Meet the PRIM&R Blog Squad for the 2014 AER Conference: Jim Gearhart

by Jim Gearhart, BA, Member of the Board of Directors for Quorum Review IRB

PRIM&R is pleased to introduce Jim Gearhart, BA, a member of the PRIM&R Blog Squad at the 2014 Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference. The PRIM&R Blog Squad is composed of PRIM&R members who will blog here, on Ampersand, about the conference to give our readers an inside peek of what’s happening December 4-7 in Baltimore, MD. 

I first attended PRIM&R’s annual human subjects conference in 2005, a few months after I had started working at Quorum Review IRB. I was new to working at an IRB, and I often had problems explaining to others what, exactly, the job was all about. I could not always fit the ethical review of research involving human participants into a one or two-word summation of a career. I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one encountering this issue—a colleague’s friend urged her to stop trying; the business was just too esoteric to explain.

This dilemma made it inspiring to walk into the opening session in 2005. I looked around the crowded auditorium and realized that everyone—all 2000 of the attendees—understood what I did all day. They—we—were all involved with fostering ethical review with the same set of regulations, and we all shared similar professional rewards and frustrations.

And like that 2005 gathering, this year’s conference has a rich list of relevant topics. I’m looking forward most to discussions about our challenges in the face of rapidly changing technologies. How do we manage privacy and consent in a world where devices and computers track our actions, our decisions, and possibly our health information? The intersection of health data and ethics is just one of the many topics that I am looking forward to hearing more about.

I may have implied earlier that clinical research and IRBs were completely foreign to me in 2005.That is not entirely true. In many ways, I have been around research my entire life. My mother worked as a study coordinator and medical technologist, and she often worked from home. I may have been in middle school before I realized it was not typical to have a microscope and manual cell counter in the family room, a centrifuge in the laundry room, or conversations about informed consent around the dinner table.

A few years after those dinner talks about clinical research, I joined the US Department of State as a foreign service officer, and my parents launched an adventure of their own by co-founding Quorum Review. After gaining more experience in clinical research, as well as my Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) certification, I now contribute to Quorum as a member of the organization’s board of directors and frequent blogger.

Now, in 2014, I am honored to have an opportunity to continue those conversations that started around the dinner table by blogging for PRIM&R at the 2014 AER Conference. See you in Baltimore!

Check back and use this link to read more of Jim’s posts throughout the conference.