Finding Empowerment at the 2013 AER Conference

by Betty Kalama, Senior Community Facilitator at the Kenya Medical Research Institute Wellcome Trust Research Programme

As a community facilitator within the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, my primary responsibility is supporting community engagement. From workshops for community members to staff training sessions on research ethics and communication skills, I work frequently with researchers and community members to strengthen the relationship between the programme and the community. In addition, I participate as a member of the Consent and Communication Committee, which aims to support ethical research by advising on locally appropriate strategies for communicating with participants and the wider community about research.

Given my professional responsibilities, I was very pleased to be able to attend PRIM&R’s 2013 Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference through the organization’s Global Research Scholarship Program. The conference provided me with an opportunity to learn in greater detail about the convergence of ethics with medicine and research. Furthermore, I was able to expand my understanding of the diverse ethical challenges that can arise in the review of research. The experience solidified for me the idea that, while the principles of research ethics may be global, careful attention needs to be paid to the research setting to ensure the appropriate application of those principles. By sharing experiences with other scholars and conference attendees, I discovered how complex ethical principles can be applied in a variety of settings. The conference also provided me with new strategies to tackle the challenging issues inherent in human subjects research.

Upon returning home, I shared the knowledge I gained with other staff in my organization. Through my participation, my colleagues were able to learn about new things, including the use of placebos in clinical trials and recent changes to the Declaration of Helsinki. This knowledge empowered my team to address ethical issues in protocol review, trainings, workshops, outreach efforts, and regular interactions with both the staff and the community. Thanks in part to the knowledge I gained at the conference, I was also able to advance: I was nominated to serve as secretary of the Consent and Communication Committee.

I am grateful to PRIM&R for the opportunity to attend the conference. I am also thankful to the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme for encouraging me to attend.

Registration for the 2014 AER Conference, which will be held December 5-7 in Baltimore, MD, is now open. Please visit our website for more information.