IRB mainstay Gail Paulsen to retire

by John Keenan, UNMC strategic communications | November 12, 2020

UNMC has three missions: education, clinical care and research.

In her more than four decades at the university, Gail Paulsen has participated in them all.

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Gail Paulsen

She began at UNMC as a secretary in the department of anatomy, on a grant project involving stereoscopic anatomy.

After attending the UNMC College of Nursing, she work for a time as a bedside nurse before returning to research as the clinical research nurse coordinator for the Rheumatoid Arthritis Investigational Network (RAIN) with James O'Dell, MD.

And since 1997, she's been working for the Institutional Review Board (IRB), educating and assisting researchers as they work to get their studies approved by the university.

Paulsen first got involved in research for a very personal reason -- she has rheumatoid arthritis herself.

"My arthritis doctor -- who was Dr. O'Dell -- said , 'You need to come and work for me,' she said. "And I wanted to be front and center and understand everything that was going on with research in rheumatoid arthritis."

She later was recruited to the IRB, where she joined Ernie Prentice, PhD -- who had been the principal investigator on the stereoscopic anatomy research project when Paulsen first joined UNMC in 1978.

"I have always felt that I had something to give and something that I could offer the med center," she said.

"The first time I had a principal investigator and coordinator call me and say, 'Thank you so much, you helped me get my research through,' that was when I knew the IRB was the place for me," Paulsen said. "The IRB has to follow specific federal regulations governing human subject research. We follow UNMC policies and other UNMC/Nebraska Medicine policies. Our applications are long and involved. And it can be a little bit overwhelming for people who are new to it. It has always meant a lot to me when I'm able to help somebody navigate that. For me, that's making a difference."

Many others agree.

"Gail has served as a solid foundation of many of the core IRB activities, such as her exceptional work supporting oncology, but also an individual willing and able to think outside of the box, such as she did with the Ebola crisis and COVID pandemic," said Christopher Kratochvil, MD, UNMC's associate vice chancellor for clinical research. "She did so with a can-do attitude, putting forth whatever effort was necessary to get the job done and protect the participants in the research. I can't begin to express my gratitude for her efforts and collaborative spirit."

Paulsen has a family history with the med center. Her father-in-law worked here for 44 years, her husband started on the grounds crew and went all the way to hospital administration, her sister-in-law worked here, and her daughter currently works at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

She also has a lot of friends.

"It's been a pleasure working with the people at UNMC, both my team - they're my family, I love them all dearly -- and working with coordinators and researchers across the med center and Children's Hospital & Medical Center. And at the IRB, I have worked a lot with the researchers at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, and I have a special place in my heart for them."

Paulsen said she will not disappear, though she is planning to "take time to breathe and smell the roses."

But, "I'm not going anywhere," she said. "I physically will be at home, and there are a whole lot of people who have my cell phone number. I've already had people ask me about consulting work."

For now, though?

"I'm looking forward to a vacation."


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Sherry Andersen
November 18, 2020 at 8:57 AM

Wow, wow, wow Gail! If anyone deserves a great retirement, it's you!! The stuff you have had to handle would have made the weak crumble and strong break down and cry! You, my dear, are one tough cookie and a hero to this university. You will be missed whoever replaces you will have tremendously huge shoes to fill. Enjoy retirement Gail!!

Sheree Gilmore
November 17, 2020 at 10:26 AM

Wow! Gail, you will be missed! Thank you so much for your advice and comradery over the years. Rest well and enjoy owning your time! Congratulations!!

Fausto Loberiza
November 13, 2020 at 2:37 PM

I remember all the help you provided when was at UNMC. Thank you so much. I wish you the very best as you retire. Enjoy!

Greg Bociek
November 12, 2020 at 4:51 PM

Thanks for all your help and advice through the years. Stay healthy. Stay safe. Every day in your calendar will now magically say Saturday!

Dawn Nevarez
November 12, 2020 at 2:58 PM

Congratulations Gail! Enjoy your time smelling those roses.

Gabriel Hansen
November 12, 2020 at 2:33 PM

Gail, congratulations on your retirement! Thank you for all of your help and hard work.

Chandra Are
November 12, 2020 at 12:04 PM

Gail, Thank you for all your help and support- both for individual faculty projects and more importantly, the GME Research Collaborative. Your always friendly and available attitude and your expertise will be missed. Congratulations on a successful career and enjoy our well-deserved retirement! Chandra Are

Renee Jizba
November 12, 2020 at 10:33 AM

Congratulations, Gail! I enjoyed working with you in Rheumatology. I know you'll enjoy your retirement.

