Volunteer Stakeholders Key to Research Grant Decisions

Written By:Susan Newell

Photo by Glenn Moody

“I love doing what I’m doing. I realize that research is the key to success ..." 

As he was winding down after a nearly 45-year law career in Connecticut, Bob Evans decided, “I want to flunk retirement.” Fortunately for the American Cancer Society, he’s having tremendous success. Evans has been a Society volunteer for 15 years, and is currently a Peer Review Stakeholder – a crucial voice in the process that determines how limited Society funds are allocated for research grants.

The Naples, Florida resident offers a layperson’s perspective, serving with up to two other stakeholders and as many as 25 scientists and physicians to comprise just one of 20 Peer Review Committees. With up to 1,800 applications submitted annually, the medical experts scrutinize technical aspects, while stakeholders keep the Society’s mission at the forefront of discussions.

It’s an ideal role for Evans. With his law background and a natural affinity to research and debate, he’s in his element discussing merits and weaknesses. And with personal ties to cancer – he lost his mother to lung cancer, and is a prostate cancer survivor himself – he brings passion to the table.

“I love doing what I’m doing. I realize that research is the key to success, and I not only learn about the research but also how the funds are being allocated. If you understand the whole picture you can be a better ambassador for the Society.”

Clearly, Evans brings a vital perspective to the review process. “The last time I did this was the third time,” he says. “I’m getting these comments, ‘Bob, you’re bringing a whole new dimension to what we’re doing because you speak from a different standpoint.’ I was very happy when they said that, because that’s my goal and my responsibility.”

Prior to his move south, he served as a community speaker promoting early detection and treatment, and as a Society advocate who met with local legislators. After relocating to Naples, Evans led a Society support group for men living with prostate cancer, and is now founding chairman of the local Laureate Society – an organization of distinguished Society donors who contribute $10,000 or more annually.

Evans doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon. Might there be additional opportunities to participate in decisions on research funding? “I think I have some experience to offer,” he says, “but we’ll see where the journey takes us.”

Learn more about how the American Cancer Society research grant process works.

This article originally appeared in the Fall-Winter 2013 Edition of Triumph magazine, published by Pace Communications and the American Cancer Society. Reprinted with permission.

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