Featured Member Profile: Alicia Cook

Welcome to another installment of our featured member profile where we will continue to introduce you to more of our members—individuals 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 Alicia Cook, institutional review board (IRB) director at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL.

When and why did you join the field?
Working as an audit coordinator for a cancer cooperative group, I was aware of IRBs and their role in research. During the same period, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided to receive treatment via a clinical trial. This new perspective, as a research subject, gave me a greater understanding of the importance of the IRB in research. So, in 2004 when I was encouraged by the IRB chair (who was also my anesthesiologist) to apply for an open IRB administrator position, I jumped at the opportunity. I was recently promoted to IRB director at my current institution.

What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is advising researchers on how to design studies within the parameters of the regulations that investigate challenging issues. I also enjoy conducting educational sessions for students who are conducting research for their dissertations. This is often their first introduction to research ethics, so they are very nervous. I enjoy being able to calm their fears about IRBs.

What is the last movie you saw?
Red Tails produced by George Lucas. Although I knew about the Tuskegee airmen, this movie highlighted their important role in history and the sacrifices they made for our country.

Why did you join PRIM&R?
In 2008, I left my previous position in a biomedical IRB to work in a social-behavioral IRB. I had attended the Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference through my previous institution, so I knew the valuable information that could be gained. Starting my new position, I knew PRIM&R membership would prove essential in providing me resources and support I needed to help me understand the regulations from a social-behavioral perspective.

What is your favorite member benefit?
The access to resources on research ethics and the ability to network with colleagues at the conferences have been invaluable. In addition, I think having access to the IRB Workload and Salary Survey will be a valuable resource in my new position as director.

What would you say to someone who is considering PRIM&R membership?
It is difficult to explain what we do to people outside of the field. Joining PRIM&R  gives you an opportunity to network with other members of the field and that helps to remind you that you are a member of a community. Also, the conferences and webinars are great educational resources.

What motivates you to maintain your commitment to advancing ethical research?
As a breast cancer survivor for almost 10 years, I have directly benefited from human subjects research. Incidents such as the U.S. Public Health Service syphilis study & the case of Henrietta Lacks remind us of the need to balance the quest for answers with the need to protect the rights of research subjects. As an African American who directly benefited from participation in a clinical trial, it is my goal to encourage African Americans to consider clinical trials participation by ensuring for them that there is now a mechanism in place to protect their rights.

Thank you for being part of the membership community and sharing your story, Alicia. We hope, we here at PRIM&R, can help you keep up with all the new regulations!

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