The loneliness of the human subjects protections professional

by Sylvia Baedorf Kassis, MPH, PRIM&R Blog Squad member

PRIM&R is pleased to bring you blog posts from the PRIM&R Blog Squad during the 2010 Advancing Ethical Research Conference. The PRIM&R Blog Squad has blogged every day from the conference, and these are the final onsite posts. Continue to check back for more updates from the Blog Squad.

If you’ve been in the field of human subjects protections for longer than four days, you have no doubt tried to explain what you do for a living to someone unfamiliar with the topic area, and seen them lose focus on what you are telling them. Similarly, you have no doubt felt like a hurdle to researchers who are frustrated with the whole regulatory system, of which you are but one tiny part.

The field of human subjects protections can be a lonely place.

And while you may feel that you are leaving San Diego with a long to-do list and more questions than when you arrived, please don’t despair. You are a member of a group who is vitally important to the advancement of ethical research and scientific discovery.

I’ve attended the AER Conference four times now, and every year I feel more and more validated and vindicated in my commitment to the field. After hearing such wonderful keynotes, and attending so many thought-provoking sessions, what really strikes me is that everyone I’ve encountered over the past four days is so devoted to advancing ethical research. How inspiring to hear that PRIM&R’s executive director Joan Rachlin has been with the organization for 35 years. How amazing to learn that Rebecca Skloot pursued the Henrietta Lacks story for 10 years of her life. How thrilling to hear of Mozes Kor’s journey to forgiveness of the Nazi doctors.

But how can we stay inspired and invigorated when we get back to the daily grind? How can we wade through the backlogged emails, unanswered voicemails, and meetings, already scheduled and soon to be booked?

Here are three tips to help you cope with the post-AER Conference blues:

  1. Make sure to keep in touch with the people you met and connected with at the conference. You never know when you might need their expertise and/or support.
  2. As soon as possible, review the program and download the materials from all the sessions you attended and loved, as well as the sessions you wish you could have attended. You might want to refer to that information, and it’ll be helpful to have it all organized in one place.
  3. Regularly check out the PRIM&R website, including this blog, to stay connected and up-to-date.

I hope this makes you feel just a little bit better. See you next year!