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Case study: Emma Burrow: Research is vital to improve patient outcomes and experiences

Patient Research Ambassadors are our public champions. They help promote health research in their local communities. This voluntary position is supported by our local engagement teams.

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Emma answers our questions about her experience of being a patient research ambassador

Please tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Emma and I am 34 years old. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when I was 25 and relapsed three times since. I have been in remission since 2015 after 4 separate rounds of chemotherapy and 2 stem cell transplants. I also have lasting side effects from treatment, one of which is Avascular Necrosis in my joints which has led to 6 joint replacements so far.

I previously worked in Elderly Care Management but had to leave due to my health. I started working for the North East Ambulance Service as Research and Development Administrator in August 2018, which I absolutely love. I also volunteer in my spare time at my local Cancer Research UK charity shop and help to organise different fundraising events.

How did you first hear about Patient Research Ambassadors?

I first heard about Patient Research Ambassadors when I attended a Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement event at work.

What made you decide to become a Patient Research Ambassador?

Due to my personal medical history, I have benefited from treatments that have directly come from research that has taken place.

I am very grateful for the research that has been done and I decided to become a Patient Research Ambassador because I would now like to share my experiences with the hope that it will help future research, taking into account the patient’s perspective.

Why do you think NHS research is important?

NHS research is vital so that new treatments and advances can be made to improve patient outcomes and experiences. Without research medical advancements and improvements would not be possible.

What activities have you been involved with?

Since becoming a Patient Research Ambassador it has opened my eyes to all of the amazing opportunities there are for patients, I have become a member of the Cancer Research UK ‘Your Involvement’ Network and was lucky enough to apply for and be awarded a bursary to attend the Cancer Research UK Early Diagnosis Conference in February 2019.

I am also a Media Volunteer with Cancer Research UK and have been involved in different local media campaigns to share my story and highlight the importance of research.

I am also now a member of the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust Cancer Patients and Carers Group and the members are regularly asked to take part in different activities/projects.

I am also a Patient Representative for the Northern Cancer Alliance Vague Symptoms Project Steering Group.

I also attend the Patient Research Ambassador Forum meeting held by my local NIHR Clinical Research Network. These meetings have given me the opportunity to meet some other fantastic research volunteers and get involved in cocreating campaign materials and event planning.

What would you say to others who are considering getting involved in research?

Do it! Research is vital and it can only be done with the help and participation of everyone, including patients, carers and members of the public.

Being involved in research is rewarding, it gives you a real sense that you are being listened to and are making a positive difference.

Being a Patient Research Ambassador has helped me grow in confidence, meet others who also have an interest in research and get involved in projects and opportunities that I would never have been involved in previously.