Research accreditation ensures participant’s safety

Info Graphic

The 59th Medical Wing was awarded full reaccreditation by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs in September 2020. First accredited in 2017. (Air Force info graphic by Airman 1st Class Melody Bordeaux)


The 59th Medical Wing Human Research Protection Program was reaccredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs in September 2020.

The accreditation is a reflection of excellence in human research studies through policies, procedures, and practices.

The reaccreditation with zero readjustments after review, is a testament to the importance the organization continuously places on the protection of its human research participants and the research quality carried out by the institution. It demonstrates to participants, researchers, funders, and other partners the 59th MDW’s commitment to ensuring the highest ethical standards in the conduct of research.

“Outside of the [Department of Defense] a large percentage of medical colleges are AAHRPP accredited and a lot of medical centers,” said Jessica Mercado, clinical research facilitator. “It’s not just limited to the [United States], there are also other organizations throughout the world that are accredited. This makes it desirable for collaborative research between the DoD and other institutions.”

During the rigorous accreditation process, the 59th MDW developed extensive participant safeguards and added them into every level of research operation, adhering to the highest standards for research.

Starting the reaccreditation process in 2019, the HRPP working group developed a full comprehensive program of operating instructions.

“Operating instructions cover telling researchers how to write their protocols, what the laws and rules are for protecting human subjects, to how we actually do our administrative processes, and all the way through completing their research,” said Col. Carol Walters, Clinical Investigations and Research Support director. “We also do audits, and what we call, post-approval monitoring, which is to do quality control and make sure that research is in compliance.”

This encompassing program matches AAHRPP’s standards, which exceeds federal regulations and requires researchers to address conflict of interest, to provide community outreach and education and to apply consistent stringent protections to all research involving human participants.

“We couldn’t have done it without leadership support,” said Shelley Tavish, nurse research coordinator. “It shows as an organization the commitment we have in ethical research here.”

Along with changes to policies and operating instructions, the group revised templates and protocols used for human research studies and focused on educating and training the wing, investigators, and research teams.

“To ensure compliance with human subject protections, the institutional review board oversees volunteering is allowed with given consent, while still considering the risk and potential benefits, and equitable distribution of selected persons participating,” Dr. Earl Grant, quality and education director.

With the revisions came additional checks and balances built into policies to protect and care for participants while adhering to new national laws for human research.

With AAHRPP accreditation possible in the DoD, the 59th MDW has paved the way for other organizations to gain accreditation, including assisting Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in becoming the second accredited DoD institution.

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