This photo is from the early ’90s and was of a group of volunteers who participated in an AIDS Vaccine Study. Yes, that’s us in the middle. The photo was used on a recruitment poster. We both did that study for a year. When it was completed we discovered that Spencer had received a placebo and Sheila actually tested false-positive for AIDS which meant that the vaccine had done what it was intended to do. There are medical/health studies going on all the time. It’s a way that we choose to give-back and feel like we “make a difference”. Not everyone will have the inclination, the time and most importantly the qualifications for any particular study.
Of course every study is unique in frequency and duration, requirements to enter and what they do with you while there and between visits. And of course there’s some minor compensation. It’s NOT a way to get rich, for sure. They usually offer a small per diem for one’s time and trouble. Enough for a nice meal out perhaps.
Since that first study we’ve done several others including Avian Flu studies. Sheila’s done a menopause study and is in the second year of a five year study funded by the Michael J Fox Foundation. They’re looking for the gene marker for Parkinson’s. Twice a year they fly both of us out to Boston University and cover all expenses (airport limo, hotel, meals) and a small stipend. The first visit each year Sheila undergoes several medical procedures (spinal tap, MRI, DatScan, etc) as well as balance, smell and mental acuity. The second visit there are no procedures. It’s interesting and we’ve made a point of including a family visit, bicycle tour and/or WordPress conference with each trip to maximize the flights.