On August 15th, colorectal cancer survivors, caregivers, and champions will be traveling from all across the U.S. to meet in Colorado for an exciting two-day Research Advocacy Training and Support (RATS) Academy.

The training and support program, affectionately known as RATS, brings together patient advocates with a vested interest in learning the science and research behind colorectal cancer (CRC) to hear from top oncologists and researchers at the University of Colorado Hospital.

Patients will have the opportunity to engage and interact with top researchers who are at the forefront of finding the best treatment options for CRC patients, while critically thinking through the research process from prevention to survivorship, and everything in between.

Recently, Fight CRC onboarded 11 new research advocates bringing the group to over 30 educated and passionate advocates.

So what do research advocates do?

Research advocates are patient advocates that bring a non-scientific viewpoint to the research process, while collectively communicating the patient experience.

Don’t let “non-scientific viewpoint” fool you, however.

Fight CRC research advocates currently sit on panels for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for example. Research advocates excel in understanding the research process and are the experts in sharing the collective patient experience, serving as the most educated patient advocate at the research table.

According to Julie Krause, a long-time research advocate and past RATS academy attendee, “As a stage IV survivor, I thought I was knowledgeable about CRC. As a result of the RATS training I received, I found out I really wasn’t. Additionally, there were exciting advancements that were breaking at the time, including immunotherapy and precision medicine. It was incredible to go through the training not only to understand these advancements, but to be able to discuss them with patients and researchers as well.”

RATS Academies provide the opportunity for patients to become educated from bench to bedside, ultimately serving as the conduit between the patient and scientific world.

Dr. Wells Messersmith, professor and head of the Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Colorado Hospital understands firsthand the importance of research advocacy.

“At the end of the day, researchers do their work to benefit the public, especially patients grappling with tough illnesses like cancer. It is critical to have the patient’s voice at the table when research proposals are evaluated, and the RATS program helps prepare advocates for this important responsibility.”

What’s exciting about this year’s academy?

This year, researchers, oncologists, nurses, exercise physiologists, and psychologists will convene to share their knowledge as it relates to cancer research.

Among the different presentations, there will also be a survivorship care panel, and a panel made up of experienced research advocates with different ideas and goals.

Having a variety of different perspectives, experiences, and ideas in one room will lead to an eventful and knowledge packed week.

According to Kimberly Schoolcraft, a CRC caregiver advocating in honor of her late partner, “I’m looking forward to gaining increased scientific knowledge and working with a network of like-minded people so that I can be a voice that helps to make these ideas a reality.”

What will advocates do once the academy ends?

After the RATS academy concludes and advocates return to their respective states, training doesn’t stop there.

Upon completion of the initial training, advocates will find their niche within research and sit on panels and boards and the local, state, or federal level.

We believe in the power of research and in equipping CRC research advocates with the necessary skills and tools to educate themselves and advocate for the greater patient community.

RATS Academies are an integral part of the RATS training program and set the stage for success. Kellie Hoffman, a caregiver for her late mother, a CRC survivor, puts it simply, “I’m here because I’ve chosen to help others.”

At the end of the day, the RATS program aims to help and empower other individuals to find the best screening and treatment options available to reduce the burden of colorectal cancer.

Your donations help support the RATS and their important work.

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