Appreciating the Unsung Heroes: An interview with Cate Alexander

Meet Cate Alexander, Research Compliance Manager & IRB Administrator at Kaiser Permanente in Honolulu, HI. She is highlighted this month as a part of our featured member interviews, which aim to share the experiences of individuals within our membership who are making an impact on the research ethics field through their work. 

PRIM&R: When and why did you join the field?
Cate Alexander (CA): Like a lot of folks, I fell into research compliance quite by accident. I started out at a central IRB in 1999 and instantly fell in love with the mission, the ethics, and the passion that people had; I was hooked. Over the last fifteen years I have supported institutional and medical center IRBs in various capacities and am currently the research compliance manager and IRB administrator for Kaiser Permanente.

PRIM&R: What is one tool you use every day that you could not do your job without?
CA: I’d have to say the internet. It’s wonderful to be able to instantly look up regulations, check the OHRP Decision Charts, read the posts on IRB Forum in real time, and check the PRIM&R website. I also frequently refer to publications such as Institutional Review Board: Management and Function (Bankert and Amdur).

PRIM&R: What’s one specific challenge that you have faced during your career, and how did you overcome it?
CA: Lack of resources, which unfortunately is a common lament. The expression “It takes a village” can be applied to human research protection programs; it takes many disciplines and functional areas working in unison to do this well. If we are successful in providing support, a solid infrastructure, and implementing and communicating the federal regulations, we set the stage for the ethical conduct of research.

PRIM&R: What is one thing you wish the general public knew about human subjects research?
CA: That for every sensational headline of a clinical trial gone wrong, or an unethical investigator, there are thousands of good people quietly working to advance medicine and improve existing systems or services. I wish more would be said about the advances that are made and the unsung heroes: the research participants.

PRIM&R: What motivates you to maintain your commitment to advancing ethical research?
CA: Providing guidance and education to researchers on federal regulations and research ethics is both challenging and rewarding. I am committed to being the best resource I can be in order to support them. I believe that it’s a privilege to be involved in research; I want to help those around me conduct it with integrity and respect.

PRIM&R: Have there been any PRIM&R events or talks that you have attended that have made a significant impact on your approach to your work?
CA: The annual Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference always provides a plethora of topics that are both relevant and timely; it’s difficult to choose which sessions to attend! I always learn something new or gain a deeper understanding, and the opportunity to learn from the giants in bioethics is invaluable.

How has membership in PRIM&R’s community of research ethics professionals helped you to advance in your career or do your job better?
CA: PRIM&R provides so many learning opportunities: ongoing education, webinars, At Your Doorstep, and the Knowledge Center just to name a few. I recently attended the webinar Identify, Recruit, Train, Retain: Building a Diverse, Qualified IRB and just returned from IRB Administrator Boot Camp. Additionally, the Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) certification is a well-known and respected standard of knowledge, and I’m proud to be among those certified.  Thank you PRIM&R for all you do!

No, thank you, Cate! We are so pleased to hear your praises for our programs and thank you for your ongoing commitment to advancing ethical research!

To learn more about PRIM&R membership, visit our website.