Reflections on my 2012 AER Conference experience

by Royell Sullivan, Institutional Review Board (IRB) Education Specialist at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine 

2011 was my first time attending PRIM&R’s annual Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference, and I have to admit, I was a tad bit lost. I had this feeling that the information was just over my head. Attending the conference for the second time this past December, however, let me know how far I’ve come in my understanding of the field and  the PRIM&R community. I felt more at home, I knew what to expect, and I chose sessions that were more in tune with my daily course of work.

Soon, I will be presenting a staff education session to my colleagues on research involving vulnerable populations. Attending The Basics and Beyond: Research with Children, Pregnant, Women and Fetuses, and Prisoners (C12), led by Julia Gorey, JD, and Robert J. Levine, MD, helped highlight things I need to mention during my own session. I plan to stress the importance of direct benefit for vulnerable populations. I also want to bring more attention to prisoner representation on IRBs. After attending the session, I know that it is not enough to have a prisoner representative serve as a consultant. I also know that the Office for Human Research Protections requires that the prisoner representative be an actual voting member on the IRB when research involving prisoners is being reviewed.

Similarly, Essential Documentation (A12), shed light on the importance of how information is captured during IRB meetings. Jean Toth-Allen, PhD, declared, “the minute taker is not a transcriptionist.” She continued by reviewing all of the elements that  minutes should include. I kept this in mind recently when I presented an education session on IRB records.

The poster presentations were also an eye opener for me. The day before the conference, I attended the pre-conference program IRB 301: An Overview of the Criteria for Approval of the Research. During the course, we had a debate about the primary and secondary reviewer system (check out my blog on the debate). Later in the conference, I read a poster presentation about IRB administration at WellSpan Health. WellSpan went into their database and discovered that most of their IRB members were not opening studies unless they were assigned to them. They used this information to ask their board members how they could better assist them so they could review all studies. They are now moving forward with implementing some improvements. I thought that was wonderful.

I made new friends while attending Developing and Implementing an Educational Program at an Institution with a Small Research Program (B25), led by Eric Allen, CIP, CPIA, and Michelle Feige, MSW, LCSW-C. We had a chance to vent about our frustrations at work and share a few ideas.

I came, I saw, I conquered, and I walked away more knowledgeable than when I arrived. I met some great people, and the sunny San Diego weather in December was definitely a plus. I cannot wait to see what is in store for this year!