Introducing the newest member of the PRIM&R Blog Squad: Beth Brakewood

Welcome to a special installment of our featured member interview series in which we introduce you to our 2011 AER Conference Blog Squad members. Please read on to learn more about their professional experiences, how membership helps connect them to a larger community, and why they’re excited about blogging for PRIM&R!

Today we’d like to introduce you to Beth Brakewood, CIP. Beth has a Bachelors of Science in Biomedical Engineering and is currently working on her Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology at the Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health. Beth will be blogging about PRIM&R’s Virtual Meeting.

When and why did you join the field?

I’m a rare case in that I joined the field by starting at an Institutional Review Board (IRB).  I was switching fields, trying to break into clinical research, and found an opening with Integreview Ethical Review Board, a private commercial IRB. I moved over to work for a Phase I pharmaceutical unit as a compliance supervisor, then came back to the IRB side by working at The University of Texas at Austin. Recently, I’ve had the chance to move back to the researcher side of the table at the same institution.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love being able to work as a member of a team with technical and scientific professionals.  Protecting subjects is a vital component of any research enterprise and at my institution I have the opportunity to act as an expert member of the research team. I get to work with the researchers to ensure that the ethical treatment of subjects is their primary concern, while I can handle the technical details of ensuring that our compliance obligations are met.  As a member of the research team, I can ensure that students and researchers think about ethical treatment of subjects first rather than focusing exclusively on compliance with regulatory requirements.

What’s your after-hours guilty pleasure?

My not-so-guilty after-hours pleasure is rowing. I have “adult onset athleticism.” After 30 years of a generally sedentary life, I joined a rowing club and fell in love with the sport.  I may not be particularly competitive, but nothing beats ending a workday with a row with my team down a beautiful river.

Why did you join PRIM&R?

I joined PRIM&R for the networking and educational opportunities. I think having the opportunity to read about the experiences of other research ethics professionals and talk to them over email or at conference is the best way for me to grow as a professional.

What is your favorite member benefit?

Honestly, it’s the discounts on conferences and meetings! IRB professionals often work in isolation, particularly those at small institutions. Being able to meet people in person and really see that we aren’t alone is a huge benefit.

With whom have you made a lasting professional connection through your membership?

At every meeting or conference I’ve attended, I have met at least one person with whom I’ve “clicked” professionally and who I’ve contacted later. I’ve bounced ideas off of the chair of an IRB at a small liberal arts college, shared SOPs with an IRB administrator at a large clinic, and talked about the challenges of instituting cultural change with an IACUC/IBC/IRB coordinator at a growing academic institution.

What advice do you have for young professionals interested in pursuing a career in ethical research?

I think getting my Certified Institutional Review Board Professional (CIP) certification was one of the most valuable things I’ve done for myself. Having an in-depth understanding of all of the regulations and the certification to back up that knowledge has made me a member of the research team. It has also freed me up to think more about the issues of justice, beneficence, and respect-for-persons when approaching a problematic situation, confident in my ability to ensure that the ethical solution is also a compliant solution.

What are you most excited to blog about from the upcoming 2011 AER Conference?

I’m very interested in the Living Room Conversation – In Their Own Voices: What Do Research Subjects Have to Say About Informed Consent. IRBs and researchers can often lose sight of the individuals for whom the consent process is most important, substituting their own judgment or impressions about what subjects want or need to know.  Keeping the focus on subjects, rather than researchers, compliance personnel, or risk management requirements is one of the hardest cultural changes for many institutions. Conversations like this help IRB professionals reinforce the need to hear from the people we are all trying to protect.