroes who make clinical trials possible and work tirelessly to advance medical research with partners such as CISCRP. Oracle has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, helping to speed clinical development efforts and participating in innovative industry initiatives such as the Therapeutic Learning System and the recently announced COVID-19 vaccination passport.

Senior Director, Marketing & Outreach

Joan develops and executes strategic marketing, promotional and outreach campaigns to support CISCRPs mission of raising awareness and understanding about clinical research and the important role it plays in public health.  Additionally, directs, plans, launches new initiatives for new growth opportunities.

A well-known speaker at industry conferences, Joan has presented on a wide variety of topics specific to the clinical trials enterprise. Joan is on the Board of Directors for Greater Gift, the US PharmaTimes Steering Committee for CROY, Steering Committee for Pharma Intelligence/ Informa Clinical & Research Excellence Awards (CARE), Steering Committee for PopUp Star and is an active member of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) and the Drug Information Association (DIA). Joan was on the Advisory Board for The Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) for over 10 years. In the course of her career, she has published in clinical trade journals and was an instructor for Barnett International's CRA/CRC programs on the site identification/qualification process.

Accomplished and performance-driven marketing and operations executive with 20+ years of experience in the health life sciences with a successful track record in marketing and strategic planning, implementation, guidance and direction to companies and professionals. Ability to lead, motivate, mentor and establish strong relationships at all levels internally and externally. Strong professional networking and presentation skills among a wide range of industry business professionals.

Joan was formerly COO at CenterWatch. Her career included roles at ClinX, SCORR Marketing, CHI, Tufts CSDD and PAREXEL. Joan holds a B.S. in Marketing.

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