Scientists and Clinicians Play a Pivotal Role at Advocacy Day 2010

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Scientific Advisory Board member Gloria Petersen,
PhD with grant recipients Zeshaan Rasheed, MD,
PhD and Pinku Mukherjee, PhD

The vast majority of attendees of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s fourth annual Advocacy Day were there in support or memory of a loved one. Many have lost friends or relatives to the disease; some were currently fighting it themselves. Their personal experiences and knowledge of the dismal statistics incited a passion to eradicate this disease, and prevent future families from suffering as much as they have. These people definitely did not choose pancreatic cancer to impact their lives; it chose them.

Also present at Advocacy Day were a dozen individuals who did choose pancreatic cancer: as their career focus. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network was honored to invite several of its grant recipients, Scientific Advisory Board, and Medical Advisory Council members to attend Advocacy Day. These researchers and clinicians have dedicated their professional lives to studying, treating, detecting, and understanding this highly aggressive and complex disease.

When Advocacy Day attendees stepped into their elected officials’ offices on Capitol Hill, they were there to lobby for increased funding and attention to pancreatic cancer by the National Cancer Institute. The volunteers’ personal stories put a face to the disease, and the doctors and scientists were able to immeasurably strengthen the argument, by sharing their expertise, experiences, and struggles in trying to tackle this disease.

Scientific Advisory Board member Geoff Wahl, PhD speaks with California constituents.

The volunteers and scientists/clinicians created a forceful and effective team, while undoubtedly also impacting and inspiring one another. In fact, in an eloquent and impassioned letter to a young man currently fighting pancreatic cancer, Geoff Wahl, PhD (Scientific Advisory Board member) wrote, “You have my promise that I will continue to use whatever resources I have until [the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act] is passed, the reasonable additional financial investment we requested is made, and that we make progress so that earlier detection and better treatment become realities.”

Not only does the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network award research grants to highly deserving scientists each year, but the organization also strives to mold them into future leaders of the field. The opportunity to experience events such as Advocacy Day exposes young researchers to top professionals in the field, including the organization’s scientific and medical advisors, and allows interaction with passionate grassroots advocates and leaders. The recipient of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network inaugural Pathway to Leadership Award, Zeshaan Rasheed, MD, PhD, stated that Advocacy Day was “quite a new experience” and “very interesting”. He also shared that his “last meeting resulted in a co-sponsorship [of the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act]…That was really exciting!”

The partnership that evolved between the volunteers, scientists, and clinicians at Advocacy Day created an extremely powerful force. Together, we will know it, fight it, and end it.