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MNCCTN HUB Team Highlight: Jessie Alkire

We at the MNCCTN HUB are highlighting our team members and the fantastic work they do. The MNCCTN HUB is the central team that works in the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, while MNCCTN is the overall, wider network made up of five health care Partners and 22 clinical sites that conduct research throughout Greater Minnesota. May's HUB Highlight is Senior Communications Specialist, Jessie Alkire. Jessie began working with MNCCTN in May 2018 as Marketing Coordinator and split her time also supporting the Masonic Cancer Center marketing and communications team before being promoted to full-time with MNCCTN in 2022. Hear from Jessie about the career path that led her to MNCCTN, what she enjoys about working in research, how MNCCTN is unique, and what qualities are a good fit for a career in research and administration.

What was your career path to your current role with MNCCTN?

I graduated from the College of St. Benedict with an English degree, and my ultimate goal was working in book publishing. After a brief role as a Technical Writer at Epic, I went on to write and edit nonfiction children’s books at a local publisher, Mighty Media, for two years. I loved this job, especially the project management, fact checking, and research aspects, but ultimately decided that publishing wasn’t for me long-term, and I wanted to pursue working in communications. I then started working in my current position, splitting my time between MNCCTN and supporting communications for the Masonic Cancer Center. In January 2022, I was promoted to working full-time as Senior Communications Specialist for MNCCTN. In this role, I manage MNCCTN’s communications, and this includes writing a wide range of content like newsletters and articles, managing our social media (where you’re seeing this post!), designing digital and print materials, and educating people statewide about clinical trials. This role also drove my interest in pursuing a Master of Public Health, and I am currently a first-year student in the Maternal & Child Health MPH program at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Jessie's path to working for MNCCTN

What do you enjoy most about working in cancer research and for MNCCTN?

I enjoy working in a role that helps others and makes a difference. That is something I have always looked for in my professional life. I really value the mission of MNCCTN and the work that the network does to create equitable access to clinical trials and improve health outcomes. I, like most- if not all- Minnesotans, have a personal connection to cancer in my family, so this work is especially important and meaningful to me. Another aspect of cancer research that I enjoy is there are constant opportunities to learn something new. This was something that I loved most about college and working in book publishing, so I was excited to find it in this role as well. I learn something truly every day in this job, whether it's while researching clinical trials throughout history, translating complex scientific topics for lay audiences, or finding out more about a new drug or screening recommendation. This opportunity for learning and growth combined with a sense of purpose drives the work that I do.

What is unique about MNCCTN?

Something unique about the MNCCTN HUB team is just how genuine and compassionate each team member is. The group is very supportive both personally and professionally; everyone is happy to offer help and rally around each other. The team is also incredibly dedicated to our work and MNCCTN’s mission to increase access to clinical trials to all Minnesotans. The team is united around this mission, and each person contributes to the network's success in different and significant ways with their unique skills! The network has grown significantly since I first started five years ago, yet this component of the MNCCTN HUB has only strengthened over time.

What three words best describe the MNCCTN HUB?

Encouraging, fun, and dedicated. The MNCCTN HUB team is very tight knit, and we work hard while still finding time to have a blast together and support and encourage one another. I’ve definitely never laughed more at another job!

What are the most important qualities and characteristics for a career in research?

While I am not directly involved in the day-to-day of cancer research, I’ve observed some qualities that I think apply to both research and the administrative side of things. One characteristic is curiosity, or a desire to learn new things and develop new skills. Another quality is the ability to multitask and prioritize, as there are often many responsibilities and projects to juggle simultaneously in research. Lastly, I think a commitment to equity and inclusion are essential characteristics for working in research.