Patience, Patience, Patience: An Interview with Tracy Heenan

by Maeve Luthin, Professional Development Manager 

Welcome to another installment of our featured member interviews where we introduce you to our members—individuals who work to advance ethical research on a daily basis. Over the course of the next few months we will be shining a spotlight on members of the Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) and Certified Professional IACUC Administration (CPIA®) Councils. Please read on to learn more about their professional experiences and what goes on behind-the-scenes in their lives! 

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tracy Heenan, DVM, CPIA, director of the Office of Animal Care and Use and associate professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. 

Maeve Luthin (ML): When and why did you join the field?
Tracy Heenan (TH): I have been in the field of IACUC administration for more than 20 years. Since 1994, I have seen tremendous change in the animal welfare regulations and practices. I entered the field hoping to combine my veterinary background with the field of animal welfare as it relates to research. At that time there were very few veterinarians active in the area of IACUC administration and animal welfare compliance.

ML: How did you become involved with PRIM&R?  
TH: I have been attending PRIM&R conferences since 1994. When I entered the field in March of that year, I had very little idea of the rules and regulations pertaining to research animal care and use. About three weeks after starting the job, I found out there was a conference I just “had to attend” because it would help me learn everything I needed to know. I went to one of PRIM&R’s animal care and use conferences that year, and I’ve been attending ever since. I have learned important lessons and best practices at every meeting.

ML: What skills are particularly helpful in a job like yours? 
TH: Patience, patience, patience…and attention to detail.  It’s fine to have great technical skills and a wealth of knowledge, but if you aren’t patient and willing to hold a few hands–-investigators, research staff, IACUC members-–and work through the details, you may not be successful in this line of work.

ML: What advice have you found most helpful in your career?  
TH: Even though I am a detail-oriented person, our IACUC chair always reminds me to look at the big picture. I think this is very important advice for IACUC administrators who tend to do an excellent job of ciphering through the details, but sometimes don’t see the forest for the trees.

ML: What is your proudest achievement? 
TH: Developing and implementing the UNC Laboratory Animal Coordinator Training Program—a program which provides uniform, hands-on rodent training to our researchers and that has now been in place for more than a decade.

Thank you for being part of the membership community and for serving on the CPIA Council, Tracy. We hope to see you at the 2015 IACUC Conference, which is being held in Boston, MA, from March 17-20.