Case study: Jo’s research journey: from chairing a Local Research Ethics Committee to participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine study
Jo is a retired NHS Chair with a passion for clinical research. Jo took time to catch up with us and share her research journey…
When I was younger medical research was something that I suppose I took for granted. At school I learnt about WIlliam Jenner and the development of the smallpox vaccine; about Alexander Fleming and the accidental discovery of penicillin. As a child polio was a very real threat. In fact one of my best friends contracted it as a teenager, she was staying with us at the time and I witnessed at first hand the eruption (and I use the word advisedly) of her symptoms and the panic of the GP. She spent months in an iron lung and we were all quarantined. Then, along came the Salk vaccine and the threat of polio became a distant memory.
Fast forward a few years and as a non executive on the Durham Health Authority I was asked to chair the Local Research Ethics Committee. What an eye opener! Each month we had tens of proposals to look at, everyone from Allied Health Professional students to eminent Professors, and looking into so many things I had never heard of. It was fascinating and I suddenly realised what a large industry research was and how important it was both for the eventual benefit of patients and that as many and as varied patients take part as possible.
I moved on to become the Chair of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, where I did all in my power to encourage staff to take on Research projects. At the same time my daughter took a Masters degree in Research Methods and ended up pursuing a research related career so from being something I took for granted research became something that I very much wanted to be part of.
My family has been lucky in that as a whole we have enjoyed good health, but whenever we have had to have any treatment I have always asked whether there was a relevant research study, but there never was. Thus when my daughter told me there was a website I could sign up to to indicate I was willing to participate in any Covid-19 vaccine study (www.nhs.uk/researchcontact) I jumped at the chance. I have just had my first injection from the team in Hartlepool (delayed because on my initial appointment my blood pressure was too high) almost 4 weeks behind my husband and both of my daughters who all got their first injections during the opening days of the trial.
It has amazed me how many people I meet who say they are frightened of going on a trial, I reassure them as far as I am able. Many more, however, share my “why on earth wouldn’t you do it?” attitude and I have passed on the registration details to as many people I can think of.
I’m so proud that I have been able to do my bit in the fight against Covid-19, and am still up for any more trials that I may have the opportunity to participate in.