Blue Devil of the Week: Ensuring Science is Done Right

By creating and refining contracts for Duke’s medical research, Marti Salguero sets the conditions for cures to be found

By ensuring the contracts involved in Duke's clinical research are appropriate, Marti Salguero plays a key behind-the-scenes role in helping find cures. Photo by Stephen Schramm.
By ensuring the contracts involved in Duke's clinical research are appropriate, Marti Salguero plays a key behind-the-scenes role in helping find cures. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

Name: Marti Salguero

Title: Director of Site-Based Research, Office of Research Contracts, Duke University School of Medicine

Years at Duke: 30

What she does: Salguero jokes that her job can seem pretty boring to most people. She directs the staff that completes the contracts that provide the legal link between the makers of experimental drugs and medical devices and the researchers at Duke who test their effectiveness.

But when asked how she’s been able to thrive in her role for most of her three decades at Duke, she said she never loses sight of who benefits from the tedious-but-vital work.

“It’s the patients in the clinic who need the drugs and need the new therapies,” Salguero said. “It’s the enthusiasm of the doctors for the research they’re doing and the hope that they give people. Lives can be saved. Anybody can do what I do, but I really feel fortunate to have the opportunity to do it. I feel as though, in some small way, I’m making a difference in somebody’s life.”

Before every clinical trial or every instance when an experimental drug is used in a potentially life-saving treatment, there is a pile of important paperwork that must be completed. There are regulatory frameworks which must be constructed, budget issues which must be settled and contracts which must be crafted and completed.

The final piece is done through Salguero’s office. It’s where Duke and the outside companies it works with hammer out details such as tax implications, publishing rights, intellectual property arrangements and confidentiality agreements.

“We want to help the researchers do what they do, we’re here for them,” Salguero said. “But we want to make sure they to do it correctly, within the parameters of the law and Duke policy. That’s where we come in.”

While she was both a mother and a Duke employee, Marti Salguero completed 21 classes in six years to earn a Duke degree in 2002. Photo courtesy of Marti Salguero.What she loves about Duke: Salguero’s path to her current role began when she was a hard-working staff member in what was then the Office of Science and Technology, which supported licensing of new technologies. Noticing that Salguero was a diligent and bright employee, her manager at the time suggested she pursue an area for her career advancement.

After starting out at Appalachian State, Salguero had left college around two years shy of her degree. Her boss suggested that Salguero, then the mother of a middle-school aged daughter, enroll at Duke and finish her degree.

“I applied as an employee into continuing education,” said Salguero, who was able to take advantage of an employee tuition benefit. “I did four classes and got accepted into a degree program. I’d go to class at lunch, I’d go at night. At the time we were working in the Davison Building, so I was right there.”

In 2002, after completing 21 classes over six years, she graduated with a degree in sociology.

“I was just so fortunate to take advantage of that,” Salguero said.

Best advice received: When she started at Duke, Salguero peppered her supervisor with questions. Sensing a dip in confidence, he decided to remind Salguero that she had been brought in for a reason.

“He told me that I knew more than I thought I did and that I should trust my judgement,” Salguero said.

Salguero said the comment helped give her steadier footing in her new job and allowed her to thrive.

First ever job: While in high school in Durham, Salguero spent a summer working for a photography company, making cold calls to people, trying to sell them portrait packages.

“I was terrible at it,” Salguero said. “I’m not a salesman.”

Something most people don’t know about her: With three decades on staff, Salguero’s connections to Duke are deep. But they got even stronger around two years ago when her daughter, Luann Fuller, joined the nursing staff at Duke Primary Care’s Croasdaile location.

“She loves nursing and she loves Duke,” Salguero said. “She used to work in Chapel Hill, but when she got a job offer here, it was a no-brainer. It’s closer to home and the benefits are great, so I think she’s happy to be over here.”

Is there a colleague at Duke who has an intriguing job or goes above and beyond to make a difference? Nominate that person for Blue Devil of the Week.