Welcome to Narnia

New beginnings aren’t always scary, Right?

In February I decided to open the door to a world that I knew very little about.

I had a willingness to embark on this adventure but no idea what I would find.  Turns out, I was right about how foreign this new world was (and not just the fact that I would need to use a computer every day).

My background is in Community Psychology.  I have done clinical therapy with clients struggling with addiction, I have dealt with entire classrooms of kindergarteners with glitter entirely on my own, I have helped create the infrastructure for, a now successful, Dietetic Internship Program (much like a medical rotation).  All of these paths in my life have shown me at one time or another where systems are failing, or new opportunities for growth existed, both on an individual level as well as within those specific fields.  However, my new career path has opened my eyes to a very different frontier of a system that needs improvement.

In February, I chose to leave the world behind that I knew. My most recent employment was working as an Instructional Assistant with Kindergarteners, something that I absolutely loved.  I was comfortable with what I did, but I also knew I was settling into that comfort a little too much and wasn’t making the effort to push myself.  When the opportunity to become Associate Director of Research at Salem Oaks presented itself to me, I dove in.  I craved that research, the program evaluation, and development I had previously worked on while in Graduate School and immediately following it. To be honest, I also missed working with adults all of the time and this allowed me to do that as well.  This was a new world though, of healthcare, and pharmaceutical companies, doctor-patient relationships (other than my own) and of new terminology and language that I had never used before.

When I began this new role my first focus was better understanding the climate.  What drives the individuals who have become patient advocates?  Why do only some patients become advocates and not all of them?   Is there a motivation in some of us to push for change that others don’t have?  (I still haven’t even begun to answer these questions, so if you have an answer or even an opinion on this PLEASE let me know @JamieRoger8 or bit.ly/SalemOaksSorting). The more important personal question though, where can I fit into all of this?  How do I even start something I know so little about?

From the first week, and probably after my first experience of trying to engage in a tweetchat, I realized that I knew more than I thought I did.  I truly understand empathy, relationships, self-care, advocating for yourself (though in my experience this has been in different arenas than healthcare), and motivation.  I am capable of understanding the human emotions and struggles that we all face when exposed to something out of our control.  I knew so much more than I realized, but I will be the first to admit I HAD SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN.

I chose this new path. I jumped in headfirst, willingly, with my arms outstretched to embrace it.  I know that this isn’t the case with patients.  They do not have a choice about the situation they are in.  At the point of diagnosis, a patient is entering a whole new world where they are completely in the dark about what can happen, and what role they can play.  That is terrifying to think about, but it is something we are striving to change.

In reality, some of the educational programs we are working on will be hugely beneficial to me as well.  I have no problem admitting that.  It is because of this fact that I am confident that these programs will be just as beneficial to patients who are trying to be more informed, engaged, and active in the process of change as well as their own treatment.  The drive to continue learning runs parallel to our shared mission to educate.

I stand behind the vision of @SalemOaks which is, a world in which people are equipped to collaborate to successfully shape a healthier future.  As much as I want to continue to learn about this process, I (we) want to make that an option for everyone else as well.  Patients, and patient advocates and their caregivers, deserve the opportunity to expand their knowledge in research and development and clinical trials with the goal of being able to have a better quality of life.  I couldn’t be more thankful that I was given the opportunity to work with this amazing population of people, including my colleagues.

It turns out Narnia isn’t quite as scary as I thought it would be.  Though I am still finding something new, and occasionally shocking, around every corner and mountain that I climb, I would never second guess my decision to open this door in the first place. I have learned a lot in the last 6 months, but I know that is only the tip of the iceberg as each new project brings a new opportunity for growth.

Jamie Roger

Works Cited

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