Category: Uncategorized

Exploring Curiosity With A Guideline

A couple weeks ago, in class we had a discussion about the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and its role in research. For a second I was like, where have I heard this acronym before, and then it clicked. Part of my major requirement is to take Psychology 452: Advanced Research Method, a senior seminar, which basically consists of learning how to conduct your own research, with real subjects, data, and analysis. Since we are using students in our research, we had to get our experiment approved by the IRB. The IRB is basically a “constituted group that has been formally designated to review and monitor biomedical research involving human subjects.” The IRB has the authority to approve, require modifications in, or disapprove research. Ultimately, it serves to protect the rights and welfare of the research subjects.

Professional codes of conduct and individual conscience predominately controlled research ethics prior to the twentieth century. Human involvement in scientific experimentation has been frequently raised as an ethical issue, which helped to advance the production of conduct codes and government regulations against unethical behavior. Researchers have considered notions such as informed consent and risk versus benefit, but the codes they have implemented are not yet popularized, and the ones that are have broad definitions of the ethical guidelines.

Therefore, the need for an organization to enforce strict guidelines in order for the research to be considered both ethical and beneficial has been created: the IRB. Unfortunately, even with regulation there have been several cases where humans were mistreated in the name of science. For example, Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington, explains in great detail of the mistreatment black Americans went through from the era of slavery to the present day. For instance, in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in 1932, the PHS physicians actively injected the black American subjects with syphilis in order to study the symptoms and in hope to find the cure (pg. 178). Researchers were deliberately harming if not killing black syphilitics in order to test a theory of treatments (pg. 181).

There were many similar cases where black Americans were used in research without consent. Thus, towards the end of the book, Washington gives her opinion on the Institutional Review Board and how she believes it has failed to live up to its position. She states that the IRB “failed to preform their role of protecting the public, and African Americans in particular” (pg. 401). Some of her reasons were that the IRB staff were “inadequately trained,” primarily scientists, and “subject to conflicts of interest” (pg. 401). She insists that each IRB include a medical ethicist and a medical historian, ban any exceptions to informed consent, and for researchers to receive training in ethical and practical conduct in biomedical research.

During class we looked over the FDA webpage and at their most updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the IRB. While doing this, I have noticed that there were some facts that made me wonder about how progressive our country really is in regards to this issue. The United States has progressed in so many ways, yet it could be possible that some aspects of our system may keep us from advancing and need to be corrected. For example, the expedited review in FAQ #20 mentioned, “certain kinds of research may be reviewed and approved without convening a meeting of the IRB.” Also that the IRB regulation “permit, but do not require, an IRB to review certain categories of research through an expedited procedure if the research involves no more than minimal risk.” The problem with these statements is that it allows for exceptions. No research project should be an exception to the rules and regulation that serves to protect the rights and welfare of humans. Every research project should go through a routine check with the IRB to make sure there are no risks at all. Another example is FAQ #45, which discusses when it is necessary to mention any changes in the study to the subjects. According to the protocols the subjects will only be informed of the change if “it might relate to the subjects’ willingness to continue their participation of the study.” The problem with this statement is that it allows for the researcher to make the judgment call of whether the subject should be informed or not. The researcher might be biased in not telling the subject at all because it might affect the outcome of their overall study.

Although there were certain aspects of the FAQ that makes us question the most updated IRB intensions, we must remind ourselves that the website is only there to be used as a guidance, not their final constitution or protocol. If we were to see any faults in the information sheet, such as ambiguous statements, all we can do is further our research to better understand and hope that rights and welfare of the people are protected.

In my opinion from where we started as a nation with regards to research for new medical accomplishments, we have progressed in our techniques of approaching and exploring our curiosity. In relation to my own experience with the IRB, in my PSYC 452 class, there are a few qualities that I have noticed that make me feel confident with the IRB. Prior to even being able to conduct the study, my professor had us do a training course online for the National Institute of Health (NIH), since the Geneseo IRB board requires this for all research involving human subjects. The course is designed to provide the minimum level of knowledge that we are supposed to know prior to conducting a study that involves human subjects, in order to understand what is ethically correct in terms of protecting the rights and welfare of subjects in research.

In summary, I believe it is important to increase our knowledge about the human wellness and the best way to do that is through research. A guideline like the IRB prevents researchers from crossing a line that could do more harm than good.

