Research Assistant Alice Russell tells us about her experience working on DETERMIND so far…
Why did you get involved in the DETERMIND project?
My interest in dementia began when I completed my undergraduate dissertation which looked into the friendships experienced by those who care for someone with dementia. From talking to the gentlemen who took part I realised what an impact dementia was having on their lives and the life of the person with dementia and with dementia increasing in the population it’s important we do everything we can to help.
After my degree I just went into a normal HR job to earn some money after all the university debt! However after doing that for two and half years I decided I wanted to do something which meant that I was using my degree to hopefully do something that makes a difference (cheesy I know!) So when the DETERMIND project came up I was keen to apply and not only gain more relevant experience from my degree but in a topic area that I found interesting. The project itself sparked my interest because of the experience and interaction I’d get to have with people with dementia and their carers especially as this is a qualitative study. I enjoy speaking to people and the fact that these results would then be used to inform policy was really made me feel like I’d be doing something meaningful (sorry a bit more cheese!).
What have you learned and enjoyed so far about the project?
Anyone who knows me knows I love a chat! That’s what I enjoy most about the project talking to the people we go to see about how life is for them. The people we speak to give us such an honest insight into their lives and give up their time to take part that I think it’s important we spend the time getting to know them and having a good chat! This project gives me the chance to meet people from all walks of life and find out so much, I can’t tell you how much life experience people share with us and how nice it is hear! In some cases we are seeing people at a really difficult time in their life and so I hope that being able to have a chat lets them get it off their chest as well as maybe putting a smile on their face and it always puts a smile on mine to have a good chat!
How might you use this experience in your future career?
I am still undecided as to what career path to take after the DETERMIND project. At the moment I am really enjoying the research side and so am deciding whether I would like to continue in research with a PHD or whether to move over to more clinical work. Either way I am hoping that the experience I gain from working on DETERMIND project will enable me to progress my career in the future. As I said above, the thing I enjoy most about working on this project is the interaction and conversations we have with the people who take part so as long as my next role also allows me to do that I’ll be happy! I also hope to gain an insight into the world of those living with dementia to help make a difference by collecting the data that will go on to inform policy.
Alice Russell is a Research Assistant on the DETERMIND project, based at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.