Long before NORDP was established in 2010, Rachel Dresbeck was bringing her creativity and initiative to research development in Oregon. As one of NORDP’s earliest members and most dedicated volunteers, she was designated the 2022 NORDP Fellow at our organization’s annual conference in May.
The NORDP Fellow designation recognizes the long-term accomplishments of members who have made sustained contributions to NORDP and worked tirelessly to advance research development as a profession. Status as a NORDP Fellow is the highest professional distinction the organization may bestow on a member.
Rachel is Senior Director of Research Development at Oregon Health & Science University, where she has worked since 2004. Having served eight years (2013–2021) on NORDP’s Board of Directors, she is known to be a voice for a practical approach and to diffuse conflict with her calm but direct manner. In 2014, she received the Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski NORDP Service Award given in recognition of outstanding service to NORDP and to the RD profession. She chaired and hosted the 2014 conference in Portland, where she introduced networking dinners and the Idea Showcase. She has also served in leadership capacities on NORDP’s Strategic Alliances Committee (SAC) and Communications Working Group, among numerous other roles.
When asked what her best work for NORDP has been to date, she mentions two primary areas – the SAC and the Leadership Forum. “I’m especially devoted to SAC and to figuring out how to engage and retain leaders at NORDP through opening new ways for them to develop professionally,” she says. She considers strategic alliances to be critical for NORDP’s organizational growth and development, allowing NORDP to be a player in the national and international research space. NORDP’s Leadership Forum, which she helped create with NORDP members Gretchen Kiser and Jennifer Lyon Gardner, launched in 2017. This emerging program creates a dedicated space for experienced RD professionals to discuss emerging RD trends and the research landscape more broadly.
Rachel is especially keen on collaboration and often considers her role as a clearinghouse for worthy information. Working with Oregon colleagues, she established the Oregon Research Development Group, which connects diverse institutions across the state. “What NORDP has taught me is that it helps to band together. If you find a buddy, there’s nothing you can’t do,” she says.
She remembers the early days when 100 people turned out to attend the second NORDP conference in Chicago—and she realized she had found her people. Now, with more than 1,000 members, the organization has grown tremendously. “We can’t recognize everyone’s accomplishments enough,” she says, acknowledging that she was among a group of NORDP members to conceive NORDP’s awards program.
Rachel’s RD career has its roots in communications. With a Ph.D. in English from the University of Oregon, she started out teaching college English composition. In 1998, she heard that an institute at the local medical school wanted someone to help them with writing and editing their papers and proposals. She started working with postdocs, then with a faculty member on an NIH R01.
“I had some grant writing experience, but not NIH. So, I got hold of a successful R01 sample, deconstructed it; re-engineered the proposal, and got the funding,” she recalls. She established her own science writing and editing business—eventually, she had so much work that she had to either find someone else to pay the overhead or hire staff, which would take her away from the thing she loved the most: helping scientists bring their science to life. So, in 2004, she joined OHSU full-time. Today, she has a faculty appointment and teaches science writing and proposal writing. She supports researchers with proposal development and other areas of training, such as a workshop called “People Management for Principal Investigators.” She also runs internal funding programs for OHSU, as well as advising senior research leadership on strategic research initiatives.
Rachel is the 16th NORDP leader to be designated a Fellow. A full list of NORDP Fellows is available here.