PAIRing up for Research: The Importance of Saying Thank You

Last week, we were excited to see a great example of pairing up (the slogan for our Parkinson’s Advocates in Research, or “PAIR” program) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). In an article entitled, “Events honor early patients of novel Parkinson’s study,” VUMC reports on their study of deep brain stimulation surgery as a treatment for early stage Parkinson’s. DBS is approved by the FDA as a treatment for mid stage Parkinson’s, but not for those with earlier stage PD.

We were impressed to see how VUMC thanked their volunteers, all people with Parkinson’s, who made the study possible. As the article notes, their 35 volunteers did an extraordinary thing by agreeing to either undergo surgery early on in their Parkinson’s or to receive standard medicines. Each person also dedicated five separate weeks of their time over the course of two years.

As with all clinical studies, we only learned new lessons about PD because of those volunteers.

Will You “PAIR Up” for Parkinson’s Research? 
This story rang true with PDF because VUMC’s event reflects values similar to those that drive our PAIR program.  At PDF, we believe that people with PD must be primary partners in research­ as participants, but also in other capacities,­ in order for us to speed new treatments.

The importance of saying thank you is particularly key, because of findings such as those from a 2007 CISCRP survey which say that:

  • 79 percent percent of clinical study volunteers report that they never hear from the sponsor or research staff after a trial has concluded, and; 
  • 83 percent of volunteers say they are never told the results of their trial

Through PAIR, we are committed to changing this statistic and to ensuring that someone says thank you.  We are doing this in part through our signature PAIR Up for PD Research forums each April that – similar to VUMC -­ publicly thank people with Parkinson’s disease who have volunteered for research studies.

    Courtesy of PDF Research Advocate Carolyn Weaver, made for her fellow Research Advocates.

Most of these forums are led by one of PDF’s 180 Research Advocates (all of whom have completed one of our in-person PAIR Learning Institutes) in collaboration with local researchers.

PDF Research Advocate Bob Hankin at an April 2012 PAIR Up for PD Research Forum in New York, NY.

The thank you at the forum is usually a simple public recognition along with a small token from PDF (see first and last photos).  But it’s an important step in ensuring people with PD are at the front and center of research.

We applaud VUMC’s efforts to communicate with their volunteers and say thank you.  

What do you think about their efforts? Will you PAIR Up?

Visit our website to learn more about getting involved with PAIR, through our upcoming training for people with Parkinson’s and care partners in Oak Brook, IL or our new online course.

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