For Generations to Come: An Interview with Sharon Nelson

Meet Sharon Nelson, MSN, RN, CNS, CIP, executive director of consulting and compliance services at Schulman IRB. She is highlighted this month as a part of our featured member interviews, which aim to share the experiences of individuals within our membership who are making an impact on the research ethics field through their work.

PRIM&R: When and why did you join the field?
Sharon Nelson (SN): I began my career in the 1980s delivering acute clinical care in a large academic medical center. Early in my practice I was fortunate to collaborate with clinical researchers on several small projects. I was intrigued. The melding of science, ethics, discovery, learning, and application was (and remains) compelling. I pursued my interests in human subjects research and followed a pathway from study execution to study administration, and ultimately, in 1999, into the IRB.

PRIM&R: What is one tool you use every day that you could not do your job without?
SN: The Internet: the ability to efficiently and effectively take advantage of vast resources of documented knowledge and experience, and connect with individuals willing to share experience and expertise. The availability of aggregated information is bountiful and the connection to learning sources is remarkable.

PRIM&R: What is one thing you wish the general public knew about human subjects research?
SN: Health advances are realized through the efforts of an army of dedicated individuals. There are people who have a deep desire to know. There are people focused on the preparation, attention to detail, and devotion needed to design a meaningful research proposal. There are people committed to the ethical execution of human subjects research. And of course, there are the research subjects who contribute their time, their efforts, and their bodies.

PRIM&R: What is something you know now that you wish someone had told you when you first entered this field?
SN: Seek a mentor, someone who genuinely wants to share. Be inquisitive–don’t hesitate to ask questions. Eventually you will have the opportunity to pay it forward.

PRIM&R: What motivates you to maintain your commitment to advancing ethical research?
SN: My contemporaries and I stand to benefit from advances in research. More importantly, however, my son and generations to follow will benefit. I believe I must respect and honor my responsibility to act with integrity and care for myself and others.

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? If so, what were they and how did they influence you?
SN: The events that stand out for me are those where I had the opportunity to hear and be taught by the giants of the bioethics field: Tom Beauchamp bringing Belmont alive; Robert Levine guiding and teaching; Joan Rachlin sharing her personal and professional arc of human subjects protection. These are a few of the thought-provoking, aha experiences I have enjoyed at PRIM&R events.

[Editor’s note: all three sessions noted above are available free to PRIM&R members on our Knowledge Center; non-members can purchase the proceedings from these meetings to access the noted sessions and other materials from those events here.]

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?
SN: PRIM&R is among my primary go-to resources for ongoing education—timely and substantive webinars, news briefs, training tools, and networking opportunities. Thank you PRIM&R for all you do.

Thank you, Sharon, for your commitment to the advancement of research oversight! We’re glad to hear our resources have been valuable to you.

To learn more about membership, visit our website.