Varying Perspectives, Singular Focus

Though I have now returned home from New Orleans, I have brought both the great connections and the great experiences with me. Over the course of the 2017 IACUC Conference  (IACUC17), I was fortunate enough to meet intelligent IACUC professionals from a variety of organizations, both large and small. In particular, conversing with experienced people from large institutions really provided me with some context. For example, when I explained that Morehead State University (MSU) has about 30 active animal protocols (most of which are teaching), some people would widen their eyes and reply, “Wow! I processed 30 last week!” What seemed fairly significant to me was clearly minor to others; thus, it truly is all about one’s perspective. So, while the backgrounds and perspectives of IACUC17 attendees were widely varied, that variety is clearly an asset to those coming to learn about IACUC administration.

In contrast to the multiple perspectives offered at IACUC17, I discerned a singular theme that seemed to undergird nearly every session I attended: the focus on ways to reduce administrative burden in our respective animal care and use programs. This began with my first session, IACUC Challenges for Small Organizations. Led by Michelle Aparicio, BS, CPIA, Doreen H. Bartlett, BS, AA, RVT, LATG, Carol Clarke, DVM, DACLAM, and Shannon Reynolds, CPIA, RLAT, the session provided an overview not only of necessary regulatory requirements and administrative structures for an IACUC program, but also specifics aimed at streamlining processes. For example, Ms. Bartlett explained how Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare guidance provides latitude for the use of telecommunications for IACUC meetings (something I wasn’t aware of). With our small IACUC at our small institution, it is often difficult to get full attendance every meeting. I’m hoping telecommunications can offer some convenience for our dedicated committee.

Later in the session, the faculty reviewed scenarios in which using veterinary verification and consultation can be appropriate when certain changes are made to a protocol. While my institution has already been doing this, it was beneficial to review specific situations where it would be useful, and times when other mechanisms would be more appropriate. Our conversation in this session prompted me to review our institutional policies and procedures to ensure we are talking full advantage of these options.

In IACUC Administration for New IACUC Administrators/Coordinators, Sandra L. Jensen, MS, RLATG, CPIA, Natalie L. Mays, BA, LATG, CPIA, and Trina M. Smith, BS, MS, CPIA provided some great suggestions on streamlining internal administrative processes such as protocol lifecycle tracking and principal investigator communications. One simple but wonderful suggestion was to establish a singular email address for all IACUC inquiries. Currently, an assistant and I receive all correspondence in our separate inboxes, but often times I will get an email she needs, and vice versa. Further discussion among workshop attendees brought forth other solutions, such as a shared drive for files and the use of Blackboard as a central repository for IACUC-related documents.

I feel fortunate to have been able to attend IACUC17. The diverse array of perspectives at IACUC17 pushed me out of my smaller institution comfort zone and allowed me to see the full spectrum of issues (and potential solutions) facing IACUC administrators across the country. Better still, the common thread of administrative burden ties us all together, and the conference provided several ideas, solutions and processes I’ve already taken back to MSU. Best of all, the connections I’ve made with colleagues provides me with some lifelines to reach out to when I invariably have questions or need help.

Scott Niles, PhD, CRA, is the Director of Research Integrity and Compliance at Morehead State University (MSU) in Morehead, KY. Dr. Niles has more than 12 years’ experience as a grant writer and research administrator. In his current role as compliance director, Dr. Niles oversees the daily and long-range compliance management of grants and contracts, including sub-award negotiation, sub-recipient monitoring and the Responsible Conduct of Research. As MSU’s Institutional Official, he also directs the IACUC, the IRB, and the Intellectual Property Committee.