Bioethics Blogs

A research ethics pilgrimage: My experience at the 2013 AER Conference

by Patrick Okonta, MD, FWACS, FMCOG, MPH, research ethics committee chair and senior lecturer in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Delta State University Teaching Hospital

I attended PRIM&R’s Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference this past November for the first time. I was one of ten attendees who were fortunate to receive international an scholarships from PRIM&R to attend the meeting, which took place in Boston from November 7-9, 2013.

During my training in research ethics at the University of Pretoria under the South African Research Ethics Training Initiative (SARETI), a National Institutes of Health-funded project to increase capacity for research ethics in Africa, I had heard about the AER Conference as being a kind of “mecca” for ethicists. I anxiously looked forward to the year that I would have an opportunity to embark on a pilgrimage to the conference. My opportunity came in 2013 when I received one of PRIM&R’s Global Research Scholarships, and the reality more than exceeded my expectations. I learned about ethical challenges in groundbreaking research being conducted in  developed countries, as well as resource-scarce settings. I also had the opportunity to make new friends and share ideas.

As a scholarship recipient, I was invited to participate in a site visit to Partners HealthCare and Boston Children’s Hospital the day before the conference began. Our hosts, PRIM&R Board Members P. Pearl O’Rourke, MD, and Susan Z. Kornetsky, MPH, gave us a warm welcome. During our time at Partners, we observed the deliberations of a preparatory IRB meeting, which made me appreciate the amount of work that occurs before a full board meeting.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.