Embracing Diverse Opinions While Ensuring Compliance: An Interview with Howard Zelaznik

Since May is Membership Appreciation Month, we’re featuring a member of the PRIM&R community once each week this month. Our featured member interview series seeks to highlight members who are advancing ethical research through their daily work. This week, meet Howard Zelaznik, professor of health and kinesiology and associate vice president for research at Purdue University.

PRIM&R: When and why did you join the field?
Howard Zelaznik (HZ): I began serving on the institutional review board (IRB) in 1984, became chair in 1994, and served until 2002. Recently, I became the institutional official in September 2013.

PRIM&R: What’s one specific challenge that you have faced during your career, and how did you overcome it?
HZ: Convincing a very distinguished faculty member that they must have IRB approval before conducting what s/he considered to be a lifesaving procedure on a minor. I finally solved the problem through determined discussion about the ramifications that would result from directly ignoring an IRB ruling.

PRIM&R: What is one thing you wish the general public knew about human subjects research?
HZ: That 99.9% of researchers work very hard to do the right thing and believe in the mission of human subjects research protections.

PRIM&R: What is something you know now that you wish someone had told you when you first entered this field?
HZ: Some situations have many right answers and diversity of opinion is valuable.

PRIM&R: What changes in the research field most concern you? What changes are you encouraged by?
HZ: I believe that the ‘medical model’ implicitly applied in human subjects regulations is not applicable to most non-medical research.

PRIM&R: What motivates you to maintain your commitment to advancing ethical research?
HZ: I believe in the mission to have a culture of compliance where compliance is an integral aspect of good research.

PRIM&R: Have there been any PRIM&R events or talks that you have attended that have made a significant impact on your approach to your work? What were they and how did they influence you?
HZ: The symposium on managing HRPP processes.

PRIM&R: How has membership in PRIM&R’s community of research ethics professionals helped you to advance in your career or do your job better?
HZ: The awareness gained from regular emails from PRIM&R is priceless.

Thank you, Howard, for your years of service to the field! We are glad to have individuals as committed to ethical research as you among our membership.

Learn more about Member Appreciation Month!