The Institutional Review Board’s Role in Research

CHOC_IRB_ResearchBy Mellisa Henry, director of marketing, CHOC Children’s

As the marketing director at CHOC Children’s, I have a lot of different opportunities to participate in committees that may seem out of the normal marketing realm. One of the most interesting is having a seat on our Institutional Review Board (IRB) for clinical research.

Clinical research is used to determine the safety, dosing and effectiveness of medications, products and treatments used in prevention, diagnosis or treatment of various illnesses or medical conditions. It can range from immunizations to cancer to allergies and anywhere in between.

Any organization that is conducting clinical research is required by law to have its trial approved by an IRB. Organizations have the choice to hire an external IRB, or as CHOC chooses to do, structure an internal IRB. Committees must consist of members with both scientific and non-scientific expertise, and they have the duty to decide whether the proposed research is ethical, informed consent is sufficient, and that appropriate safeguards have been put in place for anyone participating in these trials.

And our responsibility weighs even heavier on my mind because we are acting on behalf of children.

As a non-clinician, I feel my responsibility is to look at the information with the eye of a mom. Do I understand what the research is trying to accomplish? Is the consent in language that allows me to understand? Do I understand what it means to the care of my child? What would my responsibility be in the process? And can I fulfill the responsibilities?

These may all seem like pretty basic questions, but the amount of information presented to a parent when their child is receiving care can be daunting. I want to ensure they can understand the information they receive without too much difficulty and make the choice that is right for their child and family.

Information gathered through clinical trials, and the advances in care that result, are incredible. I am forever in awe of the scientific minds that make these advances possible. But as a parent, it assures me to know that checks and balances are established through an IRB.

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