Tuesday 12th June 2012
Macmillan professional Charlie Ewer-Smith on the benefits of going on a travelling fellowship.
Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowships allow British citizens to go abroad on a worthwhile enterprise of their own choosing. I read about the fellowship in a professional journal a couple of years ago. I applied under the medical and health category and was thrilled to be given a grant that would allow me to travel for eight weeks.
I was working as a Macmillan occupational therapist at the time – therefore my focus was very much on supporting people living with cancer. I had also been involved in some work with the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative (NCSI) and am passionate about survivorship and the role of allied health professionals within it.
I used my fellowship to visit survivorship programmes in Canada, the US, New Zealand and Australia. I visited around 20 organisations including the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, The British Columbia Cancer Agency, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, and LIVESTRONG™ in Texas.
My aim was to learn about the ways in which people living with cancer are supported in these countries, and to speak to patients about their experiences of using the programmes.
It was incredible to see entire teams of professionals and researchers dedicated to the area of survivorship.
I observed the benefits of this close relationship, and felt privileged to see the partnerships working for the benefit of both service users and professional teams. The integrated approaches to ongoing management meant that interventions were constantly being evaluated to ensure they remained meaningful and relevant to the patients.
One great example is the ELLICSR: Health, Wellness and Cancer Survivorship Programme in Toronto. ELLICSR (Electronic Living Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Cancer Survivorship Research), is exploring novel ways to learn from survivors, developing new survivorship communities and studying how survivors can be engaged, empowered and active in adopting healthier behaviours.
The programme is run in a community centre with teaching and self-management areas. It is also equipped to support virtual programming, community connections and global collaborations. The researchers and clinicians meet weekly to ensure that practice and research are truly driven by each other.
I feel that working together as a global community has the potential to change attitudes around living with and beyond cancer. Being able to meet with people working in this area in other nations, to observe the way they work, and to collect resources as I travelled, has been an incredible experience.
Since returning to the UK I have given presentations about my fellowship, including at the National Cancer Rehabilitation Advisory Board. I also attended an NCSI event in May. I am helping charities to develop their survivorship strategies, and have given advice to colleagues on how to start integrating survivorship issues into everyday practice. For example, our chemotherapy day unit is now taking measures to prepare patients for the end of treatment.
Should you wish to apply for such a fellowship, make sure that you demonstrate that you are passionate about your subject and have a clear picture of how you intend to disseminate what you have learned on your return.
Contact Charlie Ewer-Smith, Macmillan Teenage and Young Adult Aftercare Specialist at the ON TARGET Programme, Bristol, on 0117 3421394
or email Charlie.
You can download Charlie's full report