Caroline Struthers, Project Manager, ALOIS Community project

In 2008 I started work as the Trials Search Coordinator for the Cochrane Pain, Palliative and Supportive Care Review Group at the Churchill Hospital here in Oxford. Having glossed over the fact that I had no library or information retrieval training whatsoever, despite it having been an “essential requirement”, I was surprised and delighted to get an interview. I had never heard of the Cochrane Collaboration before applying, and similarly to Anna’s experience at interview, when asked what I thought of Cochrane said enthusiastically “it’s just such a good idea!” That raised a wry smile among the interview panel, but enthusiasm (and a very short short-list) can get you a long way.

Nearly three years later, I moved from the Pain Group to the Dementia Group to manage the ALOIS Community project, and my enthusiasm for Cochrane is undiminished. Which is very good as my role is to communicate and enthuse a wide range of people about what the Cochrane Collaboration is all about.

What makes this project unique and very exciting for me, is that we are reaching out directly to people affected by dementia in a way previously untried by the Cochrane Collaboration. So far the response has been really positive, and we are well on the way to creating a large, lively, and very productive online community of people either directly contributing to our group by volunteering, or by getting involved in dementia research in other ways.

My aim in life is to help make the Cochrane Collaboration the household name it deserves to be, and to push dementia research further up the agenda. I believe this innovative project will be the start of a great wave of public empowerment, arming users of health and social services with the ability to see behind sensational medical “breakthrough” stories in the newspapers, and building the knowledge and confidence to advocate for themselves and their loved ones at all levels within the NHS, and in other arenas.

And, crucially, fewer people I meet at parties will look really blank when I try to explain what I do!