The Art of Engagement: From Cancer Survivor to Researcher

Lung Cancer Heroes®, CURE® Lung Cancer Heroes® 2021 Essay Book, Volume 2,

In an era of trauma, people whose buoyancy elevates both purpose and agency shine like a flashlight in the darkness. During the past year of uncertainty, Dave Bjork was that light for many.

I am the strategic alignment adviser at GRYT Health, a digital oncology platform that supports patients and builds cancer survivorship through education and advocacy. It is our honor at GRYT Health to introduce you to our nomination for 2021 Lung Cancer Heroes®: Dave Bjork.

I personally discovered @bjork5 on Twitter a year ago. He tagged a colleague that I knew, and I found his stream of educational articles and patient stories intriguing. Our team at GRYT Health has gotten to know him very well over the past year, as he helps guide our virtual patient education to work in collaboration with industry leaders.

We have been inspired by his story of lung cancer survivorship, his advocacy and the way he uses his platform to inform and advocate for others to use their voice. In an era of trauma, people whose buoyancy elevates both purpose and agency shine like a flashlight in the darkness. During the past year of uncertainty, Dave was that light for many.

Because of Dave’s long career in the health care industry and nonprofit fundraising, building relationships came easy to him, but telling his own story did not. Doubt about the value of his story initially held him back. “For many years, I was very quiet about (my lung cancer journey) because I had a sense of survivor’s guilt,” he said. “I had such a great outcome. So many others that I knew did not have good outcomes."

The support of a close friend encouraged Dave to start using his voice to share his story and inspire others.

“Once I started letting my voice be heard, I started connecting with other people, and it became a magical experience,” he said.

The “magical experience” he is talking about is the podcast he started called “The Research Evangelist,” which shares good news about the amazing people in the life science community who are making a difference. It is Dave’s life mission to connect individuals, patient advocacy groups, biopharma companies, academic institutions and other key influencers to forge strong partnerships to focus on research.

Dave is a community builder. In addition to his podcast, he has founded two large Boston-area events: Cannons Fighting Cancer and FRAXA Biotech Games. Cannons Fighting Cancer partners with the Boston Cannons to elevate awareness of the cutting-edge cancer research being done in laboratories in Greater Boston. The FRAXA Biotech Games bring together the Boston biotech community to network in a friendly setting and form new relationships and potential collaborations — while raising money for a great cause. Proceeds from the event benefit the FRAXA Research Foundation, which supports research projects for fragile X syndrome at institutions around the world, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Stanford University and University of California, San Diego.

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