Superorganism: Microbes or Humans

“Whose house is this? /Whose night keeps out the light in here?/ Say, who owns this house?/ It’s not mine./ I dreamed another, sweeter, brighter/ with a view of lakes crossed in painted boats;/ of fields wide as arms open for me. /This house is strange. Its shadows lie. Say, tell me, why does its lock fit my key? – Toni Morrison, Home. 

The human microbiome contains vast number of micro organisms residing in our bodies in complex relationships. According to Sherwood & Woolverton (2013), the human microbiome refers specifically to the collective genomes of resident microorganisms. These relationships can take the form of symbiosis including commensalism, mutualism or even parasitism. Commensals are organisms which reside in a host body not causing harm but not adding benefit either. Rather, these organisms do all the benefiting. Mutualists organisms give us benefits while also receiving benefits. The parasitic ones are the most dangerous capable of threatening our very lives much like a brain eating Amoeba. Yikes! However, if like Michael Pollan, New York times asserts that we are made up of 10 percent human,  then the 90% of the organisms within us are the majority. We never gave our consent to these millions of microorganisms living with us yet we need some of them. The questions in the opening passage of “Home” resounds clearly in my mind, “whose house is this? Whose night keeps out the light in here?/say who owns this house”.  Even as Philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle have likened our bodies to be temporary houses that we shed as we pass away from this life, our bodies are important to us! These numbers of organisms that cohabit in our house, some paying rent like e coli that helps to break down and digest the food we eat. Some that live in the attic quiet like the commensal flora and fauna that feed on dead skin cells. While others weaken our body in a bid to become master of the house like protozoans.  Say who owns this house?

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Who Would Survive a Zombie Apocalypse?

Though I’d like to (and I will) get into the actual content of the book, Zone One by Colson Whitehead soon (seriously, I’m really liking it so far),  I’d like to briefly discuss something that caught my eye in the first few pages of the novel.

“He was their typical, he was their most, he was their average.” “He staked out the B or the B chose him: it was his native land, and in high school and college he did not stray over the county line…” “… He was not made team captain, nor was he the last one picked. He sidestepped detention and honor rolls with equal aplomb.” “His aptitude lay in the well-execute muddle, never shining, never flunking…” (Page 11)

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The Challenger Shuttle Disaster

Hey so I, and maybe some of you guys too, did not know much about the Challenger explosion that Dr. McCoy talked about on Friday. So I figured I may as well get a blog post out of it and learn a bit at the same time. In 1986 the NASA space shuttle program was still growing strong, long past the space race and the moon landing. Instead of the Apollo spacecrafts though, NASA had shifted to using space shuttles. The Challenger spacecraft itself had gone on nine missions ahead of its last on January 28, 1986. When it blasted off it was only in the air for 73 seconds before it exploded (History.com Staff).

 

Like Dr. McCoy said, everyone on board was killed including the teacher Christa McAuliffe. What’s actually super interesting is that she was going to teach lessons to kids all around the country from space (History.com Staff). Losing a family member who is an astronaut is hard. Losing anyone is hard, in any way. But I cannot imagine being a family member of Christa McAuliffe’s family after that explosion. It makes my heart hurt thinking about it. I always liked the idea of the space race, and space travel growing up. Seeking to learn more by leaving Earth is such a beautiful dream. Learning it all was about trying to be be better than the Soviet Union put a bit of a damper on that thought, but none the less it’s still beautiful for those who dream.

 

NASA ended up learning that the explosion was caused by the freezing of two O-rings that were designed to keep sections of the rocket booster separated. They had frozen because of the cold weather in the days leading up, and the day of, the launch. Engineers actually wanted to delay the launch so they could check to make sure there wouldn’t be any failure, but they were denied by superiors. President Reagan reacted like a president should, he appointed a special commission to investigate what went wrong and prevent future catastrophes from happening (History.com Staff).  

 

My first thought when Dr. McCoy explained this tragedy to me was to compare it to 9/11. They’re both an event that is visually and emotionally etched forever in the minds of those who witnessed it, whether in person or on TV. A landmark tragedy in the eyes of America that unfortunately will survive forever.

 

Works Cited:

History.com Staff. “Challenger Disaster.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/challenger-disaster.

