The Power of Mentoring

Every year, PRIM&R’s Mentoring Program connects hundreds of members to one another, in order to share knowledge, grow people professionally, and help solve short- and longer-term challenges. PRIM&R routinely checks in on these mentoring pairs to see how their conversations are progressing, and to assure the match is a good one. Quite often, their feedback reminds us of the importance of this program, and our members’ willingness to support one another.

Today, we are pleased to offer a snapshot into one mentoring relationship between Paul Reitemeier, PhD, corporate director of bioethics at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, MI, and Ann Morrison, PhD, assistant professor of teacher education and education and outreach liaison for the human subjects protections program at Metropolitan State University in Denver, CO.

Ann Morrison (AM):
Paul Reitemeier, referred to me through the PRIM&R’s Mentoring Program, was one of the key contributors to our flourishing human research protection program (HRPP).

In June 2012, I assumed responsibility to rebuild the non-operational institutional review board (IRB) at my university, which has 24,000 students and 1,500 faculty. As an assistant professor in teacher education, my only prior IRB experience was as a researcher and one year serving as a reviewer on the IRB (during which time I read just one protocol and attended our only meeting). The sum total of my knowledge of the ethics, regulations, and precedent for human research protections had come from weeks of late nights reading material on the Office for Human Research Protections and other websites.

After taking over I came to find that we lacked standard operating procedures, accurate or complete records of protocols, and documentation of most determinations. In addition, human research studies had been reviewed incorrectly, had expired while research continued, or had never been properly approved. Many researchers had simply stopped bothering to gain IRB approval for their studies. Our administration, although supportive and enthusiastic to learn, had limited understanding of our institutional obligations. Worst of all, our box was checked so that all of our studies were subject to federal oversight, not only those funded by federal agencies.

Attending the 2012 AER Conference was a baptism into the world of human research protections. The HRPP community was welcoming, supportive, and helpful. One of the bright spots was meeting Megan Frame, PRIM&R’s membership manager. She listened carefully while I told her about my situation, and understood my circumstances and the type of support I needed. I filled out some information and requested a mentor. At that point I would have been thrilled for any help I could get.

Just a couple of weeks after the conference, Megan had a mentor for me. Paul Reitemeier turned out to be much more than “any help” – he became one of the key factors in my ability to build the foundation of a now-thriving HRPP.

Paul Reitemeier (PR): Two years ago, Ann reached out to PRIM&R asking for a mentor and my name was suggested as someone who might be a good fit. I did not even know about the Mentoring Program, but quickly agreed when it was explained to me.

Ann and I began with a phone meeting and then connected for 90 minutes every three weeks for a year, over which time she took her institution from the dark ages (in terms of IRB operations competency) to a font of institutional knowledge, careful review, and IRB best practices in two years.

AM: Each time we spoke, Paul allowed me time to ask questions, regardless how inane. While we often laughed together at the situations I encountered (“We don’t need to get approval from the university IRB because we have a department IRB.”), he never laughed at me or my situation. Paul was considerate of my unique circumstances, and in his feedback and advice he always took the nuances of my situation into account.

In addition to answering my questions, Paul allowed me time to voice my misgivings and consistent challenges (“I need service so I will be on the IRB, but do I really have to review protocols or come to meetings?”). He listened to my frustration and, on more than one occasion, my tears.

Two-and-a-half years later we have two amazing, full-time office staff, SOPs, a qualified panel, complete and accurate records, and an educated and supportive administration, among other things.

PR: It was all due to Ann’s energy, initiative, leadership, dedication, and ability to build the right relationships in the right order. My role was to listen, encourage, make a few suggestions here and there, and to cheer her successes along the way—she did all the work.

AM: I met Paul face-to-face for the first time at the 2014 AER Conference. He was unassuming and gracious amid my gushing thanks.

PR: I knew the next best thing for her would be to get to another PRIM&R meeting, which was beyond her reach the first year. Last year, she managed to get enough support to bring four other staffers with her to the PRIM&R Conference, as well as speak on the schedule! Ann Morrison is a real success story that should be told widely and often. She is a fireball of a presenter, and now that she has become more involved with PRIM&R, I know she will be happy to come whenever she is called.

AM: While he would never take credit for his contribution, I hope Paul knows the positive impact he had on both me and my institution.

Paul and Ann, thank you for sharing your story with the PRIM&R community. You are powerful examples of the value to be found in our PRIM&R community, and the strength of the connections members and others make within it. 

PRIM&R members, interested in becoming involved? Learn more about the Mentoring Program, and consider joining as a mentor, mentee, or both. We look forward to working with you!

Questions? Email