Farewell to Lora Nicholson, Retiring June 30

“A powerhouse of animal compliance at NEOMED and our partner institutions for animal research and the heart of IACUCs at multiple institutions in Northeast Ohio for over 40 years.”

That’s how Stan Dannemiller, D.V.M., executive director of the Comparative Medicine Unit, described Lora Nicholson when presenting her with NEOMED’s 2019 Community Service Award earlier this month.

Dr. Dannemiller is among many colleagues wishing Lora well as she prepares to retire June 30. Warm memories and shared appreciation for her shine through in the comments below, paying tribute to this much-valued 41-year NEOMED veteran.  

From Stan Dannemiller, D.V.M., executive director, Comparative Medicine Unit, who presented Lora with the 2019 NEOMED Community Service Award:

Lora Nicholson’s service to NEOMED was eloquently described by President Langell in his June 8 weekly update meeting, in which he focused on Lora’s dedication throughout more than 40 years of service to NEOUCOM/NEOMED.

My focus in describing Lora’s contributions are to the community of biomedical research in Northeast Ohio. Biomedical research is a highly regulated industry in the United States. If the research being performed involves animals, the research must be overseen by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Lora Nicholson has been a powerhouse of animal compliance at NEOMED and our partner institutions for animal research and the heart of IACUCs at multiple institutions in Northeast Ohio for over 40 years. In the past two years, Lora has been a guiding force for animal based biomedical research and teaching performed by staff from NEOMED, Summa Health, Akron Children’s Hospital, the University of Akron, Mercy Health - St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, GOJO (EP Technology), Kent State University and dozens of small, entrepreneurial companies. Lora is a Certified Professional IACUC Administrator (CPIA) and so frequently acts as a consultant to other institutions when they need guidance on a fine point in the regulations or advice on how to better perform and oversee animal research.

Lora’s work has led to the betterment of the biomedical research community by helping to bring more grants and research into Northeast Ohio. More importantly, Lora has helped to assure the animals used in the research have the highest level of animal welfare, therefore producing the highest quality of data which helps researchers to answer important questions that saves lives, cures diseases, and prevents suffering in both humans and animals.

I think all our colleagues who interact with Lora will agree that one aspect of Lora’s service that truly sets her apart is her gentle demeanor and proactive assistance. Lora’s service is always with a smile. Lora is very genuine, helpful and dedicated to her work, and she never turns people away. She is a very likeable person, has the biggest smile, and is a very encouraging and polite individual.

Lora has a way of making certain that every student, who may have never worked in a research environment, feels comfortable asking for her help. Every physician who just does not have the time to take care of some of the administrative details needed to complete a protocol or a grant will get the assistance needed to meet a deadline and will feel like they are the most important person in Lora’s world. No matter how much help you need, or how big a mistake was made, Lora will help to get it fixed very well, very quickly, with minimal drama and maximal effectiveness. I have often wondered how many students who may have given up on research are still doing research because Lora made it a little easier or helped their confidence by smoothing the path with her direction and assistance. 

I frequently hear from researchers that the Comparative Medicine Unit is the best service group at NEOMED, or that they have never worked in an animal facility that is so easy to work with. Frequently these comments have been due to Lora and the high level of administrative service that she has provided to allow our customers to focus on performing their best science.

I am certain that Glenn Saltzman, Ph.D., in his role as director, Division of Medical Sciences, had interactions with Lora in helping his faculty with their animal-based research. I have no doubt that Dr. Saltzman would be a co-nominator of Lora Nicholson for this award were he still available.

From M. Michelle Evancho-Chapman, B.S., research associate:

I have had the pleasure of working with Lora for all of my 37 years at Summa Health. We first met when I assisted with Summa sponsored research conducted in the NEOMED CMU. She has been a key mentor for me during my career. Lora has always been willing to share her wealth of regulatory knowledge, listen to my frustrations, provide excellent professional guidance, and guide our projects through the IACUC process, ensuring the well-being of our research subjects and staff. Lora was a key member of our Animal Care Unit at Summa. She served as a key member of our AAALAC review team at Summa throughout the years and was essential to our receiving and maintaining AAALAC accreditation from 1987 until 2017, when we closed the lab. We now utilize the NEOMED facility and continue to receive her support.

Lora’s initial consulting work morphed into a position at Summa, which contracted her as its IACUC coordinator. Lora successfully provided over 10 years of service to Summa, helping the institution to guide researchers through the IACUC process and for the facility to maintain its compliance with both USDA and the AAALAC.

In addition to the support Lora provided Summa, she was also a key original member of a NEOMED initiative to unite and create an IACUC/regulatory collaboration between Cleveland Clinic Akron General, Kent State University, NEOMED, Summa Health and Youngstown State University. The committee created shared processes to coordinate IACUC responsibilities between institutions and created standardized forms including an IACUC application that allowed for seamless research collaboration among the institutions.

But most importantly, Lora is a kind, caring person who always greeted you with a smile, was a good listener and provided quality recommendations to move your work forward. She worked extensively to promote NEOUCOM/NEOMED and the quality of animal research conducted within the Comparative Medicine Unit. I feel fortunate to have worked with her.

From Linda McCourt, manager, Comparative Medicine Unit:

What else can you say about Lora? Well, I think if you know her, you know her driving force is her faith. Lora displays her faith by having a servant's heart. Her character is one of kindness, patience, delightfulness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness and love. Lora loves people. Her morning prayer was, “Lord, let me be a blessing to someone today.” She sees each person as unique and someone to celebrate. Celebrating birthdays and special events, and having lunch together now and again was important to her.

She had a remarkable way with words that when she was correcting you, you never felt offended. In addition to her welcoming smile, Lora's personal touch was proven in making the CMU office homey and inviting to our visitors. She decorated with the notion to relax and bring comfort to those entering our office. And everyone knows of the infamous candy dish. Lora would take note of people's favorite candy to make sure that it would be in the candy dish. People from the community would come from all parts of the campus to her candy dish.

Lora considers NEOMED as her second family. Well, I think her family can say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Lora and her husband plan to visit all the national parks. And with her sister, she will start a ministry to support widows at her church. I wish Lora all the best in her next chapter of life. 

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