You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

I have been an IACUC Administrator for fifteen years and a long-time member of PRIM&R. I can remember my first PRIM&R IACUC Conference back in 2005: all the excitement and anticipation of learning new ideas and best practices. From time to time I’m asked “why I still go to PRIM&R IACUC if I’ve already gone before?” And my reply is because it’s always exciting and new!

 Like regulatory compliance itself, the conferences always offer new knowledge to be gained, new friends to meet, and exciting adventures to be had. There’s the joy of seeing old friends and anticipation of meeting new ones—plus, the delight of exploring a new city. But most of all, there is what draws us to regulatory compliance in the first place—the thrill of obtaining new knowledge in our field and the ability to take that knowledge and apply it back home. This year, IACUC18 was no exception, with the themes like reducing regulatory burden and improving communication across areas of regulatory compliance playing key roles throughout.

In sessions on March 20 and 21, I was able to gain exciting ideas to reduce regulatory burden. By employing quality assurance techniques, you can re-examine standard operating procedures throughout your animal care and use program, eliminating wasteful steps. This can result in increased efficiency. An additional way to increase efficiency is through the use of metrics. Metrics can also be used to examine the steps in processes such as protocol review and facility inspections. 

Other ways to reduce regulatory burden involve examining aspects of the program itself with the mindset of eliminating “regulatory creep”. Annual reviews for non-USDA species and protocol questions that are not required by USDA or The Guide are just a few examples. By carefully examining your program in terms of what is actually required by regulations and The Guide, you can hopefully begin to trim the items that may be seen as administratively-imposed burden. This can result in a reduction of regulatory burden for both faculty investigators and IACUC Administration.

Throughout the conference, I also focused on how improved communication can improve regulatory compliance. Improving communication between regulatory compliance groups, such as between the institutional biosafety committee (IBC) and the IACUC can improve compliance and reduce burden. By communicating effectively, the two groups can learn from one another’s processes and increase efficiency (i.e., applying DMR practices to some IBC protocols not covered by The NIH Guidelines). Improved communication can also harmonize practices and reduce the amount of duplicate work that faculty investigators may have. 

Increased communication with faculty is also key. Including faculty on sub-committees to review and revise IACUC guidelines and policies is one way to improve IACUC-faculty communication and involvement. Finally, using a customer service model approach to IACUC communications can improve the was the IACUC Administration communicates and, thereby improve regulatory compliance. 

The conference is always exciting and there is always something new to learn. I never go away empty handed and always bring back new techniques and best practices. I like to think I am just one example to how you can “teach an old dog new tricks”!

Elaine Joseph, PhD, is a Compliance Analyst at the University of Toledo. She currently manages the IACUC and IBC for the University of Toledo, as well as performing grant reviews. She has been in regulatory compliance for over 14 years. Prior to working in regulatory compliance, Dr. Joseph received her doctorate in Zoology from Miami University of Ohio.

Members of PRIM&R’s Blog Squad and other guest contributors are valued members of our community willing to share their insights. The views expressed in their posts do not necessarily reflect those of PRIM&R or its employees.

IACUC18 Conference Proceedings are now available for purchase. PRIM&R’s 2019 IACUC Conference (IACUC19), will take place April 1-3 in Bellevue, WA, in conjunction with the NWABR Regional IACUC Conference on April 4. We are currently accepting session proposals (until August 24, 2018) and poster abstracts (until October 5, 2018) for IACUC19.