This Is Why We Do What We Do!

The Henry Spira Memorial Lecture, keynote addresses and various panels at the PRIM&R’s 2018 IACUC Conference (IACUC18) were all exceptionally memorable and thought-provoking.  It’s always amazing to me how much information can be crammed into two days—given my word limit for this blog post, the wonderful sessions on therioepistemology, ethics in animal research, and regulatory burden are being given merely a mention, but I want to thank all the panelists and presenters from the conference for sharing their knowledge!

Wednesday morning’s keynote address by Alison Rockett Frase and Dr. Martin (Casey) K. Childers really should have come with a Kleenex alert! Those of us in attendance all know that research with animals can lead to major advances in treatment for a variety of health issues. Hearing Ms. Frase’s firsthand account of her son’s battle with a rare neuromuscular disorder and Dr. Childer’s follow-up description of their search for a treatment or cure for centronuclear and myotubular myopathies was truly inspiring. If you’ve not yet seen the video about their journey please stop what you are doing, close your office door, grab a hankie and watch their video. I dare say there were very few dry eyes in the room at the end of their presentation at IACUC18, and there was a communal feeling of wanting to shout: “Yes, Yes, Yes! This is why we do what we do!”

On a related note, I think this message of “why we do what we do” is one reason the topic of the final panel of the conference, “The Research Community’s Roles and Responsibilities in Outreach and Advocacy: How Can the IACUC Contribute to Public Understanding?” is a topic that deserves more attention. I began my career by coordinating the 100-level Physiology course at my institution and around the same time I started training and showing dogs in  competitions. In post-competition dinner discussions, I realized that there was an astounding disconnect between public perception about animal research and what really occurs. Thirty years later, I often still think we are tilting at windmills trying to educate others about what we do, the fact that we do it with great consideration and compassion, and the reason why it matters for the well-being of both humans and animals.

There is no denying the fact that many animal rights groups use a huge portion of their budget on media. So, although not all research institutions or businesses are going to be on board with drawing attention to themselves by creating public relations campaigns, it’s important to consider where we can be part of the conversation, sharing stories like the one from the keynote presentation to illustrate why what we do is important and creating more transparency. And, whether or not larger institutions are willing to share more about animal research, we as individuals can always point friends, family members, and neighbors to campaigns and sites trying to raise awareness and bridge that gap (like  

Katherine Branson, CPIA, has been involved in research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for over 30 years. After graduation, she started coordinating the 100-level Physiology labs to give herself some time to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up. That job led to lab manager positions in a variety of research labs across campus where she worked with a multitude of species. A chance meeting with a secretary in the clearance aisle at Walmart (true story) led to Ms. Branson applying for a position in the newly-created University of Illinois IACUC office. PRIM&R meetings helped her develop and define the procedures and policies for the UIUC IACUC and separate them from those of the Division of Animal Resources. After thirteen plus years as an IACUC Administrator, she still finds PRIM&R webinars and meetings invaluable for networking and learning about her ever-changing role in the world of research compliance. Ms. Branson’s years as a lab manager/lab technician also provide her insight for her current role of IACUC Specialist. She now spends less time pondering what she wants to be when she grows up… somehow she lucked into doing exactly what she loves. 

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 (attendees received the link to the proceedings for free). 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.