Introducing James Armstrong – a member on the NEMICS Consumer Reference Group

“Being an active cancer consumer allows the patient to be involved in improvements to cancer screening and better cancer care. I have always been a committed advocate for health promotion. Because of a family history of bowel cancer, I started screening early, which picked up my cancer at a very early stage and has meant I have been able to live an active life.”

James has been involved with NEMICS since 2016 and since that time has been an active member on our consumer reference group.  James has been a strong cancer consumer advocate involved in other local and national committees, with a passion for improvements in primary care, health promotion and disease prevention, as well as cancer research and clinical trials.

Professional history & background

  •  Bachelor of Science (La Trobe University)
  •  Master of Public Health (Monash University)
  •  Works as a medical scientist at Alfred Hospital pathology in Infectious Disease

Other skills and interests

  •  Trustee of the Ian Armstrong Art Trust:  James’ father was the Australian artist, Ian Armstrong. After Ian’s death in 2005, James and his sister have been involved in preserving his artistic legacy. Donating art works to public collections and working with art historians from the University of Melbourne, National Gallery of Australia and the State Library of Victoria.
  •  President Gourmet Toastmasters

Current NEMICS related roles:

  •  Member of the Consumer Reference Group (CRG)

Cancer- related roles beyond NEMICS:

  •  Member of Consumer Advisory Panel for Gastro-Intestinal Cancer Institute (AGITG)
  •  Consumer representative for National Cancer Expert Reference Group (NCERG)
  •  Consumer Buddy to two research scientists at the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI)
  •  Member of the Victorian Cancer Agency Reference Group (Victorian Department of Health & Human Services)

Personal cancer experience:
After witnessing his father’s bowel cancer experience, James knew that he had to monitor his health, and he began having colonoscopies in 2001. Nine years later, in 2010, James remembers, “My worst nightmare came true”. A precancerous polyp was detected in his results. James underwent an anterior bowel resection. Early detection has meant that James has been able to get back to an active life. He has completed a Master of Public Health at Monash University and has become a committed advocate for health promotion, disease prevention and public health.

Areas of interest in relation to cancer care & cancer service improvement:

  •  Primary health and cancer
  •  Cancer research/clinical trials
  •  Optimal Care Pathways

What interested you in becoming involved with NEMICS?   
I was attracted to NEMICS as it offers an opportunity to become involved in health care improvements at a local level.

What do you think are the benefits of your involvement? 
I can offer my views and experience from other groups that I belong to.
I have met an amazing group of committed consumers and health care professionals.
What has been a NEMICS project/initiative that you have been involved in or proud of?
The patient information videos project. I was on the original focus group and got to see the final project. They are an excellent set of well-made and informative videos.

What do you think are some of the challenges within the health system that face people affected by cancer?
Connecting primary care with specialists and hospital care is a challenge for all patients, but especially for cancer patients as the treatments are often complex and drawn out.

What are the top three things that you would like to see improved in the care of cancer patients and/or the health system?  
1. Access to the best care.
2. Medical records that are easy to understand, store and refer to.
3. Communication between cancer centre, the patient and the GP.

Name one aspect of cancer care that you think works well and more people should know about?
Screening high risk patients improves treatment outcomes.

NEMICS offers community members a range of different ways to engage and contribute to cancer service improvement, including involvement in the consumer reference group.
If you or someone you know is interested in participating as a consumer or would like to know more, please contact Anna Mascitti – Consumer Engagement and Coordinated Care Service Improvement Facilitator on 9496 3261  or
More information on NEMICS consumer engagement activities can be found here

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