 

The definition of consent and what we mean by consent tends to be manipulated or misinterpreted. According to dictionary.com, consent is “to permit, approve, or agree; comply or yield.” Unfortunately what some may fail to understand is that you have the right to say no after having said yes or given consent. In Clay’s Ark by Butler, the idea of consent is often abandoned and manipulated by the disease. An example of this is with the sexual interactions between Eli and Meda. Read more

The Path to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

**Fair warning- I wrote this post on 10/05/2017 and forgot to publish it. So please keep in mind that this blog post was written prior to Professor Muench and Professor Kennison’s visit**

This blog post is a response to my classmate Rachel Katz blog post “Our “Good” Deed“. In her blog post she discusses “medical voluntourism” and our classes reaction to the idea of individuals going to third world countries and medically assisting natives without any prior medical experience with the intention of wanting to put it on a resume or college application. One of the parts of Rachel’s blog post was her line “In class we used words like “them”, that how weird it is that “they” would do something so wild without thinking of the repercussions”. Well I am here to put myself in a vulnerable position and speak of my experience as a previous member of this “they” and “them”.  Read more

Self Birth: Disorganisation

Sometimes in the recesses of our soul we wish to feel new again. Sometimes, in the dark matter of our minds, we wonder what we could be if we were someone else. In the subcutaneous layer of our skin, the pulsing vibrations of our excitement at the possibilities energises our lifeblood giving us a rush of some sorts. We could be day dreaming or we could be in the gestation period of our self-birth.

The origin of life is a controversial topic in the science world with multiple theories laced with loopholes. Many of which are quite difficult to answer presently. However, researchers over the years have proposed and modified multiple types of theories to explain how the first life came about. Many of these theories can not specifically explain how life started without help from an external influence. However, chemical evolution is a leading theory with the Oparin-Haldin  hypothesis suggesting that life arose gradually from inorganic molecules, with “building blocks” like amino acids forming first and then combining to make complex polymers. While, other scientists support the RNA World Hypothesis which suggests that the first life was self-replicating RNA. Others favour the Metabolism- First hypothesis placing metabolic networks before DNA or RNA. How can the wonder of birth and how living things came about not cause such a frenzy? https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/history-of-life-on-earth/history-life-on-earth/a/hypotheses-about-the-origins-of-life Read more

Not Everyone Can Be Martin Luther King Jr

A few years ago, during my freshman year in the African American literature course, Beth was showing a video and before she showed the video implored us as people not to take what was shown in the video and use them to harm someone else. I think her exact words were “ People show remarkable ingenuity in finding ways to hurt one another.” Those words struck me right in the gut, because they rang true. The scale of human destruction & ability to cause others pain always seems to be expanding. It seems inevitable. Read more

Harold Washington and Being “Too Fair”

Something that really stood out to me in the podcast we listened to on Friday was the phrase “too fair.” It’s something I’ve been thinking about the past six days because how can anything or anyone be too fair. Too fair is what we should aim for, or least should be the goal on the horizon.  

I really liked how the people on the podcast kind of explained being “too fair.” To them Harold Washington was too fair as the mayor because, as the first African-American mayor of Chicago, he didn’t use his power baisley like literally all mayors beforehand did. Instead of giving projects to workers in the African-American community simply because he was apart of his community, he would give jobs to those he saw best fit for them. To me it’s funny that people get angry over situations like that because it’s what we’re, or at least I was, taught in school. The person who does the best should get the job. People’s bias amazes me that way, the fact people decide things based on anything other than that fact.  

I wish I had learned about Harold Washington before college. I feel like he should be someone we learn about in high school because for one I had no idea Chicago didn’t have an African-American mayor until the 80’s. The first time they mentioned that it really blew my mind. Thinking about it now after the fact it makes total sense. Seeing as how the civil rights movement took place through the 60’s, and change happens so goddamn slow in this country, that unfortunately it really makes sense that Chicago did not have an African-American mayor till the 80’s. And I hate that it makes sense to me, my least favorite thing about this country is the underlying racism that is always present and always has been present.  

Honestly, I think if I had learned about Harold Washington he would have been one of my hero’s. The more I learn about him the more he stands out and this is why admire him so much. In the simplest of terms he didn’t take any bullshit and really did what was right. He was “too fair” and was ridiculed for it but stuck to his guns anyway.  We could use more Harold Washington’s in the world, it’s men like him that inspire me to be better and be “too fair.”