Have you met Melinda Hurst?

by Elizabeth Cooper, Program Assistant

With the 2012 Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference right around the corner, I am reminded of the strength and dedication of unaffiliated and non-scientific members who serve on institutional review boards (IRBs). These individuals contribute a unique perspective that is critical to our mission of advancing ethical research. At this year’s conference, we are honored and delighted to have the opportunity to recognize one such individual, Melinda Hurst, for her work as a community member on an IRB, and for her tireless and pioneering efforts to strengthen the role of unaffiliated, non-scientific members in the review of research.

Ms. Hurst served as a community member for 27 years on the ethics committee and IRB of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. She also served on California’s human subjects protection committee. For 30 years, she was a member of both the research committee of the Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center and the institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) of the University of Southern California.

Ms. Hurst has played an instrumental role in integrating community members into the work of the IRB, beginning at a time when community members were neither required nor particularly appreciated in the research review process. She has fought to establish and reinforce the value of the contributions that community members make within the research community, by virtue of their unique “outsider” perspective on the research process and their ability to represent the community, without a bias for or interest in the research itself. Because of the breadth of her experience, she has also been in a position to offer guidance, which has in turn shaped the evolution of the role of community members in human subject protections.

For Ms. Hurst’s exemplary contributions to the field and her principled commitment to protecting the human subjects who participate in research, PRIM&R is proud to be able to honor her at the 2012 AER Conference. If you are joining us in San Diego for the conference, you may also consider joining Ms. Hurst for a luncheon on Thursday, December 6, from 12:45 to 1:45 PM.

In addition to recognizing her during the 2012 AER Conference, we conducted an interview with Ms. Hurst as part of PRIM&R’s new oral history initiative, People & Perspectives. You can view an excerpt below. Please stay tuned for more stories from People & Perspectives in the coming year and look for the project’s launch in late 2013, as part of PRIM&R’s 40th anniversary celebration. To learn more about People & Perspectives, please email me or leave a question in the comments field.