When Kevin Freiert started Salem Oaks in the early days of his retirement, he could have focused on any number of topics that he became an expert in during his 30 years at Pfizer. But instead his interest was drawn to a topic that was just starting to gain momentum in the field. An area of importance that has been missing from the Research and Development process but has a valuable impact. A key stakeholder with the highest stakes in the game, but most of the time the lowest input.
We are just starting to really dive into a new era where patient involvement has a higher value (one that has been missing from the equation), and we at Salem Oaks wanted to give those patients the knowledge that they needed to jump right in. Let’s think about this like swimming for a moment. Who has the more enjoyable experience in the pool? The child who is just learning to swim and is terrified to be left alone, or the child who has been in the pool for years and jumps into the deep end without a care in the world and makes games out of seeing how many people they can splash? I think it’s safe to believe that the splashing kid is having a better time, at least initially. The other kid will gain confidence and be willing to jump into the deep end too, but it will take time. Patients are much like the kid who is just learning to swim, they are the most educated stakeholder when it comes to living with the disease on a daily basis, but they are just learning about the research that it takes to find a cure for what they are going through. Once you provide patients with an education about what researchers are facing and working to solve, the value of input that those patients has increases as well as their confidence to do so.
Patients deserve to be involved in the development of clinical trials, determining what is most important to them as far as medications (side effects, what symptoms are being dealt with, they want a cure or to reduce symptoms), and every other stage of drug discovery and development. But this is a world that speaks its own language and has regulations and protocols that are foreign to patients. We are striving to teach patients this language and to do so in a way that builds confidence for them to have the conversations.
We want to act like your swim lessons, we want you to be ready for the pool as soon as you get the opportunity to jump in. As a patient that might mean you are asked to be on an IRB, to review a clinical trial protocol, to be an advisor to a drug research group, or to help with any of the planning and development of the pharmaceutical research and development process. We want you to be ready so when you are asked you can jump right in you do not have to take the time to begin learning in the moment when you are asked.
Are you ready?