Lynn Crawford suffered from chronic leg pain, but she was reluctant to enroll in medical research on the condition.

“I thought, ‘Well I’m not gonna get anything out of this,’” Crawford said.

Like most Americans, Crawford didn’t feel personally obligated to participate. Many people assume it could be dangerous or that it’s like giving to charity.

Dr. Emanuel Ezekiel, of the National Institutes of Health, said medical research helps everyone so it should require everyone’s participation.

“You benefit from the participation of someone before, by getting safer drugs or better information about what works and what doesn’t,” Emanuel said.

About 16 million more people are needed every year for biomedical research. Doctors say greater participation will speed up finding new drugs and procedures that may save lives.

Crawford eventually decided to join a study and her leg pain improved. She went on to enroll in two more, motivated by how much the experience may help others as well as herself.

“I do think that this research will benefit everybody, in the future, and, for some of us, even right now,” Crawford said.

A recent article in the suggests study participation could increase if physicians did a better job of notifying patients and offering them opportunities to enroll.