UAMS Receives Full Accreditation, Area of Distinction for its Human Research Protection Program

By David Robinson

UAMS became one of the first 25 institutions in the United States to receive the accreditation in 2005 and has maintained it since then. UAMS is one of only two Arkansas institutions to hold the AAHRPP accreditation; the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System is the other.

“This accreditation demonstrates UAMS’ commitment to excellence in its research programs with the most comprehensive protections for our research participants,” said Allen Sherman, Ph.D., who chairs the UAMS the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB reviews all research to ensure the protection of the rights and welfare of the people who are participating.

The accreditation report from AAHRPP noted one “area of distinction” and four “strengths.”

According to AAHRPP, it accredits high-quality human research protection programs to promote excellent, ethically sound research. Through partnerships with research organizations, researchers, sponsors and the public, AAHRPP encourages effective, efficient, and innovative systems of protection for human research participants.

The report noted that UAMS has five IRBs and adheres to the laws, regulations, codes and guidelines required by:

  • Department of Defense (DoD)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • International Committee on Harmonization of Good Clinical Practice (ICH-GCP) (E6)(R2) guideline

UAMS’ area of distinction, the report said, was in the Office of Research Compliance:

  • The office maintained and improved upon the UAMS Research Certification program that required 28 hours of education, a passing exam, six hours of continuing education yearly, and the new Advance Certified Research Specialist track. The Office of Research Compliance maintained the New Investigator Consult and Education (NICE) program that offered small group training on Human Research Protection Program policies and procedures.

UAMS’ strengths:

  • The Translational Research Institute assisted researchers with protocol design, study start-up, external IRB navigation, protocol implementation and research coordinator efforts to bring research opportunities to rural and hard-to-reach communities.
  • IRB staff’s pre-review of IRB applications prior to review by the convened IRBs increased efficiency and decreased time spent discussing minor changes. This allowed the convened IRBs to focus on the criteria for approval and discussion of controverted issues.
  • Low turnover across all aspects of research (administration, faculty and staff) fostered commitment, stability and trust across the Human Research Protection Program. UAMS continued to invest in long-term employees with quality assurance and training resources, which fostered their knowledge and skills.
  • The IRB chair (Sherman) led all five IRBs, which provided consistent reviews and IRB determinations and promoted trust from the research community.

The reaccreditation process involves thoroughly evaluating all components of the human research protection program to ensure they meet AAHRPP’s standards, and then a site visit from AAHRPP reviewers (done remotely this year due to COVID-19). People who conduct and oversee human subject research across the institution participate in the reaccreditation application process.

“Developing a research program that meets accreditation standards requires significant time, energy, and resources,” said UAMS IRB Director Edith Paal, M.S.Journ., MPH. “Earning and maintaining AAHRPP accreditation since 2005 underscores UAMS’ commitment to high quality human subject research.”