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Karen Mason

Photos and text used with permission of
Karen Mason.

For this survivor, being a member of the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OCRP) Integration Panel (IP) as a consumer advocate for the past seven years has been like having a seat on the mountaintop. What a thrilling experience it has been.

Eleven years ago, the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance taught me how to raise awareness of ovarian cancer on Capitol Hill, and I have continued to make this effort annually. It has been extraordinarily empowering to be an IP member: having a vote in determining how funding for ovarian cancer research is ultimately spent and a voice in determining the future directions for research in this disease.

After spending many years promoting education and awareness as my main advocacy focus, I came to realize that research is where the true answers will be found. Unfortunately, by the time most women display symptoms the disease is already metastatic. Trying to improve detection and diagnosis is likely a place to improve outcomes.

As a member of the IP, I came to understand a simple philosophy: Do we want to use our resources to fund big initiatives or invest in many small projects? To shorthand this argument, we reference a desire to either have "peanuts" or spread it among many scientists and have "peanut butter". During my years on the IP we focused on having big peanuts! In doing so, some of my favorite award mechanisms were created:

The Ovarian Cancer Academy Award...attracting new scientists to ovarian cancer research and fostering their professional development through peer and mentor networking, developing the research leaders of tomorrow and solidifying their interest in ovarian cancer.

The Teal Innovator Award...persuading a formidable scientist-a visionary individual recognized in their field-to focus his/her creativity on ovarian cancer research.

The Outcome Consortium Development Award...exploring the differences in women that allow some to survive over a decade while many others quickly recur.

My time on the IP is ending, as I feel this experience must be shared by others, especially those working so hard to maintain and increase our funding.

My advocacy efforts will remain strong to promote research funding.

The words in the OCRP mission and vision statements say it all-Detect, diagnose, prevent, control and eliminate.

One day...