Gallery of Winners

Jessica Rowe

Jessica Rowe

Research is a major enterprise at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), attracting $556 million in annual funding.

Behind the researchers whose names are on the grants are countless “little people” whose contributions are indispensable. One of them, Jessica Rowe, MA, MS, CCRP, research quality improvement manager at the School of Nursing (SON), stepped out of the shadows Aug. 9 when she was named UMB’s Employee of the Month.

Thinking she was in the Saratoga Building for a research meeting with UMB Provost Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, Rowe, her supervisor Erika Friedmann, PhD, and School of Nursing Dean Jane Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, instead were joined by President Jay A. Perman, MD, who with a smile told Rowe she had been lied to. “Just because your work is all about research integrity doesn’t mean there are no lies in it,” Perman joked before telling Rowe she was August Employee of the Month.

Then he turned serious, telling Rowe, who started as a research assistant at the School of Medicine in 2006 before moving to the Human Research Protections Office and then SON in 2015, how invaluable her work is.

“We understand things now and know how to treat things now that we had no idea about 40 years ago, 50 years ago when I was trained as a physician,” Perman said. “That’s because we’ve built up a research enterprise that answers these questions. That kind of research infrastructure takes a lot of talented people. And today we are here to honor you.”

The award and its $250 prize couldn’t come at a better time for Rowe emotionally and financially. She and her husband, Fred Rowe, who works in Environmental Health and Safety at UMB, welcomed their first child nine months ago.

“When I came back from maternity leave, I worried can I keep up with everything?” Rowe said, with a catch in her voice. “So this is extra special to me because it reminds me that I’m still able to juggle all those balls and be successful at work and be successful at home.”

The nomination for Rowe said she often works from home after hours to assist faculty with writing and revising their institutional review board protocols in accordance with University requirements. “Phone calls and emails are promptly returned when I have a question,” one faculty member said. “She has reviewed my drafts to protocols and modifications after hours from home in order to give the quick turnaround time to keep my studies on track.”

A recent example involved helping another faculty member mentor students to become research assistants for the Dean’s Research Scholar protocol. Instead of just telling the professor to find links for various training sessions, Rowe called and followed up with an email containing the direct hyperlinks with screen shots of each step to share with the students. “And then she emailed each of my students directly to make herself available and see if they had any questions,” the faculty member said. “All of this was done without being asked!”

Rowe, who has a warm spot in her heart for mentoring busy students on how to appropriately conduct research, says reviewing protocols in the evening “is enjoyable.”

“Plus I’m very, very passionate about research and I think the contribution it makes to our society is sometimes undervalued. So that’s why I work after hours because I want to make sure our research gets out there and to help our researchers conduct research in compliance and in an ethical manner. I worry a lot about the public perception of research,” Rowe said. “We can’t have research if we don’t have public buy-in. We need study participants, and if the public doesn’t trust us because we are conducting research unethically, then we don’t have research anymore.”

Friedmann, associate dean for research at SON, who told Perman “no one deserves this more than Jess,” also was praised by Rowe. “When I got pregnant, Erika was awesome, talking to me about work/life balance and you know, you should have time for work and then time for your child. I really appreciate that. I don’t think she meant it as advice by any means, but I took it to heart.”

And Rowe is one humbled mom to be UMB’s Employee of the Month. “I’m still in a bit of disbelief,” she said with a smile.

— Chris Zang

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