Dr. Phillips’ roots in internal medicine run deep, through Princeton University, Washington University, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, the US Army Hospital at Ft. Leonard Wood, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, among others. However, in 2021, he retired from active practice in order to focus his attention on clinical research related to ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease with GI Pros Research.
“What I’m doing right now feels like a worthwhile thing to do, both for patients and for promoting research in general,” he said. “These small, rare diseases are very emblematic of the challenges in clinical research: You’re never going to get therapies for individuals with these conditions unless you really specifically set out to find something that will help them. Clinical research is absolutely essential for addressing rare conditions.”
Like many physicians, Dr. Phillips found it challenging to maintain his understanding of developing drugs while working in his private practice. As a result, he found himself turning towards clinical research in order to reacquaint himself with developments in the field of inflammatory bowel diseases.
“Initially, when I changed the path of my career, I was worried that patients would be concerned about being enrolled in medical trials,” he said. “But our organization traditionally participates in phase three industry-initiated trials, so safety and preliminary efficacy have already been addressed. With this margin of safety that’s already been developed, I find that there’s more of a comfort level from patients.”
In the earliest years of Dr. Phillips’ career, endoscopes were just coming into use. This tool, and related developments, have proved transformative for the field of gastroenterology: GIs are now able to identify, diagnose, and intervene in ways that were previously unthinkable. The same is true for the development of new medications – but the public’s understanding of these processes is often limited.
“Oftentimes, patients don’t know where medications come from. They know there’s oversight, and that research takes place before a new medication is approved, but there’s a sense that it just materializes outside of these two steps,” Dr. Phillips said. “In this industry, it’s incredibly difficult to move a product from basic science to medical trials to final approval. By the time something new is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it’s gone through rigorous scientific trials. But without a common understanding of these different processes, it’s harder for patients to feel immediately confident with trial participation.”
Today, Dr. Phillips’ daily responsibilities look much different than they did in private practice. He participates in staff, patient, and study coordination, but primarily dedicates his time to participant recruitment and physician education.
For patients who are considering participating in a clinical trial but haven’t signed on quite yet, Dr. Phillips shared his outlook on research.
“There’s a tendency for doctors and patients with rare conditions to leave trials as a last chance option, and instead try every newly approved medication,” he said. “But if you do that repeatedly, and you don’t get the desired results, you may no longer qualify for clinical trials. Most are written so that if you fail two of the conventional therapies, you’re excluded from enrolling in a trial. I encourage people to try one therapy and, if it doesn’t work, consider a research trial for your next option. Don’t wait until it’s the last option, because it might no longer be an option at all.”
Dr. Raymond Phillips is a gastroenterology specialist focused on clinical research at GI Pros Research in Naples, FL. He attended Princeton University before earning his medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and completing his Internal Medicine residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Not long after being named Physician of the Year by the Collier County Medical Society in 2020, he retired from active practice at Gastroenterology Group of Naples to focus on clinical research at GI Pros Research.