Lynette Smith
November 12, 2020 at 9:48 AM

Congratulations Gail! Enjoy your retirement, even though many will miss you. I have recommended you as the IRB go to for many researchers. :-)

LuAnn J Mill
November 12, 2020 at 9:41 AM

We, your friends from Children's, are so happy for you Gail. You will be missed. Congratulations and happy retirement! Thank you for all you have done for us over the years!- "Lu, with Dr. Erickson's office" :)

Jenny Strawn
November 12, 2020 at 9:41 AM

Congratulations Gail on your long and successful career! I echo what Diane Ehlers said. Your kindness and help has kept me sane when navigating the IRB "paperwork" and the fear of doing this without you going forward is real. I sincerely appreciate all you've done for me and wish you the very best!

Marsha Morien
November 12, 2020 at 9:38 AM

Gail, very exciting to see you take your retirement leap. Confident that you and Terry will have special times together with new goals and enjoyment of your wonderful home.

Kim Klinetobe
November 12, 2020 at 9:37 AM

Gail, your unwavering patience, humor, and positive attitude got me through many a hard day. Congratulations on your hard-earned retirement and enjoy every minute of it! We will miss you!

Diane Ehlers
November 12, 2020 at 9:30 AM

Congratulations Gail - your help and kindness are immeasurable, and so is the fear of an IRB without you. :) You will most certainly be missed.

Brigette Vaughan
November 12, 2020 at 9:29 AM

I am very thankful for the opportunity to work with Gayle and have benefitted from her knowledge and willingness to help! She taught me a lot as a coordinator and then as a member of the IRB executive team, she continued to provide guidance! Her skills will be missed by all.

Nizar Mamdani
November 12, 2020 at 9:28 AM

Congratulations on your retirement and service to our community and UNMC.

Tom O’Connor
November 12, 2020 at 9:18 AM

A great story on one of UNMC’s unsung heroes. Congrats on an awesome career, Gail. Enjoy the next chapter.

Denise Hoover
November 12, 2020 at 9:12 AM

Congratulations Gail! Thank you for all of your assistance and guidance over the years. You will be missed. I wish you the best.

Kara Schmidt
November 12, 2020 at 9:10 AM

Congratulations Gail! It has really been a pleasure to work with you over the years. Enjoy your retirement.

M. Elizabeth Blackburn
November 12, 2020 at 8:57 AM

Gail, CONGRATULATIONS!!! Smell those roses and enjoy your time!!!! I am jealous! Beth

Kaeli Samson
November 12, 2020 at 8:55 AM

Thank you for all of your help with the GME Research Collaborative and making the IRB process so approachable for residents!

Deb Heimes
November 12, 2020 at 8:35 AM

Congrats Gail - you have been a great mentor of all things IRB. You will be missed!

Gleb Haynatzki
November 12, 2020 at 8:33 AM

Gail enjoy the break, but you will be missed here. Your generous help has always come at the right time for us researchers. Indeed, you will be truly missed.

Kimberly Shields
November 12, 2020 at 8:31 AM

Thanks, Gail, for all the help over the years - you will be greatly missed!!! Congratulations on your retirement and best wishes always to you and your family!!

Beth Beam
November 12, 2020 at 8:12 AM

Congratulations deserve a real party. Thank you for all you do...and for being a proud UNMC CON graduate.

Kirsten Stites
November 12, 2020 at 8:11 AM

Thank you Gail for your contributions to research at UNMC! You are knowledgeable and full of advice. Enjoy your retirement!

Megan Severson
November 12, 2020 at 7:58 AM

You will be SO missed, Gail! Enjoy retirement!

Crystal Miller
November 12, 2020 at 7:57 AM

Enjoy your retirement! I know you will be missed here at UNMC.

Amy Filler-Katz
November 12, 2020 at 7:46 AM

Gail you have been a friend and mentor. I will miss you! But I will hold you to our lunch date post pandemic! Congratulations!

Kris Morrissey
November 12, 2020 at 7:18 AM

I hope you have a well-deserved respite, Gail. Thank you for your decades of service and for your personal mentoring on all things IRB. You will be missed.

Barb Mattson
November 12, 2020 at 7:14 AM

Congratulations on your retirement, Gail. I appreciate the guidance you have offered me over the years. Enjoy your time away from UNMC but know that you will be missed!

Lisa Runco
November 12, 2020 at 6:50 AM

Gail, best wishes to you! The CHRI has greatly appreciated your support and will miss you.

Debra Bishop
November 12, 2020 at 6:10 AM

You will be missed Gail, but I am SO happy for you starting this next phase in your life! Deb

Sonja McCollister
November 12, 2020 at 5:18 AM

Congratulations, Gail, on your retirement! During my time on the IRB, you were an invaluable resource. I know you will be greatly missed!

Sheila Wrobel
November 12, 2020 at 4:49 AM

Gail has been a true servant to the research community at UNMC and beyond. I am grateful to have been the beneficiary of Gail’s expertise and ready willingness to help. Wishing you a relaxing retirement with family and friends! Sheila Wrobel