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Patient story: Patient uses artistic skills to give back after taking part in research

Patient story: Emelie Salford

Copyright of artwork belongs to artist Emelie Salford. All rights reserved.

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Patients and the public bring a wealth of experience to the design and delivery of clinical research. London-based artist Emelie Salford used her creative skills to help deliver a successful Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) event.

ARThritis took place in June 2019 at The Invention Rooms in White City, London. It brought patients, the public and researchers together to share information, knowledge and ideas. Developed in collaboration with Dr Sonya Abraham, Consultant Research Physician at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (ICHT), the event gave Emelie a chance to merge her artistic skills and experience of taking part in research.

"I'm very interested in how we can find ways to combine art and research."

“I've always had a great interest in art”, Emelie said. “It's always been a wonderful way of expression and self-therapy to engage and feed my curiosity. My art has been influenced by science - I'm very interested in how we can find ways to combine art and research.”

Emelie first became involved in research after being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in 2013, a condition that causes stiff joints and red patchy skin. Emelie signed-up to the Mi-PART trial, which is supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) North West London. It aims to better understand the different types of arthritis.

Emelie has seen first-hand how art can benefit health. She works with the art rehabilitation programme in the stroke unit at ICHT. This gives patients the opportunity to use art as a form of expression. Keen to get involved in PPI activity, it made sense for her to bring her art experience to the table.

The ARThritis event gave Emelie a chance to showcase her own body of work. “I have been doing a series called Pages of Life”, Emelie said. “Reflecting on my life and my journey with arthritis. I draw, I paint, I stitch.”

Those attending the event could admire Emelie’s body of work and take inspiration to produce their own pieces. Materials were provided so attendees could express their own experiences through art.

Speakers at the event included leaders in arthritis research, detailing the latest news in the field. Emelie also gave a talk sharing her experience living with the condition.

"You're furthering research and enabling future generations, and maybe even your own generation, to find a cure."

PPI events are a great opportunity for those living in similar circumstances to get together and share thoughts, ideas and knowledge. “It becomes a very natural thing where you're just sharing information. You're in a place where everyone is having similar flare ups and finding ways of keeping it at bay”, Emelie said. “It became a very open forum where everyone can share and learn from experiences”.

She was keen to share tips for reducing symptoms. “My main message, which I feel so strongly, is a positive attitude to life and accepting what you have can really help you move on. Trying to look at diet and continuous movement has actually taken away lots of the pain”, Emelie said. “I find it extremely useful to go on my scooter, I go about two hours every day. I play tennis now too.”

Emelie also credits taking part in research for contributing to her positive outlook and helping her to better understand her condition. “You're furthering research and enabling future generations, and maybe even your own generation, to find a cure. You’re also enabling yourself to live in a more straightforward, easier way.”

That’s why Emelie was keen to bring her skills to the ARThritis event. She passionately believes in the power of art to help people express their thoughts and deal with problems. “I try to get everyone I know to paint, draw and express themselves through art. Because I believe everyone can do it”.

Visit Emelie’s website to find out more about her work.