New accreditation a 'gold standard' for UNMC

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | October 10, 2013

Image with caption: Ernest Prentice, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for academic affairs

Ernest Prentice, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for academic affairs

Score another first for UNMC.

As a result of a lengthy and painstaking effort by the UNMC Office of Regulatory Affairs, Institutional Review Board and others, UNMC is the first academic institution to receive Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) accreditation by Alion Science and Technology HRPP Accreditation Services. The HRPP includes all human subject research conducted at UNMC, The Nebraska Medical Center, UNO, Children's Hospital & Medical Center, and the Bellevue Medical Center.

The accreditation means that UNMC is recognized as running effective and compliant human research protection programs involving more than 2,000 active protocols, said Ernest Prentice, Ph. D., associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Reaching a long-term goal

The compliance office actually started the legwork for accreditation nearly a decade ago -- before Alion was even in existence.

"We had many conversations with them, and we thought they would be the best fit for our HRPP," Dr. Prentice said. "Once we made the decision to go with Alion, we made a commitment to submit our application as soon as possible."

The application process was lengthy and involved - Alion needed UNMC's policies, procedures, forms, IRB applications and a database printout of all studies even before the site visit. But the result is worthwhile.

"When you have HRPP accreditation, it represents the gold standard," Dr. Prentice said.

Dr. Prentice said the Alion accreditation was an achievement not merely for the regulatory office, but for the entire institution.

"Under the visionary leadership and profound influence of our chancellor, we have a culture of compliance and conscience here at UNMC. This has been fully supported by the senior administration at all levels," Dr. Prentice said.

"Consequently, this is a good place to do research, where investigators are conscientious and good people."

Although he says it's too soon to tell what opportunities the accreditation might present to the university, Dr. Prentice said it could make a difference in defense research opportunities.

"I think it simply demonstrates -- to the public, to the government -- that you have an accredited HRPP," he said. "That's important, just like JCAHO is important to demonstrate a hospital's compliance with national standards."

After preparation that literally spanned years, Dr. Prentice and the IRB staff hosted Alion's site visit over three days in April. More than 50 people were interviewed, including investigators, research coordinators, IRB members, administrators and others.

The result? Not only was UNMC fully accredited - a testament to the hard work of IRB Executive Chairman Bruce Gordon, M.D., IRB members, and IRB staff - but Alion also asked permission to refer other institutions seeking HRPP accreditation to UNMC to learn about our experience with the accreditation process.

"They're holding us up as a model," said Dr. Prentice, who stressed that the accreditation was also due to the superlative investigators at UNMC.

"We have a tremendous program," he said. "We have such good investigators."

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Lisa Houdesheldt
October 10, 2013 at 7:09 AM

Congratulations! This is a great accomplishment following some very hard work to achieve HRPP accreditation!