Meet Vanessa Smith – Consumer Representative

Consumer

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Vanessa became a consumer representative in 2018

When did you first become involved with cancer research as a consumer representative?

I became involved as a consumer representative in 2018 after doing the consumer training course.

What motivated you to become a consumer representative?

I was motivated for a number of reasons. My sister died from breast cancer, and I was a breast cancer survivor so I wanted to use my experience of cancer to help others. It was also part of my post cancer journey and my need to learn more about cancer, to know and understand about cancer research, the health context, and to feel that I could contribute to this in a meaningful way.

What research projects have you been involved with?

I have been very fortunate to be involved in a number of different research projects mainly, but not exclusively, in breast cancer research.

How have you been involved with cancer researchers?

I have been, and am currently involved with cancer researchers. I am involved in the initial stages of the project, so I read and provide comments and recommendations on quite a number of grant applications to promote the interests of consumers. I attend meetings, make lab. visits, am a member of a steering committee, engage in ongoing communication about the progress of the project, and I am an Associate Investigator on a number of projects.

What do you enjoy the most about being involved with a research project?

I feel very privileged to be involved in a research project. I really enjoy meeting, assisting and working with researchers. I am continually amazed by the dedication, passion, compassion and drive of researchers to achieve breakthroughs in cancer research. It gives me a wonderful sense of hope and excitement by being actively involved. I continue to learn and understand more about cancer, I remain motivated to participate, and my skills as a consumer representative have definitely improved.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced as a consumer representative?

Not coming from a scientific/medical research background, initially I think I was unsure of the benefit of my input to research. I found the content and language of the grant proposals and documents a little challenging. I have felt, upon a rare occasion, that the turnaround times for comments were unrealistic, and that I was not really part of the partnership, rather I was considered a requirement for funding applications.

How have you been able to help your researcher with their project?

Hopefully my cancer consumer experience has informed the researcher about potential problems, benefits, access and equity issues for consumer and community members. That I have made the language and meaning of grant proposals and documentation more easily understood. I have helped the researcher know how important, valued and greatly appreciated their work is.

What do you know now that you would like to have known at the beginning of your involvement with researchers?

I would have liked to have been clearer on the benefits and principles of consumer involvement in research, and to better understand the research process. To appreciate my own value to the research pathway.

If you could say one thing to a new consumer representative, what would it be?

That your experience and insights as a consumer representative are invaluable. Your involvement makes it more relevant, and understandable. It is a very rewarding and worthwhile experience.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

You will meet very talented, inspiring, caring researchers.

 

August 2023

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