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‘Covid-19 has taught everyone to be their own researcher’

‘Covid-19 has taught everyone to be their own researcher’

Claire Uwins has been inspired by a desire to care for others and understands the importance of research in advancing medical science.

Claire, who is a Join Dementia Research Champion for North Thames, grew up with a mum with serious health conditions and a dad who lived with Alzheimer’s for 20 years.

Claire herself has asthma, which means she has chosen to shield during the coronavirus pandemic, as her condition means she is extremely vulnerable to the virus.

“I’ve been isolating in my own little bubble,” she said. “My two sons had to come back from university so while I’ve been shielding.

“What it’s really brought home to me is that everyone has needed to be their own researcher during COVID-19,” she said. “Clinical trials have really been at the forefront of people’s thinking.

“As someone living with a condition that makes me extremely vulnerable, my thinking is, why wouldn’t I want to learn about new treatments?”

Claire’s family background gives her a strong focus on health, even though she is the only one of five sisters not to go into healthcare as a career.

“I saw my parents living with serious illness and I didn’t want to go through what they had to go through,” she explained. “Growing up in Northern Ireland, it was very much the culture that your family lived with you, so health issues were always in the background.”

Instead of going into medicine, Claire went into retail, building and developing new markets for a major supermarket chain, a job she did for more than 20 years.

“I’ve always been about finding out what people needed, and then trying to meet that need,” she explained. I’ve carried that attitude right through my career and it helps me with what I’m doing now.”

As a Join Dementia Research Champion for North Thames, Claire promotes the Join Dementia Research initiative, which aims to match researchers to people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment and their carers, for the purpose of taking part in research studies.

She also sits on a patient participation group at her local GP surgery, works part-time in public engagement at a central London private practice, and is a Dementia Champion.

While she has a personal reason for wanting to be involved with Join Dementia Research due to her father living with Alzheimer’s, she feels that now is a really good time for people to develop an interest in research.

“It’s a great time for people to think about how they might want to learn about research,” she said. “There’s so many resources out there and we know that research is the only way we’re going to beat COVID, so why not look into it for other conditions as well?

“Research can inspire or encourage anyone living with a long-term term illness or condition to follow a pathway to help them live as well as they can.”

To find out more about research studies taking place in your area, visit NIHR’s Be Part of Research website.