Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a nurse. During the 17 years I worked at the bedside as a registered nurse, and further specializing as a pediatric nurse, I never imagined having a career in clinical research. Well, that is exactly what happened.

I first experienced a taste of research working on a very busy infant/toddler unit at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. During that time, I was invited to be part of a working group to help develop a bronchiolitis tool for children with RSV/bronchiolitis. To my surprise, I enjoyed this experience. Just a few years later, I found myself coordinating epilepsy trials for children. Then just a few short years later, I was able to help start a pediatric pharmacology program and successfully manage a very large multicenter congestive heart failure trial for children.

My experiences with these large projects led to consulting and teaching Good Clinical Practice (GCP) for pediatric multicenter research. In my current position, directing a busy Data Coordinating Center (DCC) for the Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network (CPCCRN), I have been able to participate in and publish about important research being done for critically ill children. One example is critical pertussis, which causes substantial morbidity and mortality in US children.  Because of recent research in this area, there are now new CDC vaccine recommendations for adults, especially families with and caregivers of new babies.

When I reflect on my work in clinical research, I am glad in some small way to have contributed to the health, welfare and treatment of my own family and future generations.

How does what I do make a difference? Well, I didn’t use to think it did, but now I am thrilled to be part of cutting edge research that makes a difference in the lives of children… the reason I pursued pediatric nursing in the first place.

How has my research affected me personally? I now have three very sweet grandchildren whose lives have all been affected by what I do. My 4-year-old grandson has the rare disorder, eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). There is no cure for this rare auto-immune disease characterized by eosinophils attacking the esophagus. When therapies do not work, the esophagus slowly narrows over time and becomes increasingly fragile. I have been a board member on the University of Utah IRB for the past 8 years where multiple studies have been reviewed and approved that are looking for a cure or new therapies for EoE. I am grateful I have the clinical research knowledge to participate in the review and approval of the latest research that could benefit my grandson in the future.

My second one-year-old grandson was recently hospitalized at the Children’s Hospital with RSV bronchiolitis. He was very ill, placed on high flow oxygen, and treated based on the most recent RSV/bronchiolitis protocols. I felt a great deal of personal satisfaction when I observed the nurses caring for him using the bronchiolitis scoring tool that I had helped develop many years earlier. My beautiful six-month old granddaughter is a miracle. She would not be here today if her Dad, my son, had not survived a NICU admission at birth for aspiration pneumonia. Thanks to life-saving medications, approved in clinical trials, he was able to survive respiratory failure as an infant, grow up, and be a parent himself. All three of my children were required to get Tdap vaccines when expecting my grandchildren. 

The work on critical pertussis that I have contributed to is expected to be of benefit for US children as well as the 500,000 children who still die annually of critical pertussis in the global community. So at the end of the day, when I reflect on my work in clinical research, I am glad in some small way to have contributed to the health, welfare and treatment of my own family and future generations.

Jeri Burr, MS, RN-BC, CCRA
ACRP Member Since 2003