By: Catherine H. Saunders
The What Matters Most team at The Dartmouth Institute has a special team member, Ann Bradley. Ann practiced as a nurse for more than 50 years, in various roles.
Now she has a new role. She’s an integral member of our recruitment team as a patient associate.
Ann found out she had breast cancer 23 years ago, right after returning to the Upper Valley from a family vacation in Nantucket. While she was away, her doctor’s office left a message on her answering machine. Her young son hit the red playback button as soon as they got home. He came running to tell her something wasn’t right.
“Mom, they say there’s something wrong. You have to go back to [hospital].”
Reflecting on this impersonal approach to patient communication, Ann says, “the way the news was broken to me was terrible.” Her experience inspired her to help others, both as a nurse and – now – as a patient associate on the What Matters Most team.
When the Patient is the Researcher
Ann thinks her position as a breast cancer survivor helps potential participants in our study relax and feel comfortable.
“My gray hair for one thing – helps. Also, I don’t mind saying I’ve been where you are and that was 23 years ago. And that [...] is a good thing. Often the response is, ‘and you’re still here!’”
She also intuits that – much like her – others with breast cancer are “very willing to give their time to help other women” by participating in research.
Something about Ann’s approach is working. She has the best recruitment results of anyone on our Dartmouth team!
Learning to do Research
As for the research itself, Ann says it was a steep learning curve, “I read all that I could. […] I have new respect for researchers. I realize the detail and importance of relating to other people while not putting your own biases in. It’s been instructive. I’ve learned a lot!”
Connecting the Dots
Being a breast cancer survivor is an important part of Ann’s identity.
“I do get emotional – still. It’s just a profound part of my life experience. So that never goes away. Every year, I still go in for a mammogram, and it’s like…well…what’s this going to show? And of course it never shows anything.”
And she loves bringing her experience to the job, in an effort to help other women.
“It’s great fun to work with you young kids.”
We also love working with Ann! She reminds us about why we’re doing this work and makes us smile every time she is in the office.
Ann, we think YOU matter most. Thank you for being a part of our team.