DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS
David Dessert
David Dessert

David Dessert, a 10-year pancreatic cancer survivor, has used his time to advocate for the best patient care, funding, and education to stop this cruel disease. David's diagnosis was not his last encounter with pancreatic cancer; his father, also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer succumbed to the disease. David has devoted his life to helping pancreatic cancer patients going through a similar tumultuous experience. David volunteers and moderates several pancreatic cancer patient forums and explains aspects of pancreatic cancer on his YouTube channel (Pancanology). Through these forums, David helps new patients better understand pancreatic cancer and access to care.

While a patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center, David learned that his pancreatic cancer was likely the result of a hereditary mutation and his doctor informed him of a breakthrough in pancreatic cancer research involving a BRCA2 treatment. David contributes this targeted treatment, combined with curative surgery, to his still being alive today to tell his story. David became driven to understand the latest treatment options available in the event of a recurrence or if another family member also developed pancreatic cancer. Knowing that pancreatic cancer runs in his family, his goal was to acquire as much knowledge as he could of the many breakthrough treatment options available.

David has a science and engineering background, so the drive to understand how things work has always been a part of his life. Through his work, he has learned the art of engaging with audiences and presenting the work to people with many levels of expertise and experience. David participates in the forums on FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), a web-based community for people at high risk of cancer due to family history and genetic status. At FORCE, David talks to people with hereditary mutations that predispose them to pancreatic cancer, helps individuals interested in early detection options, and talks with pancreatic cancer patients with hereditary mutations about effective treatment options. David also leads discussions on important questions patients could be asking their oncologists and surgeons.

David also focuses on the health disparities between major medical centers and small hospitals. At a local hospital, his father experienced delays in care, which deprived him of access to more effective and breakthrough treatment options available from other major medical centers. Seeing this disparity, David experienced firsthand how much of a knowledge gap there can be between doctors. Advocacy organizations focus mainly on informing patients of their options, and knowledgeable and consenting doctors must order tests and treatments. Bridging the knowledge gap with pancreatic cancer doctors and helping patients better understand their diagnosis and treatment options are the top focus of David’s advocacy efforts.

David’s energy and drive to make pancreatic cancer patients’ lives better led the organizers at FORCE to nominate David as a peer reviewer with PCARP. His battle with pancreatic cancer and advocacy work bring to the PCARP critical knowledge, including expertise and familiarity with the patient-physician connection, which helps the program move forward in its vision and mission.

In his role as a consumer peer reviewer, David shines the spotlight on high-impact ideas, tools, and treatments that should be widely available to patients at any cancer stage, that are low cost and easily administered, and that can enhance quality of life. Patients and families bring a unique perspective from their experiences with pancreatic cancer, and David’s contributions are helping the PCARP to accomplish its goals.

Last updated Monday, January 3, 2022