Nashville, TN

How Lipscomb's vice provost's expertise in research ethics comes in handy during pandemic

Kelleigh Michanichou

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NASHVILLE, TN — Quincy Byrdsong, Lipscomb University’s vice provost of health affairs, was in a unique position to observe and make sense of the research and advancements used to treat the new virus and develop and disseminate a vaccine as the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

The Nashville native completed his dissertation on the Tuskegee syphilis study, a 40-year-long study infamously known as an abusive and unethical biomedical research endeavor, while earning his Ed.D. from Tennessee State University.

His studies at the time aided his career, first as a biology and chemistry teacher and later in various administrative roles overseeing science and research programs at higher education institutions and health care organizations.

As the current president of the International Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) and a board member of the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection (AAHRPP) in 2020-21, he has a front-row seat to how his scientific colleagues are addressing ethical research issues today.

“The development and roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine has been the most rapid and responsive action in history to a devastating pandemic. However, the COVID-19 vaccine has been the most challenging episode in history from a medical ethics standpoint due to the inconsistent and conflicting information surrounding its place in public health,” said Byrdsong, whose reputation as a thought leader in research ethics is growing.

“Ethical issues in society during 1979 are markedly different from the ethical issues of 2021. The concepts of respect for persons, beneficence and justice continue to be important but, a more timely and relevant look at research ethics is necessary in light of the unprecedented nature of COVID-19.” he said.

He is frequently asked to share his expertise on the history and lessons learned from the Tuskegee study, which was designed to observe the long-term effects of untreated syphilis on the African American male, as part of his thought leadership on ethical research.

In such talks, he emphasizes how that watershed moment in research history has influenced how research is regulated and carried out today, as well as how ethical standards are enforced.

“The lessons learned from the Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male regarding the importance of both the trust and information environments of our society should be fully incorporated in how media and public health communications about COVID-19 and its associated treatments and vaccines are handled,” he said.

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