Article: Preparing for the CPIA Credential

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Discussion with Susan Kallay, BS, LATg, CPIA

Recently PRIM&R staff had the pleasure of speaking with Susan Kallay about her experience preparing for and earning her CPIA credential. Susan is a post approval monitoring administrator in the Center for Comparative Medicine at Northwestern University. In this position she reviews approved animal protocols and visits labs to ensure that the research is conducted in accordance with the approved protocol. Susan used to be a veterinarian technician, has a Bachelors degree in Biology and is pursuing her Masters in Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs.

PRIM&R Staff (PS): Thank you for responding to our invitation to chat. Tell me how long have you worked in the field of IACUC administration?
Susan Kallay (SK): I have worked in the field of animal care and use for about 12 years.

PS: When did you take the CPIA exam?
SK: October 2008.

PS: Why did you decide to take it?
SK: Well, it might sound trite, but I love my job, and I am always looking for ways to improve my skill set.

PS: Was the institution supportive of your desire to take the CPIA exam?
SK: Extremely. This institution is very supportive of any activities related to professional development. My supervisor, who has her CPIA, would even ask me if I needed time to study on occasion.

PS: Did you think that having your CPIA would help you to advance in your job?
SK: Not necessarily. At least not directly. I knew it would help me gain deeper knowledge of the regulations, and I was curious to learn what the exam and credential were all about. I am also always interested in learning how to be more effective in my job.

PS: How did you first hear about the CPIA program?
SK: Well, as I mentioned, my supervisor has her CPIA. I heard about it from her, and from the PRIM&R website and word of mouth.

PS: Did you take the exam on your initiative, or did your employer ask you to take it?
SK: It was my idea. No one asked me to take the CPIA exam.

PS: How has your institution responded to your having earned the CPIA credential? Have you been rewarded in any way for having passed the exam and earned your CPIA?
SK: Not directly. There is financial benefit associated with earning AAALAS certification, but not yet for passing the CPIA exam. I think the program is still too new. I have found that often one’s work is pretty much what one makes of it. The CPIA credential is another tool that will allow me to do my job better. I can rely on the knowledge that I have gained in studying for the exam in my day-to-day work responsibilities.

PS: Do you think your institution might begin to recruit and favor new employees with the CPIA credential?
SK: Yes, I could see that happening within this department. The CPIA credential demonstrates a degree of professionalism and knowledge that would be very useful for this work.

PS: Now I would like to ask you a couple of questions about how you prepared for the test. How long before the test did you start studying?
SK: I started studying about two and a half months before the test date. My preference is to study alone. I like do learn in my own way. I read all of the materials several times. All of the information that you need is in the materials. You just need to take the time to absorb it all. I suppose that if you do know someone else who is preparing for the exam, and you are the kind of person who likes to study that way, forming a study group could be helpful. I am also in school for my masters, so I would grab whatever time I could find to read and reread the materials. 

PS: What materials did you use to study?
SK: I think the most important and useful resource was the ARENA/OLAW IACUC Guidebook.

PS: How did you decide which content areas to focus on?
SK: The CPIA handbook was helpful in terms of helping me to focus on topic areas, and for providing sample questions. I tried to study everything. In my current position, I would not confront issues related to VA or DOD regulations, but I am glad that I have that knowledge now as a result of studying that material in preparation for the CPIA Exam.

PS: About the exam itself, do you think it was a fair test the covered the right content areas for an IACUC professional?
SK: In retrospect, I think it was fair. A do think that a couple of questions were too picky. I think Matthew Taylor mentioned this point in your interview with him last month. I agree with him that it is not important to know precise dates or the names and numbers of various statutes and regulations. But, generally, I found the test to cover all of the appropriate topics.

PS: Would you encourage your colleagues to take the test?
SK: Absolutely

PS: What advice would you give to people who are thinking about taking the exam?
SK: I would say, “Don’t be afraid! Take the test. You have nothing to lose. You’ll be amazed at how much you already know, and it is a positive learning experience.” I would also advise people to give themselves plenty of time to study. They will not be successful it they try to cram all that learning into the two weeks before the exam.

PRIM&R thanks you, Susan, for taking the time to speak with us!