An ominous meeting
Yesterday after my post I got a phone call (not a text) from surgeon-PI. We discussed his role in my dissertation and the funding we were awarded for my project. There have been some lingering questions about the involvement of the hospital and whether it will be necessary to have a second IRB agreement for my degree. Who knew my decision to take the job at the hospital would make life so difficult?
Since I haven’t talked about him in some time, let’s run through who sergeon-PI is and why he’s a part of this story. Because I apparently enjoy making my life as difficult as possible, I currently have not one, not two, but three PI’s who are involved in my degree. I’ve taken to calling them school-PI, hospital-PI, and surgeon-PI. School and hospital PI get talked about a lot because school-PI as the name implies is the person I deal with for my degree and hospital-PI is the PI of the lab I work in at the hospital (so handy!), surgeon-PI is a recent addition (relatively speaking).
When I wrote the proposal for funding that we were awarded we needed someone who wasn’t working at the university. That someone just happened to be surgeon-PI! He came to the hospital mid-last year I believe (time is not real anymore, let’s be honest) and since he hasn’t formed too many connections it was a perfect match. He is a fan of brain-machine interface work and is a neurosurgeon who specializes in the spinal cord, so again a great fit for what I want to be doing. After some discussion he agreed to be part of the project and the rest is history (the award post).
Since then, I’ve obtained the IRB approval from the university to do the research and as of yesterday I’ve emailed my committee to schedule my proposal defense. School-PI is now supporting my choice to go as fast as possible into data collection and with any luck I’ll do my defense in 3-4 weeks and we’ll be on the path to graduation (eventually). However, there’s a catch, and when isn’t there?
The hospital IRB office is in somewhat of a disarray at the movement and it sounds like no one is 100% sure we need the hospital to approve the IRB. Now what I do in my own time is for me, but even if I don’t specifically need the IRB for myself, surgeon-PI would (potentially, assuming it’s needed). That’s the problem though because no one can tell me if we need to submit it and this could, in theory, push my data collection start point back months (with an s) and I’m already flailing for dear life to graduate on time without the delay.
I wouldn’t even be talking about this today if it weren’t for an ominous email I got earlier this morning from one of the coordinators for our lab arranging a meeting scheduled tomorrow to to discuss the project with surgeon-PI. Between us friends, I have absolutely no clue what will happen tomorrow and that stresses me out. Like I hope I don’t lose sleep over it stressed out. I knew something bad was going on when I got the call yesterday though, because let’s face it, who calls you anymore?
Now thankfully the meeting is first thing in the morning so I won’t have to dread it all day before I find out what’s going on, but it could mean that my project will be off to a rocky start if we need to submit the IRB at the hospital as well. The good news is that I won’t have to write a whole new IRB, but I will have to submit an amendment to the university to add the hospital as a “site” even though none of the work will be done there (part of why we’re all confused if we need the IRB approval or not) and I’ll have to submit a copy of the IRB to the hospital for review.
They could, in theory anyway, reject it, but I’m hoping that won’t be the case if we need to go that route. I mean the worst case scenario is that I would have to submit the IRB to the hospital, wait months or longer to find out it’s rejected, then submit modifications to both the university and the hospital. We could be talking adding a whole year to my dissertation timeline if things go particularly bad, I’m not even exaggerating. And no pressure or anything, but I suspect I’ll know what the IRB office has decided tomorrow at that meeting that I was randomly invited to.
School-PI is convinced that it’s not need the IRB for the hospital side and I trust his input on this because he has a lot of experience with the IRB office at both the school and the hospital because his lab has had other collaborations at the hospital in the past. Right now, that’s the thing I’m holding out hope for, because he has decades of experience with research and the collaborations between the hospital and his lab specifically have been ongoing for at least five years, maybe more. Now the hospital IRB office gets final say here, but I assume he knows what he’s talking about in lieu of the guidance from the hospital IRB.
Now I get to enjoy being stressed out for the rest of the day and the only good side about the meeting tomorrow is that I may have an answer finally. Alternatively I may find out that we have to wait longer for an answer and that’s just a lot of headaches for the moment, too many to think about frankly.
I’m choosing to remain cautiously optimistic and I want to think that the meeting would only be arranged if there was a definitive answer going to be given, so no matter what I’m told if I have an answer tomorrow at least that’s one less thing to worry about.
Moral of the story, sometimes the path to a PhD is a nice straight line, other times its winding and full of dead ends.
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to this drama, tomorrow!