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Executive Q&A: Clinical trials company owner sets grand goals

Louise Thurman, owner of IPS Research Company, conducts clinical trials that help mental illness sufferers find their way back to health.
by Paula Burkes Published: January 27, 2013

By all accounts, Oklahoma City-based IPS Research Company, which conducts clinical trials on potential new drugs to treat mostly mental illness, has a lofty vision statement:

“To rid the world of suffering caused by illness.”

It may be a grand goal, but it's not overstated, owner Louise Thurman said.

“We're looking for solutions to the most difficult problems in life,” Thurman said. “Some trial participants have felt awful for years, and many don't know that it's not normal to feel that way.”

Clinical depression can keep sufferers from holding jobs for any length of time, Thurman said, while severe attention deficit disorder causes others to forget appointments and constantly lose things.

Currently, her 17-year-old firm is running 35 trials for Eli Lilly and Co., Pfizer Inc., Forest Pharmaceuticals and 14 other sponsors. Each trial has 15 to 20 participants who are taking a drug being tested or a placebo; they don't know which.

“It's amazing the altruism people have,” Thurman said. “They hope that if they're not helped, their participation in clinical trials can help someone else down the road.”

From her fourth-floor offices at 1111 N Lee, Thurman, 52, sat down Wednesday with The Oklahoman to talk about her personal and professional life. This is an edited transcript:

Q: Tell us about your roots.

A: I grew up in Oxnard, Calif., in Southern California, when I was very young. But when I was about 12, we moved to the Fresno area where my parents still live. My father worked in life insurance sales, and my mother worked at a newspaper, in a largely male-dominated newsroom, and later, as a nurse. I'm their only child, aside from my dog siblings.

Q: What defined your school days?

A: Music. I played the flute and the piccolo in the marching, classical and jazz bands. The experience was invaluable, teaching me how to compete (for first chair) and lead others (as section leader).

Q: And college? How did you settle on medicine and psychiatry?

A: While at California State University/Sacramento, I studied chemistry and biology, and worked in the county coroner's office, assisting with autopsies. I learned I wasn't queasy at the sight of blood. In fact, in med school, at UC Davis, I was fascinated with my surgery rotation, but I liked my sleep more. I hated the specialties female students were encouraged to pursue then — pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology. Meanwhile, in psychiatry, there was a growing curiosity about meds and neurochemistry. And CT scans were just starting to be used for diagnosis. Unlike physical ailments, mental ones — from severe depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia — affect people's entire lives. I enjoy helping them find their way back to health. It's challenging, but rewarding.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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Position: Owner, IPS Research Company

Birth date: Feb. 28, 1960

Family: Jay Thurman, married eight and half years; sons Ben Dabiri, 25, of San Francisco, and Cameron Dabiri, 23, of Norman; stepdaughter, Courtney Thurman, 22, and stepson, Chad Thurman, 20; two labradoodles, a lab-pit bull terrier mix and corgi. For years, she had rescued basset hounds

Education: California State University/Sacramento, bachelor's in biology; University of California/Davis, doctor of medicine; and San Mateo County Community Mental Health Services, residency in psychiatry

Favorite charity: HeartLine Inc., which among other things sponsors hotlines to prevent suicide and gambling. She serves on the board

Pastimes: Reading (historical fiction is her favorite); exercising (hiking, jogging, cycling and kickboxing); and periodic trips to Sonoma County, Calif., where she has a vacation home. “I'm also a huge 49ers fan. Go Niners, baby!”


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