This #FDAFriday series consists of mini-interviews with former FDA regulators. Our goals are twofold: (1) help students and professionals interested in Regulatory Affairs see what career paths are possible, and (2) talk about some of the various roles at FDA to demonstrate the diversity of responsibilities at the Agency. If you are a former FDA employee and would like to participate, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dulciana Chan received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2002, and her M.S.E. in Bioengineering from the University of Maryland in 2010. Directly following her undergraduate degree, Dulciana began her FDA career as a research associate in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories (OSEL). A year later, she became a Biomedical Engineer at FDA, and for 14 years operated in various branches of the administration, including as a scientific reviewer and policy analyst in the Office of Device Evaluation (ODE), and as an OSEL principal investigator.
While working at FDA, Dulciana received numerous honors and awards, including the 2014 CDRH Honor Award and the 2014 FDA Scientific Achievement Award for Excellence in Analytical Science. Dulciana has extensive experience in the areas of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing and electrical safety, and is an asset to Acknowledge Regulatory Strategies, where she is a Senior Regulatory Specialist.
Tell us a little bit about your time at FDA.
I started at the FDA as a research associate in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) in the Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories (OSEL). I worked on several research projects and gained skills including computational modeling and electromagnetic compatibility. One of my main projects focused on optical recording of cardiac myocyte monolayers to study cardiac arrhythmias. After my first year at FDA, I also became a scientific lead reviewer in the Office of Device Evaluation (ODE). Fortunately, I was able to continue performing research in OSEL while doing premarket reviews for devices in ODE for the next 14 years.
Can you tell us a little more about your research in the Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories (OSEL)?
The lab I was in began to use pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes for evaluating drug-induced arrhythmias. It was part of a larger program to predict drug proarrhythmic risk in cells prior to the clinical studies that are required for new drugs. This research was very rewarding in clinical relevance and scope.
You also worked as IDE staff while you were at FDA. What was one of the common mistakes you saw companies make when submitting their clinical study to FDA?
A common mistake that manufacturers make in their Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) submissions is not having a plan to deal with missing data. It is important to have a plan upfront so that the data from all patients can be used. The reality is that there will be missing data, whether from a patient missing a follow-up or a missing test or outcome. However, with preplanning, the data can still be interpreted correctly.
What was your favorite thing about working with a review team on a premarket notification/approval submission?
One of the benefits of working with a review team is being able to access the knowledge of an expert. Often there may be an aspect about a device that you only have high level knowledge about. The review team can quickly explain the technicalities to you in a meaningful way. Their expertise might also help in identifying potential problems.
What past experience or trait do you think helped you be a successful reviewer/during your tenure at FDA?
I think being a lifelong learner helped me be a successful reviewer. Some might see the process of reviewing medical devices as repetitive. However, I found that each product provided a unique learning experience due to the many types of devices, regulation pathways, and emerging public health issues to learn about. There were endless ways to learn new things at the FDA.
What were your favorite FDA submissions to work on and why?
My favorite FDA submissions were IDEs because I learned about the details of a clinical study and about an emerging technology or trend. It was also nice to ensure that all the aspects necessary for a successful clinical study were planned out. Although there was pre-clinical work performed before an IDE submission, it was interesting to see a device at the beginning of its regulatory path.
What's something that you learned from FDA that helped you in your current position?
Working at FDA helped me learn team communication and managing expectations. Everyone’s time is valuable and it is important to make the most of team meetings. When leading a team, I aim to let each member of the team know the goal, their responsibility, and potential outcomes.
How does your current role incorporate or benefit from your regulatory experience?
Many times, companies are not sure what to submit to the FDA so they submit everything (test report and data), which can be overwhelming to an FDA reviewer. I think my regulatory experience can help companies determine what to submit so that they clearly show they meet all FDA requirements.
More about Dulciana Chan, M.S.E.
For more information about Dulciana, please visit her LinkedIn page.