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Case study: Pamela Harris: promoting health research

“I have been involved in research for years and since becoming a Research Champion the role has widened my knowledge of research and how to promote research.”

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience of health research… 

My name is Pamela Harris and I qualified as a State Registered Nurse  in 1977 and a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse in 1979. I worked on children’s wards and care of the elderly wards whilst bringing up my children but had to leave nursing due to ill health. My partner was diagnosed with Dementia and I cared for him until he deteriorated and had to go into care. 

I was a Vice Chair of Governors at my children’s school and enjoyed my volunteer work so when I was at a Durham County Carers Support meeting for Carers caring for people with dementia and there was a spokesperson from DeNDRon (Dementia and Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Network) there I decided to become involved with their Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement back in 2012.

During my time with DeNDRoN I have worked as a PPIE member on a few research projects:

  • DIFRID (Developing an Intervention for Fall-Related Injuries in Dementia) with Newcastle University 
  • Helping set up a Lewy Body Support and Information Group for patients and Carers 
  • Worked on a research study of Enhancing Audit and Feedback in Dementia Care in Acute Areas of the NHS, this involved several Trusts. This study was for a researcher who was a NIHR Research Fellow with Newcastle University. 
  • I worked with a PHD Research Associate from the Brain and Movement Research Group, Translational and Clinical Research Institute, Newcastle University with her Fellowship Application. The study was “Staying active with dementia”

I volunteer with Durham County Carers Support (DCCS) and involved with Consett Carers group and the KIT (Keeping in Touch) project for DCCS.

I’m a participant in the Protect Study, a research project that aims to understand how healthy brains age and why people develop dementia. It is run by the University of Exeter and Kings College London, in partnership with the NHS.

I am also working with a PhD Student from the Department of Anthropology at Durham University with a research project around Chronic Pain and Opioids.

I am also registered with Brains for Dementia Research (BDR) as was my partner.

What motivated you to become a research champion? 

I was working on a research study with an NIHR Research Fellow at Newcastle University and he suggested I became a Research Champion. He explained what it would entail and I was interested in finding out more as I believe research is so important in all fields of medicine as without things would standstill. My partner had dementia and other members of my family have Crohn’s disease, Type 1 Diabetes and Cancer and without research they might not be here or lived as long as they did. So I thought if I became a Research Champion I would be able to gain knowledge which I could spread to help people understand what is entailed in research and then more people could be recruited onto research trials. 

What activities have you been involved with as a research champion and what difference do you feel they make to others and to research? 

I became involved as a Research Champion last year so unfortunately due to COVID-19 I have not been able to do much but I have signed up to be a volunteer in the COVID-19 vaccine trials and I have been talking to family and friends promoting the research to make them aware how they can become involved as well as participating in the monthly virtual meetings. 

How has being a research champion benefited you and how have you been supported? 

I have been involved in research for years and since becoming a Research Champion the role has widened my knowledge of research and how to promote research. The zoom meetings with other Champions have been really helpful, I get to hear what they have been involved with and how they promote research. I have also enjoyed listening to the speakers who have been invited to the meetings, I have learnt so much about different areas and different types of research. I have also learnt no question is a stupid question, if you don’t know or don’t understand you only need to ask, the support I have had has been excellent, with my induction and regular updates and zoom meetings.