Research & everyday heroes

Think of the last time you heard a news announcement about research recommending some new approach to improving your health.

Remembering such announcements about diet, exercise, lifestyle change or medical interventions should be easy – they are made almost daily in all our news media.

Did you ever stop to think that every one of these announcements depends on a clinical study to deliver the data supporting the particular health recommendation?

Clinical research touches every person’s life regularly. Most of us take prescription medications at some point and almost everyone uses over-the-counter medicines on a routine basis.

Every medicine we consume and many behavioural interventions have gone through clinical testing involving people who volunteer to participate.

Unfortunately, most of us rarely think of clinical research as something with a direct influence on our lives. While the majority of people believe clinical research helps advance medical knowledge, less than 15 percent believe they even have a rudimentary understanding of how it affects them directly.

Clinical research is not a common dinner table conversation topic and it isn’t even discussed in high school science classrooms.

Usually, clinical research is only talked about in a doctor’s office when a patient has been diagnosed with an illness for which no treatment exists or when available treatments are unpleasant, unsafe or ineffective.

Without public and patient support, there can be no innovations in medical therapies. In the absence of study volunteers, clinical trials cannot be conducted – they are severely delayed and health advances are not made.

Still, an alarmingly low number of individuals participate in clinical trials each year – less than five percent of eligible patients.

Even among healthcare professionals the importance of clinical trials is often not understood. Very few of the eligible patients who do participate in clinical trials are referred by their physicians.

Many doctors, like other members of the public, are prepared to let somebody else worry about collecting the evidence on which evidence-based medicine depends.

Those who do volunteer to participate in clinical research are ordinary people who are medical heroes. In general, these individuals go unrecognized and unheralded, but they are performing a valuable service on which we all depend.

Thank you to all who take the time to participate in the process – you are making a difference in finding more effective medical treatments.

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About the Author

Paul Latimer has over 25 years experience in clinical practice, research, and administration.

After obtaining his medical degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, he did psychiatric training at Queen's, Oxford and Temple Universities. After his residency he did a doctorate in medical science at McMaster University where he was also a Medical Research Council of Canada Scholar.

Since 1983 he has been practicing psychiatry in Kelowna, BC, where he has held many administrative positions and conducted numerous clinical trials.

He has published many scientific papers and one book on the psychophysiology of the functional bowel disorders.

He is an avid photographer, skier and outdoorsman.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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