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An evening with local patients

Blog posted by: Timo Reislander, DPhil student

We work in cancer research.  When all the lab work is done, our dream is that the long hours will lead to a change in cancer treatment and a better outcome for those who have to take the cancer journey.

Research is a scientific business often driven by personal goals, a mixture of curiosity and a desire to publish and build a career.  But in our world there are people living with cancer today who have a very different set of desires for our work.

Recently, I had the chance to talk in front of a group of renal cancer patients sharing insights into our research. The group is called ‘The Friends of Renal Oncology Group’ or FROG. FROG gives not only patients but also partners and spouses a common space to share experiences and to get moral and practical support.

The evening was held in the beautiful Maggie’s Centre next to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford.  We started with a cup of tea and a chat. As people arrived they told me about their work, their hobbies and their ideas.   

When everyone arrived, we set up chairs and couches in a theatre manner with a flip chart at the front. I deliberately chose to use a flip-chart rather than a projector, because I had hoped that it would encourage questions by slowing the presentation down and by creating a more informal atmosphere. 

I used the flip chart and different colours to explain the principle of synthetic lethality (my field of research).   Talking without slides might feel daunting, but I was delighted by the result.  The session was very interactive and by using a flip chart instead of a projector, I could react instantly to needs of the audience. The FROG group was really curious and they asked great questions indicating that my work was very much appreciated and that they were eager to learn more about it. 

For me personally, this was a great experience. Explaining what I do and why I do it is always very satisfying. As a scientist it is extremely important to disseminate your findings not only to other experts but also to the lay public which is sponsoring the research via taxes and donations and to patients who in the end will benefit from our findings.

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