Dawn Lantero is an expert in movement — and not just because she holds a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in kinesiology. Lantero can tell you a thing or two about her home state of Indiana as well as some of the other places she’s lived (Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, California, and now Nevada). She also can share a unique perspective on higher education, having moved from the role of student to assistant professor and now to human research administrator in the Division of Research and Economic Development’s office of research integrity. Here, keeping UNLV research moving forward is the name of the game, and Lantero plays it happily, driven by her endless quest for knowledge and deep commitment to justice.
How would you describe your work at UNLV?
I view myself as a human research subject advocate. That’s the sole function of an Institutional Review Board (IRB): to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of the human subjects who are volunteers in research. My job is to review applications researchers submit, then pass them along to the IRB chairs or the full IRB for final review to ensure compliance with research regulations. I also assist researchers with their questions, which range from what a regulation states to how to answer a particular question on an IRB application.
What inspired you to get into your field?
It was sort of by happenstance because there was no such thing as a human subjects protection class when I went to college. I’ve always been in research somehow, though. As an undergraduate, I earned research credit in a motor behavior and control lab, and I learned there that when you conduct research involving human beings, you will probably need to go before the IRB to have your study approved.
Many people don’t know that IRB work is one of the career options available to researchers. It’s an intriguing field for people with a science background who are detail-oriented. The people in this field are humanitarians. I do this work because I like helping people. There are many different ways to help people. This is mine.
UNLV was attractive because of its growth. UNLV is taking an active role in preparing the research infrastructure to be able to handle the increase in research activities. None of the clinical trials have started yet, but we’re gearing up for the influx of all this great new research activity, and it’s pretty exciting. I feel that I am helping to shape the future of UNLV research.
What’s the biggest misconception about your work?
People think we’re the police. We’re not. That’s not our job. Our job is to protect human subjects. People often think we’re being too nitpicky, but in order to make a good assessment, we need to know all the details. When we have to request more information from a researcher, we’re not rejecting a proposal or saying it’s bad; we just need more information. IRB often is viewed as an obstacle, but really, we’re trying to get research moving along; we’re just making sure it’s done in an ethical way. This way, when people come knocking on the door, we’re in the best position we can be to say, “Ethically, this research stands because we did everything we were supposed to do.”
What are your hobbies?
Reading is a big one. I love mysteries. I’m always looking for the solution, the answer, the outcome. I think that’s what hooks me into my job, and it’s why I like research so much. I want to see what the answer’s going to be. I may not be able to understand the science, but I enjoy reading the science because I learn something new every day. It’s never boring. In the medical area specifically, that research is geared to arrive at an answer that improves people’s lives, and that’s great, too.
Where are you from, and how is it different from Las Vegas?
I grew up in Goshen, a small town in northern Indiana in an area with the third largest Amish settlement in the nation. At that time, we still had blue laws, which means you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays, among other things. Las Vegas is the direct opposite. To this day, it’s very strange to me all the things you can do in Las Vegas on a Sunday.
I love a lot more here — like the airport — than what I miss from there. I do miss the hard freeze in the winter that gets rid of the pollen, and I miss fall and seeing the leaves change. We lived near Lake Michigan, though, so we got harsh winters, and I don’t miss that. But I still carry with me my love of March Madness!
Tell us about an object in your office that has significance for you.
I like my Maxine calendar. She brings a smile to my face. I change her out almost every day, and she cracks me up. I used to have the “I heart my attitude problem” mug Maxine is holding when I was in high school; my parents bought it for me. This is the one thing that gives me a chuckle every day because it’s the first thing I do – change out my Maxine calendar.
If you could fix one thing in the world, what would it be?
People need to be willing to listen to others — not judge, but really listen. A lot of problems in the world exist because people aren’t listening to each other. Everybody’s different. We have different backgrounds and different belief systems. Let’s listen to each other so we can understand one another.
Who is your hero?
There are many people I admire. When you listen to people, you can find out the different challenges they’ve faced in their lives and learn how they’ve maneuvered through them. You can always learn from others, taking what worked and doing that while avoiding their wrong turns.
I also admire people who are skilled in areas I have zero talent in. I like reality cooking shows like Hell’s Kitchen. My mind doesn’t work like that, so it fascinates me to see people who can take a basket of vegetables and make these amazing dishes out of them. I would be horrified. I’d end up with, “Here’s some broccoli.”
Any tips for success?
Believe in yourself. Not everybody’s going to like you, and that’s OK. As long as you’re OK with yourself, you know what you should be doing, and you can face yourself in the mirror every day, you’re good.