In 2006, Christine Pierre planned the inaugural “Site Solutions Summit,” a doctors’ conference in Santa Fe, N.M., that would feature pharmaceutical exhibits and advice on running the business side of a research clinic.
Twelve attendees showed up. Only six paid.
Mrs. Pierre, a critical-care nurse, refused to be discouraged. The daughter of caterers and a consummate hostess, she rounded up some friends and threw a great party anyway, then redoubled her recruiting efforts and hosted more than 100 at the following year’s conference.
Driven by the importance of clinical research, but worried that clinics weren’t being properly supported or represented, she founded the Society for Clinical Research Sites in 2012. It now represents nearly 10,000 clinical research sites in 47 countries — and nearly 1,000 attended this year’s Site Solutions Summit.
“She cared so much for other people,” said Michael Pierre, her husband. “She took that into the industry.”
Mrs. Pierre died Tuesday at Anne Arundel County Medical Center of ocular melanoma metastasizing to her liver, her husband said. The longtime Ellicott City resident was 60.
The former Christine Ekers was born Sept. 8, 1958 in San Francisco to Ted and Marian Ekers, who were caterers. They moved to Prince George’s County when she was 10 years old to be closer to her mother’s extended family.
She attended William Wirt Middle School and graduated from Parkdale High School in 1976.
Mrs. Pierre got her registered nursing license in 1987 from Prince George’s County Community College and was subsequently hired as a nurse at the Washington Hospital Center.
She married Russell Kimmerle Jr., and the pair had a son, Russell Kimmerle III, before a divorce in 1989.
Mrs. Pierre met her second husband that year, after responding to his personal ad in the Washingtonian magazine. Mr. Pierre, the divorced 49-year-old vice president of estimating at Glen Construction, had just moved to Olney for his job and knew no one in the Washington area.
His personal ad sought “someone interesting” in her 40s who liked biking and hiking.
Mrs. Pierre was 31 at the time. She called anyway.
“She said I was being shortsighted,” Mr. Pierre said.
They met that September and married four months later, he said. They had no children together, but Mr. Pierre had three from an earlier marriage, and they merged their families and moved to Ellicott City, where they lived for more than 25 years.
They moved earlier this year to a house in Two Rivers in Odenton, said Mr. Pierre, 78.
Washington Hospital Center first exposed Mrs. Pierre to clinical research. She coordinated a clinical trial for patients with critical brain injuries with Dr. Daniel Hurr in the mid-1990s; less than a year later, she was named the hospital’s associate director of research, Mr. Pierre said.
In 1997, Mrs. Pierre founded a network of clinical research sites, RxTrials Inc., which pharmaceutical companies contracted to supervise clinical trials at about five locations, including at Sinai Hospital in Northwest Baltimore, her husband said.
Owning the research site network provided Mrs. Pierre a view into the world of clinical research. Many doctors, she noticed, didn’t have the business acumen necessary to run their clinics well — and had no one to teach them.
“Sites were not staying in business,” said Allyson Small, the society’s vice president of operations. “They didn’t know how to do a budget or negotiate a contract.”
Mrs. Pierre started the society to make the clinics sustainable so they could pursue cures for cancer, diabetes, and any number of other diseases. She studied federal drug regulations until she became an authority on them and taught doctors how to recruit for trials.
Her energy, creativity, talent and passion for the work were palpable, Mrs. Small said.
“We would work until 7 o’clock at night,” Mrs. Small said, “and she would go till 10 if you’d let her.”
One of the Site Solutions Summits took place just five days after her mother’s death, Mr. Pierre said.
“No one, outside of her closest friends, knew she was grieving,” he said. “When she put on the red dress and the high heels, it was showtime.”
Mrs. Pierre also liked to travel with her husband and indulged a love of decorating and design that radiated through her house. And while her work kept her busy, “YaYa” — she didn’t want to be called “Granny” — always had time for her family.
“When the children and grandchildren were at her side, they had her undivided attention,” Mr. Pierre said.
Mrs. Pierre’s family will receive friends at 10 a.m. Monday at Our Lady of the Fields Catholic Church, 1070 Cecil Ave., in Millersville, followed by a memorial service at 11 a.m.