About a month ago I was fortunate to be able to participate in the first running of a new week long residential course of science for patient advocates. Called VOICE (Vision On Information Confidence & Engagement), this course was developed by a collaboration between the charity Independent Cancer Patients' Voice and Barts Cancer Institute of Queen Mary College, University of London.
The mornings were spent in a series of lectures covering cell and cancer cell biology, different types of cancer, biomarkers, genetics, and clinical trials. The afternoons were spent in the laboratory, cementing and putting into practice what we were learning, understanding the techniques that underpin research, and seeing tissue being processed. Throughout the course, in addition to our lecturers, we were supported by a group of mentors drawn from the Institute's young researchers (and who made us cakes and biscuits!) Evenings were divided between guest lectures and social time mixing with our lecturers and mentors, plus the odd bit of homework and revision.
It was an ambitious, challenging and highly satisfying week and I think we all came away having learnt much and ready to put our learning into effect as we sit on trials management groups and steering committees, comment on drafts and proposals, and provide a patient perspective at a host of events and for a host of organisations.
The course is now being evaluated and the practical lessons learnt will help shape the next course.
The generosity of the staff and researchers was quite humbling and, in addition to the new knowledge (and yes, the Confidence of the course title), I have taken away the infectious and encouraging enthusiasm of our mentors. Not only did they answer our questions, but the work they are doing is our hope for the future -
who needs a pink wig when you have a Gilson pipette????
Thanks to J. Garth for the photographs of the event