Implementing concrete changes after the 2014 IACUC Conference

by Derek Fong, VMD, DACLAM, clinical veterinarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Time is a strange entity; it can go as slow as a turtle walking uphill in sand, or as fast as a cheetah sprinting across the savanna. It’s only been a little over two months since PRIM&R’s 2014 Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) Conference, and sadly, it feels far off on the horizon.  This is much more a reflection of my own memory, however, than of how I felt about the conference. I greatly enjoyed my first IACUC Conference; it exceeded my expectations in just about every way – even the food was good! Prior to this year, the IACUC Conference was not on my go-to list of conferences to regularly attend, but that mistake has now been rectified. I do hope to become a regular attendee.

As I alluded to in a previous post (and I believe most would agree), the main value of attending conferences is learning from others and translating what you learn into improvements at your own institution. However, with new emails, protocols, and animal health issues arising daily, I forgive myself and others for not always making immediate improvements. We all have ideas and projects, but become consumed with more immediate demands, such as catching up on work missed while attending said conferences! There are days that I believe I have a block of time to work on a strategic project, and I suddenly look up at the clock to discover the day has seemingly vanished into thin air. In my experience, the main difference between places that thrive and survive is the amount of time employees have to implement changes and improvements, and Google, for example, agrees. Employees at Google are allowed to spend 20% of their time pursuing side projects that have often led to new innovations, but that is a luxury most do not have.

Luckily, however, at UC Denver we have been able to make concrete changes based off our experiences at the 2014 IACUC Conference. The timing, not to mention the location, of the conference was opportune. We are currently in the midst of reworking our electronic protocol form, and the conference aided in our efforts to improve this resource. For example, we believe that we captured the spirit of the harm-benefit analysis in our previous protocol form. However, the harm was described in one section while the benefit was described in another section and it was not explicit that a review of harm-benefit was performed.  Based on insights from the conference, we’ve updated the form and we are now capturing the benefits and harm in a single section and explicitly utilizing the phrase “harm-benefit analysis.” We’ve also reworded our signs for reporting animal welfare concerns to ensure they align with best practices identified at the conference. We hope, and anticipate, that these changes will only be the start of long-lasting improvements made in our program as a result of our participation in the 2014 IACUC Conference.

Missed the 2014 IACUC Conference? The online proceedings are available for purchase, with special rates for PRIM&R members.