Career Journeys: Everett Dodson, Patient Advocate

Oct 27, 2015

Everett Dodson is a Community Health Educator in the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research at the Georgetown/Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, a position he has held for 8 years.

How and why did you become a patient advocate?

ED: My awareness about the importance of patient advocacy was raised while at the Howard University Cancer Center. Many of the men participating in the prostate cancer screenings had no health insurance. A number of them required follow-up due to a negative screening result. After contacting and explaining the situation I was able to get a number of these men into Howard University Hospital for assessment and treatment. It was important to establish an ongoing relationship with the men to encourage them to keep their scheduled appointments and adhere to the treatment regimens.

What unique experiences shaped your professional journey and led you to where you are today?

ED: While at the Howard University Cancer Center, I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Virgil Simons, the founder and CEO of The Prostate Net and Prostate Net Europa. He shared his journey from prostate cancer survivor to patient advocate and has greatly influenced my career as an advocate. We are the best of friends who readily seek each other’s advice.

Describe your typical work day.

ED: My days involve developing community partnerships, implementing community-based interventions and education programs, recruiting and screening participants for studies, facilitating focus groups, and supporting the efforts of colleagues both in the office and in the community.

What part of your job is your favorite? What aspect is the most challenging or frustrating?

ED: My favorite aspect of my job is the long-lasting relationships that I have developed over the years in the different communities in the District of Columbia. I feel that this is a validation of my efforts on behalf of the community.

There will always be challenges, but being able to respond to these challenges raises my awareness and makes me a stronger advocate.

What should trainee and early-career oncologists know about working with patient advocates?

ED: With a patient advocate, a patient may feel more at ease in the clinical setting, and see the patient advocate as someone that will represent their interest to the research team.

How do you see the role of patient advocate evolving over the next 5 to 10 years?

ED: Over the next 5 to 10 years, every medical center should have a recognized patient advocate component that is well-respected and utilized. I hope to see more patient advocates as members of multidisciplinary research teams on Institutional Review Boards, engaged in recruitment to clinical trials, and providing community outreach.

Can you describe the interdisciplinary team dynamic you experience as a patient advocate?

ED: There is recognition of the synergy between patient advocates and physicians/researchers. I have experienced this in my work at Georgetown/Lombardi, as a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Central Institutional Review Board, and as a patient advocate faculty member for the ASCO/American Association of Cancer Research Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop.

Why is the patient advocate such an integral part of the treatment of patients with cancer?

ED: The patient advocate is more accessible to the doctor and to the patient, and as part of a multidisciplinary team, a patient advocate can provide a conduit for information sharing at all levels. Patient advocates continue to build consensus between patients and medical professionals.

Mr. Dodson is a nationally recognized expert on community and men’s health issues. He currently serves as Vice Chair of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director’s Consumer Liaison Group, and is a member of the NCI Clinical Trials Advisory Committee and Patient Advocate Steering Committee. His efforts as a health advocate have been recognized by The Prostate Net. Mr. Dodson is a member of the National Alliance of African American Prostate Cancer Advocates, and is a former chairperson for the Mid-Atlantic Region of the National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer. Mr. Dodson has over 12 years of experience in community engagement and men’s health.

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