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Training day: Recognize cultural differences
Effort includes 'one-on-one' training
Patricia MacCubbin, MS, executive director of research conduct and special advisor to the vice chancellor for research at the City University of New York (CUNY) in New York City offers some suggestions for educating researchers and IRB members in a large, diverse organization.
IRB Advisor: What are some of your strategies for training investigators at CUNY?
MacCubbin: Each of our campuses has a unique identity, and even though they are part of the university, they also feel independent. So it's a unique culture to deal with, and we have cultural issues: we go from one of the poorest, high-minority colleges to upper-level colleges with affluent students. We run the gamut from community schools to graduate schools.
So our IRB world also is interesting because some of the community colleges have very little research, maybe 10 to 30 projects a year, and the senior colleges could have 400 to 500 projects they're dealing with per year.
If an IRB doesn't have the opportunity to do a lot of reviews, it's a little more difficult for them to be up to snuff. We have to make sure they can be on top of everything and know particular pieces of their regulations. We use a multifaceted approach. One approach is to require everyone who does research and all IRB members or staff to take Web-based CITI [Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative] training modules.
Then the IRBs go out and do one-on-one training with people on their campuses, or they go into classrooms of certain disciplines that seem to have more interest or problems and they relay information to those particular disciplines.
IRB Advisor: What are your other training strategies?
MacCubbin: Some campuses have an open house where investigators can come in and talk with the IRB about problems they're having.
Also, each year I put on a one-day training session in the fall for IRB members and staff. It's styled like the PRIM&R [Public Responsibility In Medicine & Research] conference, but is much smaller. We have 225 IRB members and staff across all five boroughs of New York City, and the conference had almost 150 people attend it. It was open to other New York City institutions, and we had about 30 people attend from around the city.
We also have three sets of meetings: one is for our IRB administrators, and we talk about issues they have. And then we have a set of meetings for IRB chairs. Our 21st IRB is an oversight IRB, which is comprised of all of the chairs of the IRBs in one capacity or another. I call these people together on a fairly regular basis, and we talk about things the IRB chairs can pass on to their members.
The third piece is our IRB manager's user group. We're implementing a software program for electronic tracking, and we have user group meetings to discuss problems we find so we can get standardized across campuses.
We start analyzing it, talk with the vendor, and get problems fixed. When we see some systematic problems and realize we haven't trained people right, we call the vendor in to do more training.