Why do I enjoy being an IRB coordinator? At the University of Tulsa, the IRB’s focus is primarily on social and behavioral research (SBER). Of the many things I enjoy, at the top of my list is the interaction with faculty and students. I appreciate it when researchers stop by to discuss their projects before they get started. I like the collaborative atmosphere and enjoy listening to bright new ideas. I get warm fuzzies when I think about doing something with my life that serves the greater good.
Although most SBER protocols reviewed on campus fall into the exempt or expedited categories, there is still a risk of harm to participants. In studies that are designed to be anonymous, subjects’ identities must be protected to minimize the risk of potential physical or financial harm. For example, compromising a battered woman’s anonymity could incite further abuse, if her attacker were to learn that she spoke up.
I am proud that my institution studies post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I get those warm fuzzies—a feeling of real satisfaction—again when I hear a piece on National Public Radio (NPR) about our soldiers, and that PTSD is now being recognized as a serious but treatable disorder by the military.
The University of Tulsa has also run ground breaking studies on people who endure chronic nightmares, and we are seeing real results. I love hearing from one of our graduate students about her work with veterans who suffer with nightmares. When she tells me about the results of her work and how they will help veterans in the future, I am as happy as she is!
Are there down sides to my job as an IRB coordinator? Sure there are. I’ve had more than one sleepless night over a confounding study, and sometimes I feel like everyone on campus has my personal cell phone number. However, I am glad to say that by and large the pros outweigh the cons, and that I enjoy what I do and its positive impact on others.