Article: You Don’t Have to Go it Alone: Take the Leap and Consider Certification

Lisa LotwinLisa Segev Lotwin, BA, CIP
IRB Analyst, Human Research Protections Office
University of Maryland, Baltimore

Q: How did you become involved with HRPP/IRB work?
I was first exposed to the IRB as an organizational entity when I was working in a clinical research lab in New York City after college. This particular lab relied more heavily on animal models, than it did human tissues, to investigate its research questions. However, the concept of having to submit an application to the IRB when human samples were being used was fascinating to me, and I soon became curious about the IRB review process and the federal mandate to protect human research participants. Fast-forward a couple of years, it was suggested to me that I apply for an IRB administrator position at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY. At that point, I still did not have any direct IRB work experience, but the more I learned about the field, the more interested I became. Yet, it wasn’t meant to be at that time—and I wasn’t selected for the job. But in a fortuitous turn of events, nearly a year later, I received an out-of-the-blue email from the then (now retired) Einstein IRB manager informing me of the same job opening and asking whether I was still interested in the position. Needless to say, I was still very much interested—and that is how I got my first position in the IRB field. 

Q: At what point did you realize that you wanted to advance in the field?
Working at the Einstein IRB for two years (my family relocated to Maryland thereafter) was truly a formative and fulfilling professional experience for me. In my role as IRB administrator, I was lucky to have been trained by two CIPs who supported my professional growth and offered me continual access to educational opportunities, including an introduction to PRIM&R programs and conferences. My desire to advance in the IRB field came as a natural by-product of my daily multi-faceted and intellectually-satisfying work experience. Most importantly, in conducting administrative audits of human research protocols receiving all levels of review, and guiding research study teams through the IRB process, I felt that my eye for detail, analytical, and communication skills were being valued and utilized for a lofty purpose. Thus, the thought of embarking on an IRB career path was very appealing, and the opportunity to become a certified professional in the field was empowering.

Q: How did you learn of the CIP® credential?
A: I learned of the CIP credential through my two supervisors at the Einstein IRB who were committed to human subject protections and were CIPs themselves before it was common to see the CIP credential after one’s name. I also attended PRIM&R programs, where information about the CIP credentialing process and the benefits of the CIP credential were discussed.

Q: Why did you become certified?
A: In my case, after working as an IRB administrator for two years, I took a break before returning to the IRB world. In order to build upon my previously-gained knowledge and advance my formerly-cultivated skills, I decided to prepare for the CIP exam, and I became certified in the fall of 2013. 

Q: What piece of advice do you wish to pass along to others who are contemplating certification?
A: I would encourage them to take the leap and prepare for the CIP exam! You do not have to go it alone. Take advantage of the professional and educational resources that PRIM&R offers. I am personally indebted to PRIM&R for supporting me on the path to becoming certified. Through the PRIM&R Mentoring Program, I was successfully matched with Ilene Wilets, PhD, CIP, who eased my insecurities with sound and seasoned advice, helped me to formulate a manageable study plan, and guided me along the way.

Q: What do you think is the biggest benefit of becoming CIP certified?
A: The biggest benefit of the CIP credential is that it validates the knowledge, experience, skills, and qualifications of those of us who work in human subject protections. Establishing standards for certification recognizes the people who work in the IRB field as professionals who are pursuing a legitimate career path. Becoming CIP-certified provided me with a strong sense of community and a voice among like-minded professionals, who are dedicated to protecting human research participants, to promoting the ethical conduct of research, and to propelling change as human research and institutional review boards evolve.