Case study: Norwich man plays key role in shaping health research after losing wife to cancer
“Research is so important and the NIHR hones in on the absolute bedrock of our health needs by delivering research for better measurable health outcomes, through innovation and improvement. I have a real desire to learn more about health and care research and its impact on society, so I feel very fortunate to join such a wonderful team."
Gareth Phillips, a retired accountant from Norwich, has been appointed the new Executive Public Contributor for the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) delivery arm in the East of England.
Originally from Swansea, Gareth, moved to Norwich to study accountancy around 50 years ago where he met Carolyn, his wife of 35 years. Gareth, and their three daughters, sadly lost Carolyn to pancreatic cancer five years ago. This understandably devastating event drove Gareth to vow to make a difference for the future.
“Carolyn was the love of my life, and her passing has changed my life beyond all measure. I said I would do all I could to raise awareness of the disease, and that’s what I shall do for the rest of my life.”
After several years spent raising funds and awareness for pancreatic cancer, including £25,000 donated to research, Gareth heard about another opportunity to make a significant difference to wider research. He successfully applied for the role of Public Contributor on the Executive Board of the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) East of England, which sees him providing a voice for patients and the public in shaping the organisation’s research.
The NIHR’s CRN East of England funds and supports NHS and social care teams to make research happen, supplying staff, training and facilities at hospitals, GP practices and care homes. The NIHR is now expanding its work into wider care and community settings so that more people can take part, particularly those who have not had enough access to research in the past.
When not working, Gareth has spent a lifetime trying to help others, starting as a volunteer at his local hospital when he was a teenager. He went on to spend many years volunteering for Norwich Samaritans, later becoming Deputy Director for the organisation.
Since retiring, he has dedicated his time to a number of charities who support under-served groups, including people who are experiencing homelessness. Gareth hopes to help bring the NIHR together with some of the people they are hoping to reach.
Joining the NIHR seems like a natural step for Gareth: “Research is so important and the NIHR hones in on the absolute bedrock of our health needs by delivering research for better measurable health outcomes, through innovation and improvement. I have a real desire to learn more about health and care research and its impact on society, so I feel very fortunate to join such a wonderful team.
“I’m not fearful of expressing my views nor of asking searching questions, however I am in awe of the supportive and highly skilled, professional team around me and I will learn so much from them.”
Dr Helen Macdonald, Chief Operating Officer for the CRN East of England, feels the organisation will gain much having Gareth on board too:
“We are absolutely delighted that Gareth has joined our organisation. He not only brings a wealth of professional and life experience that will inform and enrich our strategy, his compassion and motivation to help others aligns perfectly with our values. It is essential to have public voices heard throughout the research pathway, and Gareth, along with our other Public Contributors, are vital to making our work robust and relevant to the people we aim to help live better.”
To find out more about how you can get involved in research visit www.bepartofresearch.uk.