John D. Roberts, M.D., professor of medicine and medical director of the Yale New Haven Hospital Adult Sickle Cell Program, has been selected as executive chair of Yale University’s Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), the committees that work to ensure that all Yale human subjects research is conducted ethically and according to governmental and university requirements. His new role begins as of the new year, with the retirement of his predecessor Maurice Jeremiah Mahoney, M.D., J.D.

Roberts assumes the executive chair position as changes in IRB procedures are occurring nationwide. “Clinical research has moved from predominantly single center studies, with oversight from a local IRB, to multicenter studies, often involving scores of institutions,” he says. Many organizations involved in human subjects research, including the National Institutes of Health and industry sponsors, are advocating use of central IRBs, which can oversee research at many sites. “This offers opportunities for increased efficiency for sponsors and researchers, and creates challenges in terms of maintaining awareness of local context research oversight,” he says.

“I look forward to working with all of the IRB chairs and with Linda M. Coleman, J.D., the recently arrived director of the Yale Human Research Protection Program, as Yale addresses these issues.”

Prior to joining the Yale faculty in 2012, Roberts was professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where he was an IRB member for nearly 20 years. At VCU he also taught human subjects protection at the graduate level. Shortly after his arrival at Yale, he was appointed co-chair of the Yale IRB Cancer Panel (Human Investigations Committee I). Roberts has extensive experience in clinical trials, and was a co-investigator in a landmark study that demonstrated that chronic pain is common in adults with sickle cell disease.

Roberts earned his M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2012, he received the Principal Investigator of the Year (Harry Hines Award) from the Community Clinical Oncology Program of the National Cancer Institute.