The Crucial Role Research Plays: An Interview with Jackie Blundon

By Nora Murphy, membership assistant

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. Please read on to learn more about Jackie Blundon, MS, CIP, director of the Human Research Protection Program at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare.

Nora Murphy (NM): When and why did you join the field?
Jackie Blundon (JB): Like so many who work in human subjects protections, I didn’t set out looking for a career in this field. After completing graduate school in 2008, I knew that I didn’t want to continue in basic science research and was looking for something different than, but related to, my years of training. I was happy to find a place in the quality improvement unit in the human research protection program at the university where I attended graduate school. I’ve continued in this field because I enjoy the role I play in supporting ethical and compliant research, and the researchers who conduct it.

NM: What is one tool you use every day that you could not do your job without?
JB: The internet. I often wonder how people did anything before the internet, and I can’t imagine doing this job without it. From resources like the PRIM&R website, Knowledge Center, and IRB Forum, to networking and easily searching for regulation and guidance, to operational support like electronic IRB systems, email communication, webinars, and teleconferencing, the internet and all the tools it makes available are invaluable.

NM: What is one thing you wish the general public knew about human subjects research?
JB: I wish the general public was more aware of human subjects research, including the importance of participation and the crucial role research plays in improving society’s understanding and healthcare advancement.

NM: What is something you know now that you wish someone had told you when you first entered this field?
JB: It is not “black and white”, and it will never be. In general, I find “it depends” to be a very unsatisfying answer, but as you gain experience in this field you learn that it almost always depends. Even though there are written regulations, laws, policies, and guidance, each project is different and it often comes down to judgement, knowledge, and expertise.

NM: What changes in the research field most concern you? What changes are you encouraged by?
JB: We are all aware the current federal regulations are rather don’t always apply to all research, especially new types of research that may not have even existed when the regulations were written (online/social media, medical device apps, genetic research, etc.). I am excited and encouraged by the desire to update the regulations and guidance to better address today’s issues, but I am also concerned these changes may not be any better than the current rules that we’ve all come to learn to work with. PRIM&R’s Public Policy Committee provides a great service by developing policy positions and other initiatives to voice the concerns of the PRIM&R community.

NM: 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?
JB: I have found at least some value in pretty much any PRIM&R event that I’ve attended. I think the annual Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference can have a great impact based on the size and scope of the event—there is literally something for everybody. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the AER Conference very early in my career and it had a huge impact on my view and understanding of the field in general, as well as my own role and development plan.

NM: How has membership in PRIM&R’s community of research ethics professionals helped you to advance in your career or do your job better?
JB: In addition to the AER Conference, PRIM&R also offers a lot of online materials, which I find incredibly helpful and use frequently to stay up to date on current issues, hear other professionals’ view points, and connect with peers. In addition, the Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) credential not only demonstrates your knowledge and expertise, but is an important step in career development, as it is often preferred or required by employers.

Thank you for being a member of PRIM&R, Jackie, and for shedding light on some of your experiences in the field! 

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a member, please visit our website today.