Shannon Marsh currently works as an American Cancer Society Patient Navigator at the Swedish Cancer Institute and is a recent partner to the Patient Advisory Network. Shannon has an extensive background in patient advocacy and as a patient advisor in research. In 2003, Shannon quit her practice as an appellate attorney to work at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a research advocate. This decision was prompted after her father received a grim prognosis of esophageal cancer at the age of 58. At that point, Shannon had already experienced her own diagnosis of a rare pediatric ovarian cancer at age 12, watched all the women on her father’s side of the family die from ovarian or breast cancer, and learned she carried the BRCA2 mutation. Her decision to become a patient research advocate was simple, she says, as “being a passive observer was no longer an option.”
To date, Shannon has worked with several cooperative groups, including the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Review Program for Ovarian Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute’s GI task force, the Pacific Ovarian Cancer Research Consortium, Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research, and the Executive Advisory Panel for the Patient Advocates in Research Team (PART) for the SPORE program, and on several research studies at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
About her work, Shannon says: “The ultimate goal in becoming a patient advisor in research is to aid in the development and funding of good science and to expedite its delivery from the bench to the bedside. We [patient advisors] do this by providing the patient perspective up front – by asking the questions that a person in the lab might not. It’s no easy task and involves learning a new language, being willing to ask the “stupid” questions, and recognizing the enormous opportunity and responsibility that comes with providing the voice for so many patients who have come before us and/or will follow us.”