Published on June 25, 2018
After many years spent performing rounds, reviewing scans and working tirelessly to improve the lives of others as a clinical oncologist, Jim Omel was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1997. Although Jim had explained the disease countless times to his patients, he acquired a whole new perspective of what patients go through and the challenges they encounter after his own diagnosis. Facing myeloma drove Jim to embrace a new role as a patient advocate, a natural fit that allowed him to apply and expand his knowledge of cancer care he gained as a physician to protect and promote patient well-being.
Jim’s myeloma relapsed in 2000, causing him to retire from Family Practice of Grand Island and fully shift into cancer research patient advocacy. He became involved in several organizations including the Myeloma Steering Committee at the National Cancer Institute, the FDA’s advisory panel as a patient representative, and a leader of the Central Nebraska Myeloma Support Group. Engaged on all levels, Jim was able to oversee and help design clinical trials, review research behind new drugs considered for approval, and keep the myeloma community up-to-date with current treatment developments.
Although Jim personally decided to join and then drop out of a clinical trial, he strongly believes that “clinical trials are the backbone of new therapy for cancer,” he said in an interview with myelomacrowd.org. “If we don’t have cancer trials, cancer therapy would never progress. It would always be the same.”
In realizing that while many cancer patients don’t enroll in trials because of time, cost, or they’re simply unaware, more individuals don’t participate because of misconceptions held about the unknown clinical trial process and fear of being experimented on in a vulnerable time in their life. Jim asserts that “you, the patient, make the final decision,” and is vocal about educating and encouraging patients to participate in clinical trials because “if we don’t know what’s best, we have to do a trial to find out.”
Jim is committed to a better, brighter future in medicine and has championed the cause to give patients a better understanding about their treatment options and dispel myths about clinical trials. Knowing that one size does not fit all when it comes to cancer treatment, he spoke passionately about the DETERMINATION trial, a Phase III, multi-center study examining the timing of stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma. With a positive outlook, Jim states that, “we have so many good agents today” and the pace of research could go even faster “if we could get more patients involved in more trials.”
Continuing his pursuit to accelerate progress in cancer care in research and clinics, Jim uses his platform to empower patients with the knowledge to make informed decisions about their care. Join leading patient advocate, Jim Omel in a LIVE Clinical Trial MythBusters Webinar discussing all aspects of clinical trials, including whether the clinical trial process needs an extreme makeover on Wednesday, June 27 at Noon Pacific/3 PM Eastern.
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