Reasons for Research
Patients and scientists explain why medical and health research must be a higher national priority
Retired Sergeant First Class Victor Medina, traumatic brain injury survivor
In June 2009, while serving his second tour in Iraq, retired Sgt. 1st Class Victor Medina was injured when an explosive-formed projectile detonated near his convoy. In the weeks following the blast, he felt his cognitive abilities slipping away; he also suffered from impaired vision, hearing, speech and motor skills and incessant migraine headaches. He suffered traumatic brain injury, or TBI. When asked about TBI, Victor speaks about the importance of increasing awareness about this growing threat to soldiers and civilians. In addition, he feels that TBI often goes unrecognized or untreated, which is why educating medical providers and the public is crucial for preventing and treating TBI. "But without research, there is no progress," he said. Research — and increased awareness of TBI — provides a wealth of resources that weren't available to the military or the public a decade ago. Find out more about TBI on Research!America's fact sheet here.
Lauren Fleming, born three months premature
Born three-and-a-half months premature, doctors weren't sure if Lauren would survive. Her parents were told by doctors to prepare for the worst, but her father Densel says, "Lauren did everything doctors said she wouldn't be able to do — like cry and breathe on her own." Lauren survived her five-month stay in the newborn intensive care unit. Advances in biomedical and health research supported by the March of Dimes and the NIH made it possible for Lauren and her family to endure the difficulties of her pre-term birth. Additional research can help reduce the rates of pre-term birth and improve the care of premature infants. As the 2011 March of Dimes National Ambassador, Lauren and her family traveled the country, sharing her inspiring story to help raise awareness of premature birth and encourage families and companies to walk with them in March for Babies.® Read more about prematurity on Research!America's fact sheet here.
Andrea Kramer, cancer survivor
Andrea and her family were shocked to learn that, at age 47, she had stage 3 colorectal cancer. For the next year, Andrea underwent aggressive treatment, first with radiation and chemotherapy followed by surgery. After surgery, 26 of her lymph nodes tested positive for cancer and further chemotherapy was given. Her experience at the hospitals made her realize that not enough is being done for colon cancer, and she says, "there are not enough people out there raising money or talking about it ... Raising money for colorectal cancer research is what is nearest and dearest to my heart as a survivor." Find out the facts about cancer and the impact of cancer research on Research!America's updated fact sheet here.
Pam Hirata, heart disease survivor
In her mid-30's, Pam suffered three sudden cardiac arrests. There were no warning signs and no family history of cardiovascular disease. Like many, she thought heart disease was for old people with poor health.
As a patient advocate with the American Heart Association, Pam wants everyone to be aware that "heart disease, stroke ... affects all walks of life, all races; no matter what color you are, no matter what age you are. It affects everyone. Funding research gives all of us a better chance of living a healthier life. Without the research done, we could not have moved forward and have found cures or have even found medicine to have helped us, the survivors." Take action with Pam and other cardiovascular health research advocates through the American Heart Association's campaign, "You're the Cure," here.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana
"I am becoming more and more disillusioned with finding funding support for my research. It has been eye-opening to realize that the funding challenge is going to be the limiting factor in my career — not the actual caliber of the science. If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists ... We cannot afford to squander a resource that valuable. While I love doing research, due to the increasingly difficult and time-consuming nature of the funding process, I am beginning to consider alternative career paths."
Colin Echeverria Aitken, PhD; Johns Hopkins University, Maryland
"I study the process whereby our genes are interpreted to assemble the individual molecules that perform the myriad tasks of life within our cells. My hope is that understanding the molecular mechanics of this process will help us to understand what goes wrong during cancer and viral infections so that we can develop targeted treatments against them. I hope to one day pursue this research in a lab of my own but am discouraged by the lack of open faculty positions available in this restricted funding environment. I am not the only young scientist to be discouraged. Of the friends I made during my graduate training — at Stanford University — not one continues to work as a researcher in the U.S. They instead chose to pursue their scientific careers internationally or left science altogether. These are bright, driven people, and their departure is a loss for the scientific community. I fear that we are at risk of losing an entire generation of young scientists."
Amanda Zimmerman, PhD; Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Maryland
"I'm working on how we process touch in the spinal cord, and how touch becomes pain after injury. This work is important both to the spinal cord injury community, where knowledge of spinal control of touch is imperative for the development of smart prosthetics, as well as to the chronic pain field, where understanding the interaction of touch and pain can help with the development of new pain treatments. Unfortunately, due to the low federal funding levels of recent years, I'm not sure academic research is a viable career path for me. In an increasingly competitive grant process, not all promising and well-designed research projects receive funding. New investigators particularly struggle to fund their labs during what should be their most productive research years."
Caleph Wilson, PhD; University of Pennsylvania
"My research seeks to 'teach' a patient's immune system to destroy cancer and HIV-infected cells. With taxpayer support, our research has aided patients that had little hope of surviving cancer. Continued federal funding is critical not only to maintaining current advances but also to fostering future cures for human malignancies and infectious diseases. Scientists and partner organizations need to encourage our elected officials and policy makers to provide sustained and predictable funding for these efforts. Beyond research outcomes, biomedical research advocacy will also improve public health, stimulate the economy and provide well-paying jobs for generations to come."
Devon Lawson, PhD; University of California San Francisco
"I came to UCSF as a postdoctoral fellow to study breast cancer. This has become both an academic and an emotional challenge for me. One in eight women develops breast cancer. Their stories of triumphs and tribulations touch us in the clinic as well as in the lab. Breast cancer researchers like me have made major advances towards treating this disease — survival rates for breast cancer patients are some of the best in the cancer community. The haunting thing about this disease is that most of these patients relapse with breast cancer that has spread all throughout their body — sometimes decades later. This is most often fatal. I study why this happens — how breast cancer cells spread, and why they sit dormant for years and then recur. Please don't cut science funding. It could mean the difference between life and death for you or your loved one."
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco
"The funding of science, and importantly, postdoctoral scholars, is at a critical juncture in looking towards our nation's future. Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion. As a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF, I am working on a groundbreaking project to create renewable, recombinant antibodies against all human proteins, and I see the effects of budget cuts and diminishing research grants first-hand. In our laboratory, we have the ability to develop recombinant therapeutics for every known disease target and literally change the face of modern medicine as we know it but are limited by the production of antigens because of the cost."
Scientists Explain Why Research is At Risk
Funding cuts will jeopardize scientific discovery and economic growth. In the following videos, scientists discuss how basic research drives medical progress, hope and jobs.
"Federal funding is very important to improve human health."
—Sarah Kucenas, PhD, assistant professor of biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
"My lab is now less than a third of the size it was just a few years ago and we now have many research projects that have to be halted..."
—Kerri Mowen, PhD, assistant professor, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA
"I'd encourage you to take this special time in science to up your funding for basic research."
—Miles Pufall, PhD, assistant professor, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
To view more videos, visit Research!America's YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/researchamerica.