Featured Member Interview: Eileen Callahan

As part of our Member Appreciation Month, we’re launching a series of Ampersand posts that will introduce you to our members, who work to advance ethical research on a daily basis. Please read on to learn more about their professional experiences, how membership helps connect them to a larger community, and what goes on behind-the-scenes in their lives!

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eileen Callahan, MS, research compliance coordinator at the College of Charleston.
When and why did you join the field?
I never set out to work in research administration (does anyone?), but my varied background ended up as a perfect fit. After just finishing my master’s degree at age 42, I took my first job in research administration as a grants information specialist at the University of Scranton in 1994. Frankly, it sounded interesting.

I was a single mom, and they had great benefits. But as I grew in the profession, becoming the director of research services in 1996, the ethics and compliance issues drew me in. Now I am fortunate to be working at the College of Charleston solely in the area of research protections, compliance, and responsible conduct of research (RCR) education.

What is your favorite part of your job?
There are actually two favorite parts.
The first is teaching. I feel that the only way to encourage ethical research is through education. People need to understand what ethics really means, and how it impacts their lives much more broadly than just their own research. And teaching goes beyond the classroom or workshop. One of the best teaching moments occurs when explaining requested protocol revisions to an investigator.

The second is discussing complex ethical issues and dilemmas with colleagues as we review protocols.

Okay, so there’s a third, too, which in some ways ties one and two together–the opportunity to streamline compliance functions so that investigators find it easier to submit a complete application, and reviewers can focus on the important issues. A colleague and I have developed an online IRB application/review process that has been very well received by our faculty. This summer we will be doing the same for our institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) and institutional biosafety committee (IBC).

And, always, my wonderful, supportive colleagues!

What are you reading?

I’m hooked on mystery and suspense novels. Some are thought provoking, complex, and set in foreign locales or interesting points in history. Others are just plain escapist fun, like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Right now I’m reading Long Time Coming by a new (to me) author, Robert Goddard.
Why did you join PRIM&R?
PRIM&R is the premier organization for professionals working in research compliance and research integrity. The membership is large and varied, the mentoring program is excellent, and the educational offerings and annual conferences are engaging and well put together.
What is your favorite member benefit?
The mentoring program.
What would you say to someone who is considering PRIM&R membership?
I have strongly recommended PRIM&R membership to a number of people for the reasons I noted above.
What motivates you to maintain your commitment to advancing research ethics?
Students. Every time I have the opportunity to work with students, either one-on-one or in lectures, I am reminded of the significance of promoting ethical research. I know that I am in the right line of work every time I see the “a-ha” moment in a student’s eyes when he or she realizes the extraordinary impact that research has on our daily lives and how essential it is that we are able to trust it.

Thank you for being part of the membership community and sharing your story, Eileen. May we suggest your next book be The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, our book group selection for the 2010 Advancing Ethical Research Conference?

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a member, please visit our website today.