Keeper of Regulatory Compliance and Bees at UC Denver – A Honey of a Job

Nov 23, 2015

Meet Pat Kittelson

As a previous librarian at both public and academic libraries, Pat Kittelson, Regulatory Coordinator, University of Colorado, Denver, did not anticipate working in the field of clinical research. Her research career began with an IRB position in 2003. Wanting to learn more about the field of clinical research, and with a desire to gain more experience on the other side of the desk, Pat transferred to research administration with the General Clinical Research Centers/Clinical Translational Research Centers.  It was there where she honed her protocol budgeting and regulatory submission skills, while at the same time reflecting on her personal connection to HIV/AIDS research.  Since the 1980’s Pat has been very interested in HIV/AIDS and those who are impacted by the disease.  She recalls watching the public health system and the gay community grapple with HIV/AIDS through the 1980’s while surrounded by negative attitudes, lack of compassion, and much fear and misinformation.

“One of my favorite authors, Arnold Lobel of “Frog and Toad” fame died in 1987 at only 54 years old and his cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest.  In conversation with another author who knew Mr.  Lobel, it was revealed to me that he actually died of complications arising from AIDS,” recalls Pat.  “I remember feeling terribly sad that this truth was deemed too controversial to share.  It somehow made me grieve not only for the loss of a wonderful storyteller and illustrator, but also for our society’s inability to address the truth.” 

Pat notes that she is often inspired by our study participants with their incredible personal determination to contribute to the scientific knowledge to take us one step closer to curing HIV.  She particularly enjoys Community Advisory Board meetings that provide both scientific presentations and a gathering place for community members. 

“I am so grateful for the willingness of HIV/AIDS infected people to step up and participate in those first clinical trials so that such astounding progress could be made in treatment and detection,” said Pat. “So many of our participants have lost friends, partners, and family to HIV/AIDS, and yet they continue to live and give of themselves.”

With regards to her everyday regulatory work at our UC Denver site, Pat enjoys getting protocols approved through all of the appropriate channels which she describes as a “working a puzzle” that provides her with rewarding satisfaction when a protocol opens and enrolls. In addition to IRB approvals, Pat’s other regulatory duties include ongoing reviews, updates and amendments, as well as safety and adverse event reporting.

“I work with a group of wonderful people and we have an office environment that encourages me to do my best work. I am detail oriented and an organizational nut which they happily put up with,” said Pat. “I am passionate about my work and am inspired by my colleagues on a daily basis to continue to learn as much as I can about HIV virology and pharmacological regimens, not to mention the on-going health concerns for those living with HIV.”

Pat is not just passionate about her work with the ACTG Network; she is also passionate about a unique hobby she has picked up over the past few years – beekeeping.  As she gets closer to retiring, she has decided to become a hobbyist beekeeper. More specifically, Pat is working on developing beekeeping educational programs in partnership with a museum in Denver and hopes to manage a small apiary or two and advocate for honey bee habitat within urban spaces.

“Pat has been a fantastic addition to our team.  We had no idea that a librarian/beekeeper would be the perfect regulatory coordinator, but she is,” said her colleague, Graham Ray, Study Coordinator, University of Colorado, Denver.  “Pat has the perfect blend of attention to detail, compassion and humor and we feel very lucky to have her.”

Pat is also a new member of the ACTG Network Outreach, Recruitment and Retention (OR&R) Committee.  She notes that she has learned that there is tremendous variation on recruitment and retention methods across sites and how there is much to be shared to shape best practices.  Pat has noticed that as protocols are getting more specific, and therefore requiring fresh approaches to recruiting participants, it is exciting to explore strategies with the OR&R Committee.

“My job doesn’t allow much room for creativity and I thrive on creativity.  The OR&R Committee provides an outlet for me to use that fun part of my brain while getting to know people from across the ACTG Network,” said Pat. “I hope that at some point in the future to work with the OR&R Committee to develop a Smartphone APP for HIV clinical trials similar to what have been developed as part of the Apple Research Kit for asthma, diabetes, breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.”

Pat feels extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a research area that has accomplished so much in such a short time.  Although she does not see herself on the scientific front lines so to speak, Pat is more than happy to be “pushing the paperwork” through the processes as she puts it.  However, we BEElieve her contribution is much more than that.