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K-State Today

July 6, 2016

Associate vice president for research compliance sees opportunities for K-State

Submitted by Sarah Hancock


Cheryl Doerr assumed the role of associate vice president for research compliance on April 10. She's had a busy three months meeting people and completing an inventory of K-State's research facilities as well as the policies and procedures that researchers must follow. Doerr encourages researchers to contact her with questions. Here are a few questions and answers to help readers learn more about her and her role in facilitating K-State RSCAD.

What have you learned about the compliance program at K-State?

I spent the first two weeks out in the field seeing the units during the semi-annual Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee inspection, or IACUC. It couldn't have been better planned, because I was able to jump in feet first, and then proceed to a deeper analysis of everything that falls under compliance and where any potential gaps might exist. Research compliance is really strong here. All of the compliance committees operate very well.

What do you want researchers to know?

I'm here to help you be as compliant as possible so you can get your research done, not to increase your burden. My team in the University Research Compliance Office is here to support you, and if you have questions related to protocols or animal care, you should ask. We are a staff assist function. We make sure researchers meet regulations so they can do their research as safely, efficiently and equitably as possible. Also, I've had 20 or 30 interviews around campus, and I asked the same questions across the board. I'll be doing more of that, so if I haven't met with you yet, and you want to meet, email me and let's set something up. Compliance is not static, and I'm always willing to entertain questions and ideas. However, I'm not going to make rash changes to how compliance is done at K-State.

Now that you've seen the lay of the land, what are your priorities?

First, we need to have as close to flawless inspections as possible to boost our collaborative research capabilities. Oversight has changed so much, and there's no appetite for noncompliance, from either regulators or the general public. We need to continue the momentum of top-down support for a culture of safety and responsibility. We want to increase communication and convey what we're doing and why so researchers understand we're here to help. I want to make the regulations and rules easier to understand and follow. With NBAF, the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, coming, we can't afford to have incidences of noncompliance. We want to meet our 2025 goals and enhance collaborative research with DHS and USDA — the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are more likely to do collaborative research with us if we have a culture of compliance.

We're updating all of our subject area AOPs and SOPs — administrative operating procedures and standard operating procedures — so they reflect current regulations and are easier to understand, and we're hoping to automate the protocol review process more. We're also hiring an export controls compliance officer and establishing and standardizing a routine BSL-2 — Biosafety Level 2 — facility inspection program as required by NIH, or National Institutes of Health, guidelines. We'll also look at instituting an IACUC post-approval monitoring program.

A lot of people have shared unhappiness with the duplication and/or the amount of committee compliance training required across campus. I don't have a solution right now, because there are a lot of federal regulations and guidance on this, but we'll come up with improvements to our systems. Most of all, we want to make sure policies, procedures, and practices are clear so there's an easily identifiable infrastructure. I'm doing monthly meetings with different groups around the university to make sure we don't duplicate processes or create additional work.

What is the pace of change in the regulatory realm right now?

There's a lot of change in select agent research — probably weekly. Even if what we follow are guidelines, we have to constantly think about how to meet them. It's busy right now in Washington D.C. because people want changes to get made before the administration changes. They're down to the wire to get as many policy changes as possible. If changes to the Common Rule — the federal policy regarding human subjects protection — pass, a lot of changes are coming up in the next six months. Public perception also is leading to regulatory changes. So many highly publicized incidents have occurred at select agent labs, and that has led to increased regulation. There's so much misunderstanding about biological research and animal care and use.

You are filling the shoes of Jerry Jaax. What did you learn from him before he retired?

That I have huge shoes to fill is an understatement. Jerry is a celebrity in the field. I had him sign a photo of me with my husband and Willie the Wildcat! Anyone who does what we do for a living knows who he is and who Nancy is. He's calm, relaxed, thoughtful and well respected. "The Hot Zone" is what got me into the field. ("The Hot Zone" is a book by Richard Preston about the Ebola virus and an outbreak among monkeys in a research facility in Reston, Virginia, in the late 1980s; Jerry and Nancy Jaax were involved because of their work in the Army's Veterinary Corps.) In university in Canada, I was assigned the topic of health as a threat to international security for a seminar class because I was out of town at a Model United Nations at Harvard — I wanted to be a hostage negotiator. I thought it was the stupidest topic on the planet. The professor gave me "The Hot Zone," and I didn't sleep that night because I stayed up reading it, and I said, 'This is what I'm going to do with my life!' And I did.

What else should we know about you? What do you do in your spare time?

I love it here! People are nice here — they hold doors. I grew up in a small town on the west coast, and I like the atmosphere in Manhattan; it reminds me of home. I like the research the university does, and the mission of the university. I like to cook, read and sleep. I never had time to cook — or sleep, for that matter — when I lived in D.C., and I want to identify new hobbies like gardening and canning. I like to read high fantasy — "Game of Thrones"-type stuff. I also enjoy writing.

Contact Doerr at 785-532-2318 or cdoerr@k-state.edu.