University’s Human Research Protection Office receives national award

Washington University’s Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) has received an award from the Health Improvement Institute recognizing its Community Engaged Research Program.

HRPO received an Annual Award in the best practice category. The award was one of three Annual Awards the institute gave for 2010. HRPO has received seven Awards of Excellence from the institute over the past several years. Awards are given for excellence in promoting the well-being of people who participate in research.

About 18 months ago, HRPO developed its Community Engaged Research Program to meet the needs of WUSTL researchers involved in research collaborations or affiliations with community-based organizations and to ensure regulatory compliance for both parties, says Martha Jones, executive director of HRPO. As part of the program, the university can serve as the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the community partners that do not have their own IRB.


“Researchers who try to engage community partners tell us that a common problem they run into is seeing the IRB as a huge barrier,” Jones says. “Community partners aren’t used to dealing with that and they get overwhelmed by having to bring the work under the regulatory review process. So we set up a program that guides them through the process very specifically.”

HRPO set up a web site for Washington University researchers and their community partners that streamlines the IRB process by giving both an overview of the process as well as step-by-step instructions with checklists and a manual.

In addition, Sarah Fowler-Dixon, PhD, education specialist, serves as the HRPO point person for both the researchers and the community partners.

“As more community engaged research is done at the university, we plan to expand our resources to facilitate that research,” Fowler-Dixon says.

The Baltimore, Md.-based Health Improvement Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality and productivity of America’s health care.